Interested in writing for OUSA? Contact Chisanga Mwamba, our Communications & Operations Coordinator.
The second week of September has rolled around once again. Students have returned to campus. First years and Welcome Week reps are still glowing from the excitement of the week. Upper years still look refreshed from their summers off of school with the seemingly permanent bags under their eyes left behind. The libraries, while busy, are filled with happy chatter rather than panicked individuals cramming for exams or finishing up final essays.
We’re looking forward to seeing everyone back on their campuses! This past month we’ve been busy preparing for the upcoming term, while also hosting a couple events.
When we talk about the affordability of tuition, it is often easy to homogenize the student population and create conclusions that fail to assess how students from different backgrounds experience university costs. We make these generalizations, despite the fact that data exists to show how students with marginalized identities face a larger financial burden when attending university. This data is the reason why both the Ontario and federal governments create programs and grants that direct additional funds towards students with disabilities and Indigenous students.
Starting university can often be daunting time for students, with each of us coming in with different experiences and bringing with us diverse strengths, weaknesses, and expectations. Despite our differences, however, we all share a common goal of advancing ourselves intellectually. For international students, this goal is often hindered when institutions fail to provide this cohort of students with the adequate supports and resources they need to succeed.
We have all seen it. That person who posts Instagram and Snapchat stories showing themselves studying or at work extremely late at night. When we see this, we immediately think about how admirable their hard work is and glamourize this busy lifestyle. This in particular is a huge part of university culture. However, this needs to stop.
Last week, OUSA hosted our first Policy Symposium: A gathering of stakeholders, our colleagues in government, and representatives from the 8 university campuses that OUSA represents. The aim of the symposium was to broaden the conversation surrounding OUSA policy and gain insight on what experts beyond the sector were saying about student issues. In doing so, we were able to bring the concerns and priorities of Ontario’s students, and learn what questions we will have to answer as we continue to develop policy on emerging topics. Traditionally, we pride ourself at always having a seat at the table in Ontario policy discussions, but for this event, we invited all of our partners to our table - to engage in our policy process, and give their perspective on the issues facing students in Ontario.
I’m a little baffled that I’m writing my Exit Blog. It is surreal that my summer in Toronto is over, especially because my journey into student politics, and consequently at OUSA, were complete flukes. A great friend of mine encouraged me to apply for an Advocacy Research Internship midway through my second year, and after some coercion, I did. After a summer working with OUSA, I am so grateful for that fluke.
Every year thousands of new students take their first steps onto university campuses throughout the province. For many, this represents a significant milestone in their lives, a start of a new journey filled with opportunity, self-discovery, and new adventure. However, this new journey is not without its own unique challenges. From the moment students begin their university experience, they are inundated with materials detailing who to reach out to in times of crisis, where resources are located, and how to best manage their mental wellbeing while looking out for crisis in their peers. And yet on Western University’s campus, a place I consider my second home, four students died by suicide last year. The previous year that number was at least two. And the year before that another two students died by suicide. Even one suicide each year is too much and we must come to realise that there is a mental health crisis on our campuses and something more has to be done to address it. While we’ve done a fantastic job as students talking about breaking the stigma – which is integral to ensure that those who need help can get it – we have failed to look inwards at the destructive aspects of university culture.
Along with working for OUSA as an Advocacy and Communications intern, I am also lucky to attend Western University, and enjoy an incredible student experience during my time there. Western is widely commended for a having a memorable Orientation Week. However, when I reflect on my O-Week it is not the concerts or the move-ins that first come to mind; rather it is when Sophie Helpard (shout out to my current boss, the Executive Director here at OUSA) introduced herself as the President of the University Students’ Council of Western. At the time, I was surprised but also inspired that the head of our student council was a strong and capable woman and it gave me hope that at Western there were no glass ceilings for the intelligent and passionate women on our campus.
By Mackenzie Claggett & Martyna Siekanowicz
Governments mandate sexual education because they recognize that sex is a normal component of life, and that healthy sexual relationships and perspectives, are not only important to maintain people’s well-being, but actually save people’s lives. In a modern, progressive society, we understand that healthy perspectives on sex prioritize consent, safety, and diversity, and that for people to hold these perspectives they must have access to accurate information at an early age. This is why OUSA strongly supports comprehensive sexual education, as it prepares students with the knowledge they need to responsibly enter sexual relationships during their post-secondary career if they choose to do so.