Well that was fast. OUSA has already onboarded a new batch of student leaders! At the end of April, outgoing and incoming Directors, Home Office staff, and some esteemed alumni came together for a couple days of training. Our new Steering Committee members had their first meeting at their Welcome Conference, where they elected the new executive. Congratulations to Danny Chang (Western USC), Shannon Kelly (Laurier SU) and Julia Göllner (Queen’s AMS) on their elections as President, Vice President Finance and Vice President Administration & Human Resources, respectively. In the coming weeks, you’ll get to learn more about them and the rest of Steering Committee through their introductory blogs.
The new team is beginning at an exciting time, with a new provincial government to kick off their term. I know that OUSA will continue to work closely with the government and stakeholders in the post-secondary sector to put undergraduate issues on the radar. As they do this, they will also be getting to know the issues and the players on each of their home campuses. It’s an exciting time for them, but also a stressful one. Reflecting upon my past year in student advocacy, there are a few lessons I want to share for the next generation of student leaders and other advocacy groups looking to affect change.
Have principles and priorities.
Decision makers face competing requests every day, and often have limited resources and political will to work with. Be willing to identify the issues that are most important and the changes that would be most beneficial to the students you represent. But don’t just focus on explaining “what” you want. Be able to articulate “why.” It will go a long way!
Pitch solutions, don’t prescribe them.
While organizations like OUSA and many of its affiliates pride themselves on a professional and informed approach to advocacy, students and recent graduates are not seasoned experts in policy development. Don’t pretend to be one. Hold to your principles and use your constituents’ experience to guide you as you develop recommendations for university administrators and government. But don’t grow too attached to a specific outcome.
Policy and programming won’t solve every problem.
It is easy to think that writing the best set of recommendations, and getting a university or government to adopt them, is going to resolve all the problems students face. Although it may fix some problems, there will continue to be new challenges that require new solutions. This means that good policy is ultimately reinforced by comprehensive, long-term principles that demonstrate a clear vision for improving post-secondary education, but also allow enough policy flexibility to adapt to the changing nature of the sector and the variety of student experiences. Writing policy is an important step to improve the student experience, but implementation is key. Be a part of that.
Say thank you.
Sometimes student organizations have short memories. A cursory glance at student newspaper shows that students jump from issue to issue depending on what is impacting students in the present. However, it is important that we do not forget about the people working to solve the challenges that emerged not too long ago, and that have a real impact on the student experience. Don’t just thank the policy folks and the administrators. Thank the people on ground, the advocates and champions that work tirelessly to ensure student concerns are heard from beginning to end.
So with that said, I want to give thanks to you, our readers. Whether you are a student, a person who works in the post-secondary sector, or someone who is simply an interested observer, thank you for caring about improving university education in Ontario, and thank you for seeing OUSA as a valuable part of it. My time here has certainly shown me that this is the case.