Hello and happy August!
I’m so excited to be writing my first Presidential Update of the year! It’s been a very busy summer as Steering Committee and I have settled into our new roles at OUSA and our respective student unions. A lot of exciting things have happened over the summer so far and I’m excited to share them with all of you.
We began this term in May with our Welcome Conference, which allowed Steering Committee to officially meet (virtually 😪) for the first time and learn more about OUSA’s history, stakeholders, policies, and previous advocacy goals. We also elected a new executive team which includes me as President, Stephanie Ye-Mowe as Vice President Finance, and Erin Quinn as Vice President Human Resources! You can meet our entire Steering Committee here and learn more about us in our introductory blogs here.
In June, we held our Strategic Planning Conference where we decided on five areas of advocacy to focus on for the year: Affordability, Sector Sustainability, Racial Equity, Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response, and Students with Disabilities. With a provincial election coming in the summer of 2022, we also decided on some election priorities: Student Financial Aid, Comprehensive Student Mental Healthcare, Sustainable Funding Models, Environmental Sustainability, and Post-COVID Economic Recovery.
It has been a very educational and productive process to determine our advocacy priorities as we were able to discuss the various issues that are prevalent on our respective campuses and how they impact students. I believe that these priorities are some of the most pressing matters that students are currently facing and we are excited to get to work as we develop campaigns, attend lobby meetings, plan advocacy week, and so much more!
During our strategic planning process, we discussed authorship and writing plans for our policy papers. During the Spring General Assembly in March 2021, delegates voted on seven policy papers to be edited during the 2021-2022 year. We develop these papers in addition to our ongoing advocacy, which allows us to update and/or expand our policy library and, consequently, our advocacy. This fall, we will be updating and discussing four policy papers: Responding to COVID-19, Indigenous Students, Accountability & System Vision, and Student Mobility and Credit Transfer.
Over the past year, Indigenous student authors have been working on our first Indigenous Students Policy Paper. I’m looking forward to seeing their hard work acknowledged as this paper is brought to the General Assembly and finalized. Planning and writing of this paper has been done by and in consultation with Indigenous students in order to ensure that we adequately develop our capacity for advocating on such issues. A big shoutout to Emily, Connor, Page, Sage, Jessica, Danielle, Emma, Riley, and Malek for all the work that they have done over the previous months.
Moving on from conferences and planning, this summer has also brought us a new Minister of Colleges and Universities! I want to extend a huge welcome to Minister Jill Dunlop as she assumes her new role. I had the opportunity to chat with the Minister briefly when she visited Western and I look forward to meeting again in the near future to officially introduce her to OUSA and our advocacy priorities.
Now this wouldn’t be a 2021 update without mentioning COVID-19 (boo). I can’t believe a whole year later, COVID-19 is still very much prevalent in all of our lives. Over the past few months, return-to-campus plans and getting students back to school have been major topics around post-secondary education. As we draw closer to September, I am so excited at the possibility of in-person activities (and hopefully more in-person lobby meetings) and want to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. The health and safety of students, faculty, and staff is so important as colleges and universities transition classes and events back to campus. It is important for everyone to do what we can to keep ourselves, and those around us, safe.
Looking to the fall, we have lots of exciting plans coming up. We are currently working on our Educated Solutions publication, which is centred around equity in post-secondary education. Educated Solutions is a yearly publication which explores unique topics and challenges faced by university students in Ontario. Some Steering Committee members and I are contributing to this edition and looking forward to sharing it with you all in September! Additionally, the next two months will be heavily focused on policy writing, consultations, and edits as we gear up for the General Assembly in the Fall. However, I will admit that I am most excited for campuses to be lively again as students return to school and prepare for a better year than the last (fingers crossed).
That’s all from me!
Until next time,