As summer winds down and the fall semester nears, it has been an extraordinarily busy time for OUSA.
This month, we were invited to participate in an additional consultation with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities on international education, microcredentials, and work-integrated and digital learning. We took this opportunity to highlight the immense financial challenges international students face due to unregulated tuition and minimal financial assistance, and how these challenges have been exacerbated by COVID-19. We also emphasized the need for quality digital and work-integrated learning opportunities to ensure students can have high-quality and impactful experiences despite the challenges that we’ve seen with online and remote learning.
OUSA also held three virtual think tanks with student authors for our upcoming policy papers: A Comprehensive Access Strategy; Housing, Transit, and Community Development; and the newest addition to our policy library, Environmental Sustainability. We discussed student concerns and brainstormed solutions. The authors will use these discussions as a guide to writing student-driven, evidence-informed policies that will be brought to our Fall 2020 General Assembly. These student authors and each member institution will also continue to engage students across campuses to inform our policy development on these three topics.
We also said goodbye to our outstanding intern, Zamir, whose internship has come to an end. Zamir joined the OUSA team in May with a commitment to prioritizing student voices. His video series, Perspectives on Campus, has done just that: amplifying diverse students’ experiences, particularly racialized and religious students. Zamir, thank you for your passion and creativity in all you have contributed to OUSA in the past four months; launching a video series and publishing your capstone, all in a completely virtual environment, is no small feat! We can’t wait to see what great things you accomplish as you return to Western in the fall.
Additionally, as we return to school in September, it’s important to acknowledge that many students continue to face uncertainty as they continue their education in a predominately virtual environment. At the forefront of our minds are concerns about the quality of online education, affordability, and how to have a successful semester amidst these confusing times. During these times, community is more important than ever and we are relying on our friends, families, and support networks to encourage, motivate, and inspire each other. Even though many campuses are operating in an entirely virtual space, we can still build and support our campus communities. Many student unions have moved clubs, events, and other social events online; consider getting involved! Continue to check in with one another, and most importantly, take care of yourself.
Finally, continue to share your concerns about the upcoming semester and know that OUSA will continue to advocate for enhancements to OSAP and greater investments in student financial aid, as well as quality online education to ease the transition to online learning. One way to have your voice heard is to attend MPP and NDP Critic for Colleges and Universities Chris Glover’s roundtable discussion on September 3 at 7 p.m. At this roundtable, we’ll be discussing the impacts of the pandemic on the Ontario student experience. As we move into this new semester, it is more important than ever that you share your concerns and challenges so that OUSA can continue to advocate effectively for all students and ensure they have the opportunity to succeed in this new virtual learning environment.