November has been a whirlwind of events after events.
Firstly, the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health (CICMH) hosted their annual conference where I got to co-host and where OUSA once again had the chance to present. Our brilliant RPAs, Octavia and Ananya, as well as our superstar MSU representative, Abby, facilitated a session on the mental health experiences of marginalized students in an evolving social-political climate. We were thrilled to see over 120 attendees at their presentation, and appreciate all the hard work of the CICMH staff in their planning and execution of the event!
Right after, our team attended the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario’s (HEQCO) conference Access Reboot: New Directions for Higher Education in Toronto. Our wonderful SC members Zarreen and Katie facilitated one of the sessions, Inclusive Approaches to Engaging with Students: An EDID-informed Roundtable Workshop. The focus was on actions that institutional staff can take to help students feel included in learning spaces on campus. Additionally, our ED Malika moderated a session on Student Mental Health and PSE Institutions: Addressing Challenges and Sharing Best Practices. Practitioners discussed the barriers of mental health for students as well as opportunities for supporting students in post-secondary settings. We were pleased with the level of engagement and productive discussions!
Next, Malika and I paid our last campus visit of this term to Laurentian during their open house that weekend. We had a great time quizzing folks about post-secondary education. We also had a fun adventure to see the Big Nickel and carpool karaoke ride back home. Sudbury is always a fun time and we’re excited for our next visit!
Back in Toronto, Malika and I were invited to join the Student Housing Roundtable hosted by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. We discussed the need for student built housing and emphasized the importance of mitigating development roadblocks so that additional costs are not downloaded onto students. It was insightful to hear the thoughts of other stakeholders in this space and we look forward to continuing these discussions in a way that centres students’ housing needs of affordability, accessibility, and safety.
November also brought an important update from the MCU - the release of the Blue Ribbon Panel’s final report. Earlier in the summer, OUSA had the opportunity to submit our recommendations as well as attend a virtual consultation with the Panel. In anticipation of the report dropping, we collaborated with the Council of Ontario Universities on a joint statement encouraging the provincial government to invest in the sector and highlight the positive outcomes this would have on students. While we are pleased with some of the Panel’s recommendations, we were also hoping to see suggestions that better support student affordability. Our full response can be found here. We are thankful to the Panel for all their work and eagerly await the MCU’s next moves.
The release of the Blue Ribbon’s Panel’s report came with an influx of media requests for the student perspective on their recommendations. I had the opportunity to participate in interviews with the Globe and Mail, CBC’s The Current, and News Canadian Media. I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations and amplifying more of OUSA’s advocacy through this avenue.
Excitingly, our annual publication, Shared Perspectives, was released late in the month! This is a joint project with student advocacy groups across the country and this year’s theme focused on sector sustainability, a very fitting and timely topic for Ontario. Massive shoutout to our Research and Policy Analyst, Octavia, for coordinating this and to all the contributors from different regions nationwide for their informative pieces.
Finally, the moment we all have been waiting for… our annual Student Advocacy Conference! On SAC Eve, our Home Office team provided insightful training to prepare us for the week ahead. From Monday through Thursday, we met with MPPs and staffers to discuss our advocacy priorities for the year. Our teams were invited to the Members Gallery during question period, which was a great opportunity to witness. Thank you to Minister Dunlop and the various MPPs who introduced us! On Wednesday morning, we co-hosted a breakfast reception with the College Student Alliance (CSA). It was lovely to hear remarks from CSA President Azi, PA Pierre, MPP Sattler, MPP Blais, and MPP Schreiner. I enjoyed seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones! Amidst the busyness, Abby, mentioned earlier as our magnificent MSU member, spoke with CBC Radio six times over the course of an early morning to discuss the goals, intentions, and outcomes of SAC. We appreciate everyone for taking the time to foster these valuable connections. WHAT A TIME!
And of course! Malika and I were invited by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) for their Funding Our Future: Keeping Universities Public Conference. We appreciate that the Conference reiterated how critical and urgent it is to support and invest in post-secondary education to provide students with a well-rounded experience.
Wishing you a safe, warm, and happy holiday season! Enjoy your winter break folks, and see you all in the new year!
Peace and love,