Presidential Update - November 2020
Interested in writing for OUSA? Contact Chisanga Mwamba, our Communications & Operations Coordinator.
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 Payments (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
I’m going to be honest - writing this presidential update was difficult. At the time of my last update, OUSA was gearing up for one of our most productive months of the year with our In It Together Reception at Queen’s Park, our Spring General Assembly, the release of the Ontario Budget, and our Partners in Higher Education Dinner. In the post-secondary sector, students were beginning to study for finals, confirm their summer plans, begin to consider their next steps after completing their post-secondary journey, and say their goodbyes as the spring academic year came to a close. Within the span of a couple of days, global society recognized the magnitude of our pandemic - and what immediate measures were necessary to ensure that we can help our communities stay healthy, and to help support our healthcare system.
In his innovative book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Friere defines education as an intimate relationship between student, teacher, and society. Learning revolves around discourse - a student is not just “taught”, they are a co-creator of knowledge. For Friere, the essence of education is to empower students with the ability to apply different perspectives and lenses to a subject or issue. This encourages them to break away from individualistic thinking and adopt a holistic approach that fosters critical consciousness.
Mental health is one of the most pressing issues on university campuses across Ontario, with more students experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts every year.
Being a student is a stressful balancing act. They’re under pressure to achieve high grades, join clubs, and decide what to do after graduation, choosing between a crowded job market and competitive graduate or professional degree programs. Many are living on their own for the first time and learning to manage their finances. Others are raising a family or looking after ongoing health concerns. University is expensive, too; almost forty percent of students work during the school year to make ends meet, often at the expense of their studies. In a recent OUSA survey, more than half of students said working while studying hurt their academic performance.
In my dream world, every classroom would be covered in rainbows and trans flags, filled with trans and queer students like myself and, frankly, taught by queer and trans professors. However, I live in reality, and, for me, reality often means being the only trans person in a room – and the classroom is no different.