Hello and Happy New Year!
This Presidential Update marks the conclusion of OUSA’s first month in the new decade. As we look forward to a new decade of advocacy in the post-secondary education sector, OUSA’s Steering Committee and I have reflected on how we can continue to push student priorities in innovative ways and partner with our stakeholders across the province to raise student voices. Some of the work we are excited about this month include our budget submission to the provincial government, our submission to the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, and our joint student mental report: In It Together.
OUSA’s Pre-Budget Submission to the government will highlight students’ priority including the restoration of OSAP, supporting student mental health, eliminating sexual violence on campus, and preparing students for the workforce. To read a copy of our submission, it will be released on our government submissions page. OUSA also submitted to the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. Since OUSA was founded in 1992, our vision has been based on an accessible and affordable post-secondary education strategy. In order for the province to meaningfully affect poverty, it is essential that the next provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy address the impact poverty has on access to, and success in, post-secondary education. We are calling on the provincial government to make investments in student financial aid, work-integrated learning opportunities, and supports and services so all students have the opportunity to thrive.
In between budget submissions, we have also continued to engage in important conversations with the government and stakeholders. Since my last update, we discussed our sexual and gender-based violence priorities in depth with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities as well as the Associate Ministry on Women’s Issues. OUSA also participated in the Town & Gown Association’s Webinar on the Student Choice Initiative to do a deep dive into how the impacts of SCI has and could impact municipalities. These conversations reminded me that the impacts of student associations that span far beyond their immediate impact, and what better of a time than ever to reflect on these impacts than on the cusp of election season. As many student associations prepare to elect and select their next Presidents and Executive teams, I hope that students considering tossing their name in the ring dare to dream bigger than recycled platform points and consider how their voice can help to fundamentally improve the status of post-secondary education in Ontario - and the cross-section of issues that we impact - including gender-based violence, mental health and poverty alleviation. I am more optimistic than ever that student associations can continue to shape our provincial landscape in meaningful ways, as long as students remember to stay engaged throughout the democratic process and vote.
Although a new decade and a new year bring optimism and change, it is essential to acknowledge how difficult of a month the past few weeks have been for universities across Canada. We lost many students, faculty members and staff on Flight PS752. OUSA remembers those who were lost that day including the 63 Canadians. While we mourn those as a collective community, we encourage you to reach out for support if you are struggling.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for next month where we continue to work on new projects, head to Queen's Park for a breakfast reception and keep an eye out for us as we gear up for our 51st General Assembly in March.