Presidential Update January 2022
Interested in writing for OUSA? Contact Irum Chorghay, our Operations & Communications Coordinator.
This is one of the most important student union elections to date - here’s what you should look for in a candidate, and why you should vote
From January to February every year, student unions and associations are bustling with energy, noise, and anticipation of who will become their next executives. But election campaigning took a dramatic turn this year, shifting from in-person campaigns that filled the halls with posters, eager candidates and volunteers, to virtual social media campaigns. Given this new reality, how will students engage with candidates, what should they look for, and why should they even pay attention?
January has been a busy month—not just for OUSA, but for all of our student associations as they hold elections to determine next year’s executives and student leaders. Wishing the best of luck to all those student associations who have completed or are currently in the elections process. Hosting an election entirely virtually is no easy feat, but we’re optimistic that students will continue to engage in democracy, even in this online world. We look forward to welcoming a new group of student leaders and working with them to improve post-secondary education and student experiences across their campuses and beyond.
OUSA is proud to introduce the University of Ottawa Student’s’ Union (UOSU) as an official observer school! Since joining OUSA in December 2020, UOSU has attended OUSA’s Fall General Assembly and Student Advocacy Conference. OUSA is excited to work with UOSU as we continue to advocate for accessible, affordable, accountable and high-quality post-secondary education in Ontario.
We had a chance to chat with Tim Gulliver, UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner and Steering Committee representative. Here's what Tim had to say about UOSU, student advocacy during COVID-19, and what matters most to students right now:
The everyday stress and anxiety that many university students face extends beyond the worry of test grades and course examinations. These feelings and emotions can impact every aspect of a student’s life, making it difficult for them to make friends, study effectively, or eat healthy. There is a domino effect here, where the stress from one issue affects other areas of a student’s daily life. Financial worries, in particular, can be the greatest contributing factor to the everyday stresses that students face. Students who come from low-income families often experience this to the greatest extent, since often, low income is associated with food insecurity and lack of housing.
March 2020 was when everything turned for the worst. Beyond classes moving fully online and being required to isolate, every event and celebration for my fourth year of undergrad was abruptly cancelled. My peers and I were being told to get used to the “new normal,” unsure of what that meant or how long it would last.
And with November over, we have officially made it to the last month of 2020! November tends to be OUSA’s busiest month of the year, and even with a pandemic, this year was no exception.
This month began with the launch of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Survey (OUSS), which was distributed to students at our eight member associations in order to collect data and student perspectives on several key issues, including financial aid, online learning, employment, campus climate, and mental health. We received 5,704 responses from students across the province, and we look forward to analyzing this data and publishing a research report with our findings in 2021.
My name is Nathan Barnett and I’m a trans man. I began my transition as I entered my first year of university a little over three years ago. I can still remember going to my orientation, writing “Nathan (he/him)” on my name tag, and feeling my heart pounding out of my tightly-bound chest. Even now, thinking about it, I can feel the anxiety. I was so visibly trans, something that is both a privilege and an extremely unsafe thing to be.
October marked another milestone for OUSA as we held our first-ever full-length, virtual General Assembly. Student delegates from our eight member schools came together to discuss four policies: A Comprehensive Access Strategy, Environmental Sustainability, Responding to COVID-19, and Housing, Transit, & Community Development. Despite the challenges of conducting a four-day conference virtually, our delegates were able to critique policies in breakout rooms, and even had a chance to socialize through a virtual scavenger hunt! The weekend concluded with a closing Plenary session, where delegates debated, amended, and voted on the policy papers—which all passed unanimously, thanks to their hard work. We’re looking forward to sharing these policies over the coming weeks.
When I logged on to my first class this semester, I was abruptly asked in front of 30 other students to turn my camera on. I politely refused, and when pressed further, I gave no reason other than that I didn’t want to. Within 10 minutes, two other students had also turned off their cameras. As we move through this online semester, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not students should be required to turn their cameras on during class. As someone who’s in classes, and who’s a student leader in conversation with other students, I believe that to force students to use their cameras is to actively exclude students.
As the 2020-21 school year begins, many students face a full course load entirely online for the first time. With any transition comes frustrating difficulties and surprising upsides to the experience. Having spent my summer doing full-time online learning, I wanted to share some tips from my experience and hopefully make the transition a bit easier.