How is it December already? In the post-secondary education world, the month of December indicates an array of things - final exams and final projects for all; for some students they will be finishing their very last university classes while others will have their first set of final exams; the Legislature convenes until February, and for OUSA we have been keeping busy by publishing our latest policy papers (check out the newest versions of our Student Accessibility and Disability Inclusion, Ancillary and Incidental Fees as well as our statement on Student Association Autonomy, and Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ Students). For our Steering Committee, this also marks halfway through our terms as student leaders. We have accomplished a significant amount over the past six months - however, we have much more advocacy work to do to continue representing your voices before the next generation of student leaders begins to fight for students.
Since we finished up Student Advocacy Conference (read more here), OUSA released the results of our third and final report from Ontario Post-Secondary Student Survey on the status of access to post-secondary education. Feel free to check out our first and second reports on accessibility, and affordability as well! We are in the midst of preparing our pre-budget submission and are asking the government to invest in OSAP, student mental health, and reinvest in the Career Readiness Fund and create a new stream for work-integrated learning opportunities for non-traditional pathways. These investments would be significant to ensuring all students can access, and thrive, while receiving a high quality post-secondary education. Stay tuned for when we release our budget submission!
Before we take a well deserved break for the holiday season, our policy paper authors will join Home Office staff in Toronto to brainstorm policy ideas for our three policy papers on Rural and Northern Students, International Students and Sexual Violence Prevention and Response. This will inform the major sections of our policy papers, what our General Assembly will debate in March, and inform OUSA’s policy stances on these three important topics for the following four years. Over the past four years, we have advocated on a variety of the recommendations in these policy papers, and were successful in seeing the province implement the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey across institutions to better understand student experiences and their understanding of sexual violence on campus. We also saw an expansion of funding for the Women’s Campus Safety Grant in March 2019. The revision of these papers is an opportunity for us to continue to work towards ending sexual violence on our campuses and to improve the experiences of international and rural and northern students.
We have also had the chance to follow up with a variety of stakeholders since we finished up Student Advocacy Conference. Our Executive Director, Eddy, attended a panel featuring Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano, titled “Education: The Next Generation”. This presented on a variety of perspectives on the role of post-secondary institutions, the private sector, and government in preparing learners for the workforce of 2020 and beyond. Eddy also had the chance to attend CAMH’s panel on Youth Mental Health, which unpacked the barriers youth have in accessing mental health supports, through the stories of 4 youth with lived experiences. We have also been working hard alongside COU, CollegesOntario and the College Student Alliance to prepare an updated version of In It Together. For those of you are unfamiliar with In It Together, check out our report from 2017 here. Our update will consider changes in student mental health over the past three years, and make recommendations for going forward.
In the new year, there is much more student advocacy to look forward to. As for me, I’m really looking forward to taking a very long nap over the holiday season, in order to come back in the New Year ready to represent students the very best I can.