Educated Solutions - Issue 14 - Reimagining Post-Secondary in the Age of COVID-19
Interested in writing for OUSA? Contact Chisanga Mwamba, our Communications & Operations Coordinator.
How is it December already? In the post-secondary education world, the month of December indicates an array of things - final exams and final projects for all; for some students they will be finishing their very last university classes while others will have their first set of final exams; the Legislature convenes until February, and for OUSA we have been keeping busy by publishing our latest policy papers (check out the newest versions of our Student Accessibility and Disability Inclusion, Ancillary and Incidental Fees as well as our statement on Student Association Autonomy, and Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ Students). For our Steering Committee, this also marks halfway through our terms as student leaders. We have accomplished a significant amount over the past six months - however, we have much more advocacy work to do to continue representing your voices before the next generation of student leaders begins to fight for students.
It was a busy November for OUSA, with students gathering at Brock University to create policy and then again at Queen’s Park to advocate to Members of Provincial Parliament. We kicked off the month with OUSA’s bi-annual General Assembly — our 50th — which saw student delegates from our eight member schools come together at Brock to discuss and vote on whether to pass three updated policies: Two Spirit & LGBTQ+ Students, Student Accessibility & Disability Inclusion, and Ancillary & Incidental Fees.
We live in the Information Age. Compared to all previous historical periods, the world economy is no longer dominated by material goods, but rather data and information. Our society is one where billion-dollar companies arise from thin air because of their ability to create services through information technology (IT). Uber Technologies created an expansive delivery/transportation service through a mobile app, despite the fact that the company doesn’t own any vehicles. Additionally, Airbnb has made a prominent overnight accommodations corporation without owning any buildings. These business endeavours are just the tip of the iceberg of how IT is drastically changing our lives.
You won’t hear a provincial leader speak about education without mentioning the importance of “preparing students for the future” or “preparing students for the workforce”. Education, and post-secondary education more specifically, is increasingly viewed by political leaders, policy makers, higher education stakeholders, and even students themselves, as a prerequisite for employment — a bridge to the workforce. At the same time, there continues to be a disconnect between the skills students learn in general arts and science degree programs and the ability to translate these skills into employment.
In case you haven’t noticed, the world is getting smaller.
I don’t mean in the literal sense, of course. I mean that different parts of our great little planet are coming closer and closer together. We have planes that carry passengers over oceans, cultural celebrations span across continents, and students can study in countries with a completely different set of opportunities.
While students were busy back on campus with new classes, Home Office and myself finished up an exciting first month of the academic year with an abundance of campus visits. We traveled far and wide across our great province to visit our members at Waterloo, Laurier, McMaster, Brock, Queen’s, Trent Durham GTA and Western. While we were there, we were busy meeting with your student assemblies and associations to share more about the advocacy and policy work we do, discussing how we support your campuses, and engaging with you on how we can better represent your members and how students can get more involved. We are looking forward to speaking with BUSU and WUSA’s councils, as well as the SGA at Laurentian, in the next term. We were also fortunate to meet with various members of your student associations to discuss best practice sharing and areas of cooperation, and various members of university administration to discuss shared priorities and how we can better support students and areas of collaboration.
Acquiring a post-secondary education can be a transformative time in a person’s life. The knowledge and experience students gain is often invaluable, yet it can also serve to negatively transform a student’s health and well-being. Many of us have heard of the “freshman fifteen” – a term used to refer to an amount of weight gained during a student’s first year of post-secondary education. However, the conversation about student health and wellness should extend far beyond the topic of weight.
Students across the province rely on the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to help fund their post-secondary education. The program supplements earnings from part-time and summer jobs, and it increases access to education for students from underprivileged socioeconomic backgrounds (read: students whose parents don’t make a lot of money). But recent changes to the program have made it harder for many students in Ontario to afford post-secondary education.
Orientation week is only just behind us, and yet campuses are beginning to feel like students never left. Back at OUSA, we have been working hard all summer to prepare and to make your campuses reflect your needs as much as possible, and we are very excited that we can continue to do this great work alongside you as the semester begins.
Gender-based violence has long been a reality in our communities and on our campuses. And for just as long, there have been gender justice activists fighting to eradicate it, to support those impacted by it, and to find spaces of healing. For me, the importance of this work and the need to contribute crystalized while I was a university student, as my friends and I struggled to educate our campus community about the problem and create solutions to end violence in our faculty. This was a frustrating and challenging time, and it often felt like our efforts were fruitless. But now it seems like we’ve entered a watershed era, with unprecedented momentum and appetite for change from the broader community.