Presidential Update July 2022
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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.
It's a bittersweet feeling to be writing one of my last monthly updates as OUSA President, but I'm proud of the accomplishments OUSA has made this year and happy for the chance to share them with you. Although March has been a relatively calmer month for OUSA than the previous two, it has still seen important moments in OUSA's advocacy, both in our internal operations as well as our lobbying to the province.
Recently, the post-secondary sector has engaged in critical discussions regarding the importance of political correctness in both research and teaching. I personally became interested in this topic after I read “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom,” a piece authored by Harvard student Sandra Y.L. Korn which advances the argument that a “framework of [academic] justice” should take precedence over the traditionally heralded notion of academic freedom. This view is echoed by those who support the establishment and reinforcement of politically correct safe spaces on university campuses; these individuals express the concern that academic freedom may be used to perpetuate the unjust marginalization, degradation, and/or oppression of particular populations. While I agree wholeheartedly with these concerns, I would like to address two incorrect assumptions that have engendered common misunderstandings of the function and relevance of academic freedom: (1) the propensity to overlook the responsibility entailed by the concept of academic freedom, and (2) the false dichotomy drawn between achieving political correctness and preserving academic freedom.
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?