OUSA is proud to introduce the University of Ottawa Student’s’ Union (UOSU) as an official observer school! Since joining OUSA in December 2020, UOSU has attended OUSA’s Fall General Assembly and Student Advocacy Conference. OUSA is excited to work with UOSU as we continue to advocate for accessible, affordable, accountable and high-quality post-secondary education in Ontario.
We had a chance to chat with Tim Gulliver, UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner and Steering Committee representative. Here's what Tim had to say about UOSU, student advocacy during COVID-19, and what matters most to students right now:
Tell us a little bit about Tim Gulliver!
Hi there! My name is Tim, and I’m the Advocacy Commissioner at the University of Ottawa Students’ Union. In addition to being a member of the 2nd-ever Executive team at the UOSU, my mandate is to fulfill the more political side of the Union, whether that’s running campaigns, hearing directly from students, or maintaining relationships with the University of Ottawa and different levels of government. COVID has definitely impacted what I do with my free time—I’ve been mostly wasting time on Twitter, trying out new wines or going on walks just so that I can feel something.
What is the University of Ottawa Students’ Union?
The UOSU is the new union representing all 38,000+ undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa. We provide 13 fantastic services to students, including our Student Rights’ Centre, which provides support to students facing allegations of breaches of academic regulations, our Peer Help Centre, which provides peer-to-peer active listening, our Pride Centre, which works to be a safe(r) space for members of our LGBTQ2S+ community. Our mission is to be a student union that strives for equity, delivers tangible results for students and rebuilds trust with our student body. Just two years in, I’d say we’ve seen encouraging progress on these priorities.
What matters to students at UOttawa right now?
Students are one of the groups most affected by COVID-19. For the past 8 months, they have been grappling with a global health crisis, a mental health crisis and a financial insecurity crisis, all while navigating the unique challenges posed by online learning. International students, in particular, have told us that it's impossible to keep up with courses that aren’t recorded. First-years and students on residence have felt unsupported and isolated. And students across faculties have said that their workload has significantly increased. The introduction of a Pass/Fail grading option for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters—a win the UOSU is proud of—has helped alleviate some of the stress, but there’s still so much to do!
In addition, our campus continues to face ongoing challenges with regards to mental health and racism. Both of these extremely important issues require systemic change from uOttawa, and our job is to keep pushing them in the right direction.
Why did you get involved in UOSU?
I think it’s pretty instinctive! When you see things that need fixing and hear from students who are upset or struggling, it’s hard not to try and find ways to help. This is the good fight!
I also really believe that an effective student union is one that retains the trust of students. We need a union that consults with the student population, that is transparent when it messes up, and that sees accountability as an opportunity, not a threat. These values are really important in ensuring that students feel like they’ve got a team on their side, ready to make campus life just a little bit more navigable for them.
What would you say to students who are interested in getting involved but don’t know how?
Whether you want to run for office or pitch in an hour or two every week, there’s so many ways to get involved and make a difference in your student union/association. And the good news is getting involved is simple—just reach out to your student union/association and say you want to help and tell them why! There’s always opportunities.
The most important thing to remember is that you don’t really need an extensive set of qualifications—just a desire to help others, a willingness to learn, and the ability to listen.
Why did you want to get involved with OUSA? And is there anything that you are looking forward to doing during UOSU’s observer status with OUSA?
Fighting for change on the provincial level requires strength in numbers! The provincial government doesn’t have the time to listen to every single student union in the province, but it does have time for OUSA. The tangible victories that OUSA has won for students, and the broad coalition of student views it represents, makes it a widely respected and effective voice for students at Queen’s Park. Throughout our observer status, UOSU hopes to provide support to the great work OUSA is doing; we’d also like to bring forward uOttawa’s unique perspectives, particularly on equity, international students and La Francophonie.
What's the best advice you have received during the pandemic that you would want to share with others?
I can’t really sum it up in a catchphrase, but it’s just that mental health really matters, now more than ever, and as a result, it’s important to be gentle and kind to ourselves. This is a really challenging time to just *live* in the world, so it’s okay if you’re not feeling as motivated as you’d like to be, or if you aren’t doing the things you always said you’d do if you had more time! Look, I’ve complained my whole life that I don’t have time to go to the gym. I’ve literally had dumbbells sitting on the floor in my room for nine months. Still haven’t touched ‘em. And that’s totally okay!
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
Whichever meal I don’t end up skipping...
Cats or dogs?
I thought I was a dog person, but 2020 brought cats into my life at various stages and I now love them both equally!
Coffee or tea?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the evening!
Summer or winter?
When it’s Winter, Summer. When it’s Summer, Winter.
Mornings or evenings?
I’m a night owl!
Netflix or Youtube?
Apple or PC?
I mean, iPhone all the way, but I’m MacBook illiterate...
Twitter or Instagram?
I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Twitter for sure, so probably Instagram!
Assignment or exam?
Assignments! I’m anti-proctoring software so no exams during COVID for me...
Music or podcast?