Since beginning my journey in the post-secondary world, April has always felt bittersweet. It is the start of spring, the period of final exams, and also for many students, a time to say goodbye and see you later to the friends we’ve made, professors we’ve admired, and lessons we’ve learned. It’s probable this chapter - whether it is your first or fifth year of studies - is not closing as you expected. Therefore, I urge you to reflect on what you are grateful for; reach out to connect with those you may be apart from; and take some time to celebrate all that you’ve accomplished this year. If you recently finished your final examinations and projects - congratulations! If you still have a couple days left, know that everyone here at OUSA is cheering you on.
Despite this bittersweet time, OUSA has not slowed down. We held OUSA’s first-ever Zoom Plenary last week, capping off OUSA’s virtual Spring General Assembly 2020. Delegates from all of our member schools signed in from their homes around the country, and globe, in order to debate, and ultimately pass, our policy papers and recommendations on the topics of International Students and International Education; Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response; Rural and Northern Students, and Student Association Autonomy. You can read them in May here. Over the past month, delegates have participated in Zoom break-out sessions and consistently gave constructive feedback to the authorship teams to make the papers as high quality as possible. I am so impressed with the dedication of our delegates, Home Office staff, and authorship teams - thank you for your persistence and your commitment to the policy process even amidst such turbulent times.
We have also continued to advocate on your behalf. We have stayed in touch with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to raise student concerns. Just last week we met staff to discuss the upcoming tuition fee framework negotiations, and outlined OUSA’s perspective: including the importance of restoring fair cost-sharing between students and government; a tuition freeze; international student tuition regulation by cohort; billing on a per-credit basis; and more. To read more about OUSA’s perspective on the tuition fee framework, check out our policy papers on Tuition, Student Financial Aid, and Ancillary & Incidental Fees.
We also collaborated with our federal partners and student associations across the country to advocate for increased student support from the federal government - which resulted in a $9 billion student support package. This was the largest investment in student financial aid in Canada’s history, and currently the largest student-specific COVID-19 package in the world. We applaud all of our partners, and everyone in government, for helping to make this a reality. This investment will have a significant impact on ensuring all students can afford groceries, rent and tuition over the summer months and once students return to school in the fall.
On Friday, we hosted our annual transition meeting between our outgoing and incoming Steering Committee members. As the outgoing Steering Committee, we tied up our final projects for the year, and left the incoming Steering Committee with some words of wisdom. The highlights for me? Believe in yourself. Ask questions. Prioritize and plan. Have fun. Be courageous and stand up for what is right. Matt, Rayna, Will, Shemar, Nivi, David, Katlyn, and Shawn - thank you for your dedication to OUSA and students this year, and for entrusting me as your President. Together, we accomplished a lot and I am so proud of our team. This April feels especially bittersweet as we say goodbye to our team and to this chapter of student leadership - but I know that students are in capable and dedicated hands with the incoming Steering Committee, and I am excited for them to begin their journeys over the course of the next few weeks.
For me, I will continue to serve as President until the next Steering Committee elects a President and executive at their Welcome Conference on May 26. We will continue to advocate for support for international students and for a high-quality post-secondary experience as our sector remains digitally reliant. If you have concerns, as always, my inbox ([email protected]) is open to ensure our students’ needs are prioritized.