Presidential Update - November 2020
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Written by Sandy Tat and Ruchika Gothoskar
As of late, “political correctness” on university campuses has become something of a controversial issue. Articles have appeared in American news outlets, like the Atlantic’s “The Coddling of the American Mind,” and on Canadian campuses like in Western University’s student newspaper with “I don’t say boom because I don’t want to diminish fireworks.” Those who criticize political correctness, trigger warnings, and the push for safe spaces see these conventions as a threat to freedom of speech on campus. Furthermore, it’s been argued that the “oversensitivity” among undergraduate students acts as a hindrance to discourse and education in the classroom. In actuality, these beliefs stem from a mischaracterization of what political correctness means and what it hopes to achieve.
The government’s promise of free tuition for low-income students is not a deception; it’s a clarification.
Last week Premier Kathleen Wynne joined OUSA’s President and two other student representatives to discuss the newly announced Ontario Student Grant (OSG) and its promise of free tuition for low-income students.
From March 1st to 4th a newly ratified club at Brock University called ABLE (Awareness Breaks Limits for Equality) hosted a Disability Week. The purpose of the week was to highlight some of the issues and stigmas faced by students with disabilities such as service dog use, a survey on students’ experience with Disability Services, and other events aimed at raising awareness.
Today is International Women’s Day. It is important to use an occasion like this to talk about how far women have come in their quest for equal rights and equal standing in society. As a proud feminist, I am happy to see the attention the issue of gender inequality gets. However, there are still many serious issues women face in our society. One of them relates closely to the student governments and student unions that OUSA works so hard with: the issue of female leadership and representation in student governments at higher level positions.
When a student expresses a particular concern or interest in a campus affair, someone will likely respond by telling said individual to run to be a student representative. But what if you’ve missed the deadline, or what if that whole council thing has never really been for you? You are passionate about an issue, but you would rather not be involved in discussing other campus issues. Well that’s totally okay! And you’re not alone!
While it has been the Government of Ontario’s announcement of “free tuition” for low-income students that has grabbed most of the headlines, lost in the celebration was net billing. Set to come into effect in 2018-19, net billing is something that has been hidden in the depths of this budget, yet has the potential to hugely impact recruitment, transparency, and perceptions of access for students across Ontario. We have been marvelling over the fact that the new student financial aid system is going to be transformed from a complex, hidden, and intricate network of government bureaucracy into a transparent, accountable, and easy to understand social system, however the question that hasn’t come up as often, and the one that will make the most difference, is: how will students know what they actually have to pay?
What an exciting month it has been! Throughout all my involvement with OUSA, never before have I been as proud of our organization as I am now, with several ground-breaking developments in Ontario's post-secondary system resulting from our advocacy and partnerships with government. So, where to begin?
Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and Ontario perhaps its most diverse province. As of 2011, Canada had the world’s second largest foreign-born population and 19 percent of Canadians identified themselves as members of visible minority groups on the National Household Survey. In Ontario, 26 percent of the population identified as a member of a visible minority group; 16 percent of those individuals identified as Black.
Talk of the “skills gap” dominates public discourse about undergraduate employability. On one hand, employers are suggesting that they cannot find applicants with the right skillsets and name many types of transferable skills that they aren’t finding. On the other, universities claim that they are producing graduates with varied transferable skills and therefore should not be beholden to the whims of the labour market. Students and government are caught in the middle with a tremendous amount of misinformation and no evidence to begin setting things straight.
Today's blog is written by guest blogger Benjamin Miller, graduate student at the University of Ottawa.
It’s no secret that university students are feeling nervous these days. Youth employment of recent graduates has fallen from 80-85% in 1990 to 70-73% in 2012. It’s not just that the jobs aren’t forthcoming; Canada is facing an estimated skills shortage of as many as 1.5 million workers, but research would indicate graduates just don’t feel ready to fill this gap. It’s common to talk about encouraging people to go to other institutions like colleges and apprenticeships. Those are great for some: but what if you genuinely believe you belong at university, but are feeling apprehensive about your post-graduate outcomes? One solution is getting experience through university co-op programs, which are increasingly common- however, they can be slow to really get going at any given institution, and aren’t available in every program.