Presidential Update - November 2020
Interested in writing for OUSA? Contact Chisanga Mwamba, our Communications & Operations Coordinator.
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.
For a long time, university budgets have had two primary components: provincial operating grants and tuition. Traditionally, operating grants, given directly to the university based on how many students were attending the university, weighted by year and program, made up most of university budgets. Tuition, which makes up the next largest proportion of university budgets, is collected directly from students attending university and is set by the institution itself within restrictions set by the province. There are other income sources as well, including ancillary fees and federal grants; but historically, tuition and provincial operating grants have made up the vast majority of university budgets.
That’s about to change.
Over the past few weeks, OUSA has been beating the heat by planning some cool events for the upcoming year. We have a lot to look forward to, including campus visits to each of our member institutions throughout the term and, in November, our Fall General Assembly. Our Home Office has been working diligently to prepare for all of our upcoming events.
Grants, Crying, and Finding the Confidence to Get What You Want: A Guide to Getting or Making a Summer Job
Disclaimer: I am not that good at getting employed, but I know a little.
I’ve inherited my fear of unemployment from my immigrant parents, which means by February – when literally no jobs applications are open – I’m already worried about what my summer will look like. After years of stressful retail employment, I ventured into “more applicable” jobs that offered new skills or were at least somewhat in the field I care about (which changes daily). This meant going through the Ontario Public Service Portal, individual companies, and every employment website ever. I even started two folders: “resumes and cover letters from jobs I have been rejected from” and “resumes and cover letters that I at least got an interview for or landed the job”. The latter was a very, very, very small folder. But as a small angry woman, I have figured out how to find jobs or, better yet, make the job I want. I am by no means an expert – with a hiring rate of about 18% – but I can offer some advice for finding a summer job.