Presidential Update Holiday Edition 2022
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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.
The recent discussions of a Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) in Finland (and the recent inclusion of it in the Green Party Federal Platform) got me thinking about the concept of a guaranteed basic income through a "student lens". Students have costs beyond tuition and other educational expenses to pay, and it can be difficult for them to cover them all, in addition to the standard costs of housing and rent, utilities, phone bills, food, and clothing. Accumulation of these expenses may often result in students falling into significant debt. It is often hard for students to pay off their loans, given that not all students are able to balance a part-time/full-time job while in school.
With the last third of my term quickly shrinking, it's been both motivating and astonishing to reflect on OUSA's successes this year. Over the last eight months there has been a lot to be excited about: we've passed post-secondary policy and introduced new OUSA events, have been a leading figure in the province's discussions on sexual assault and violence, and our recommendations during the funding formula consultation were largely adopted in the published report. Our sentiments on work-integrated learning have been acknowledged by business and the civil service alike, and we've continued collecting primary and secondary data through our research reports and the Ontario Post-Secondary Student Survey. The past month however, has largely focused on two things: tuition and financial aid.
Last month, the Government of Ontario held a Talent and Skills Summit (OTSS) that many education sector stakeholders, including OUSA, attended. The same week as the summit, McGill University President Suzanne Fortier suggested at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that universities need to prepare students for the modern labour market, while American Vice President Joe Biden indicated that investing in education was one of the keys to saving the middle class.
Today is January 27th. To some, it is just another day filled with hours of class, labs and responsibilities. For others, however, it is a chance to continue the dialogue surrounding mental health through campaigns such as Bell’s “Let’s Talk” Day.
Improving transportation in the city of Brantford has been a largely stagnant process, with no progress to address the real barriers both students and the larger community face. Over the past two years, students on the Brantford Campus of Wilfrid Laurier University have been very vocal in their need for better access to transportation. Students suffered both the loss of the Mohawk Shuttle leaving Brantford and further cuts to Greyhound's daily schedule to and from Hamilton, leaving them with few options to access campus.
Written by Danielle Pierre and Jasmine Irwin
A recent editorial in the Toronto Star criticized York University’s recent policy change; the university no longer requires students with mental health disabilities to disclose their diagnoses in order to receive academic accommodation. While the columnist was insistent that her objections came from a place of concern, whether well-intentioned or not, several of her points suggest that she has misunderstood certain key aspects of the issues at the heart of this policy change. This piece, beginning with a call to talk about mental illness openly, ironically upholds stereotypes of students, millennials, and the mentally-ill: only serving to re-stigmatize these individuals rather than provide insightful commentary.