Presidential Update Holiday Edition 2022
Interested in writing for OUSA? Contact Irum Chorghay, our Operations & Communications Coordinator.
On March 12, in response to the global pandemic, Western University President Alan Sheppard issued a statement indicating that all classes would be transitioned to online-only effective the following Wednesday.1 Western was not the first, nor the last, post-secondary institution to make such a decision. Although these decisions were fundamental to ensuring health and safety of the communities in which post-secondary institutions are situated, the sudden move to online learning resulted in a tumultuous transition for administrators, faculty members, and students across the province, especially because it happened alongside social distancing, isolation, and returning ‘home’. As the President of the Social Science Students’ Council at Western, I have been, and continue to be, a point-of-contact for students in my faculty who require assistance navigating these changes, as well as a liaison to the Dean’s Office for our students. I would like to share some of what I’ve learned from this unprecedented situation to shed light on the experiences of Western and Ontario students generally. I hope that university administrators and government officials pay attention to student experiences and adapt their approaches to similar situations in the future.
Since beginning my journey in the post-secondary world, April has always felt bittersweet. It is the start of spring, the period of final exams, and also for many students, a time to say goodbye and see you later to the friends we’ve made, professors we’ve admired, and lessons we’ve learned. It’s probable this chapter - whether it is your first or fifth year of studies - is not closing as you expected. Therefore, I urge you to reflect on what you are grateful for; reach out to connect with those you may be apart from; and take some time to celebrate all that you’ve accomplished this year. If you recently finished your final examinations and projects - congratulations! If you still have a couple days left, know that everyone here at OUSA is cheering you on.
E-cigarettes, juuls, e-pipes, vape pens - whatever you may call them, they are quickly becoming very popular among university students as a presumably healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Even at the best of times, April is a tough month for post-secondary students. Many are writing exams, looking for a summer job, or waiting on grad school acceptances. Others are figuring out what they’ll do after graduation. COVID-19 has made all of this even more challenging, and students have a lot to worry about — where they’ll live, how they’ll pay their bills, and what universities and the job market will look like moving forward.
I had the chance to chat with one of our Steering Committee members, Rayna, who is not only the Vice President University Affairs of Trent Durham Student Association and a communications major but she is also a part-time healthcare worker at Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg, Ontario.
Given the events of the past couple of weeks, healthcare workers have been working around the clock to keep our citizens healthy. The provincial government has also announced changes to aid Canadians, including students, in this difficult time. Because she’s been affected as a student, student leader and as a healthcare worker, I wanted to ask Rayna a few questions and get her perspective.
The “Operation Varsity Blues” FBI investigation, also known as the 2019 college admissions scandal, highlighted the role that wealth can play in post-secondary admissions. However, in most cases, those with high household incomes do not have to rely on bribery, lying and cheating to get into prestigious programs – post-secondary and graduate admissions already favor the wealthy. In fact, a 2012 study of four Canadian medical schools found that 57.6% of students came from families with an annual household income of over $100,000, a proportion approximately five times greater than in the general population.
The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Teaching Excellence Award recognizes educators who excel at unlocking the potential of Ontario’s young people. Successfully engaging individuals in the learning experience depends on an instructor's ability to spark students' curiosity and desire to learn. It is our pleasure to give these remarkable professionals the recognition they deserve.
An excellent instructor will be able to engage their students in the process of learning and discovery and help them develop the critical skills that form the foundation of a robust education. With this in mind, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance annually presents its teaching awards to professors from each of our member campuses who have taken this role to heart, and who have been selected by their students as examples of teaching excellence.
In light of COVID-19, OUSA has decided to postpone our annual Partners in Higher Education Dinner on April 9th, 2020.
Although we are saddened to postpone this event, we want to prioritize the health of our event attendees and encourage social distancing as recommended by public health officials. To read more how our member institutions are handling the circumstances, visit ousa.ca/covid19. Historically, we invite recipients to honour them at OUSA's Partners in Higher Education Dinner. That being said we are still hoping to highlight our recipients.
We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 OUSA Teaching Excellence Awards!
OUSA’s Steering Committee members are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable student advocates in the province. This interview series is an opportunity to share some of their experiences and knowledge with a wider audience of future (and current) student advocates.
Rayna Porter, OUSA’s VP Administration and Human Resources and the VP University Affairs at Trent Durham GTA, is serving on OUSA’s Steering Committee. Here is her student advocacy story:
COVID-19 has made paying off student loans even harder than usual, and that’s why OUSA recently sent letters to the provincial and federal governments asking them to provide support to post-secondary graduates as they navigate the repayment process. Shortly after, both governments announced a six-month moratorium (or “freeze”) on Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) payments and interest accrual until September 30, 2020.
Below, I’ll explain what this means and answer a few of the questions we’ve heard from students, including how the moratorium is different from the usual OSAP grace period, how it affects students graduating this year, and, in general, what improvements OUSA wants to see to the current grace period structure.
*Photo by Mike Graeme
My name is Mathew Dueck, and I am the Associate Vice-President, Distance and Part-Time for the Students’ General Association (SGA) at Laurentian University and a fourth year-Indigenous Social Work student. I am of the Buffalo Clan, and my Spirit Name is Gimewan Niimi, meaning “Rain Dancer.” I firmly believe that Indigenous voices must be amplified and celebrated, and what is written here is a brief introduction to concepts such as colonization and oppression, truth and reconciliation. First, though, it is important for me to share that, being of mixed ancestry and raised in a white home, I am conscious of colonial violence from the perspective of those who have promoted it in its many forms, as well as those who have suffered