Good Policy Begins With a Willingness to Listen

It is with a heavy heart that I write my exit blog. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and that adage has never been truer for me than in my time with this stellar organization.

What initially drew me towards OUSA was its student-driven nature and fantastic team of home office staff and steering committee members. I have always believed that students should be at the forefront of higher education policy, and it’s been inspiring to be part of an organization that emulates that principle so well. Although I came to OUSA with higher education policy experience, I learned more about it in my time here than I could have ever imagined.

When I started working at OUSA, about a year and half ago, I had no idea how impactful this organization – and student advocacy in general – could be. In that time, I have had the distinct pleasure of working with an incredible group of passionate and intelligent young people who have taught me more than I ever taught them. The main lesson they taught me is that engaged students are some of the most brilliant, innovative and insightful people in society today. And it’s when society actually listens to them that their ideas have the capacity to transform public policy.

Some of the biggest and most influential developments in Ontario’s post-secondary sector in the last few years have come directly from students themselves. From revisions to financial assistance, to the development of sexual violence response policies, to investments in mental health supports, to the creation of open educational resources, students have been the originators of some of the most important policy developments that enhance the affordability, accessibility, accountability and quality of post-secondary education.

But we have a responsibility to ensure that students continue to have a direct influence on higher education policy in the years to come. As higher education demographics change, new funding models are agreed upon, new tuition guidelines are established, and public accountability protocols are finessed, it is essential that the student voice remains at the core of these developments. Speaking from direct experience, I’ve found some of the most creative ideas come from those students who have been afforded the opportunity to not only be heard, but to also be listened to.

As such, I implore politicians, civil servants, administrators, faculty and staff across the sector to not only hear the student voice, but also actively listen to it. Let’s also be sure to recognize that not all students are the same. As such, let’s listen to our survivors of sexual violence, our students struggling with all types of disabilities, our students that identify as Indigenous, our students that identify as LGBTQ+, and our racialized students, among others. Students are consistently being taught to be active listeners; it’s only fair for us to practice what we preach.

To all those students I’ve had the pleasure of learning from in OUSA’s multiple conferences and campus visits, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. As I embark on a new role, I will bring the lessons you’ve all taught me to my work and hope that our paths across again in the future.

Until we meet again, farewell.