The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance met at McMaster University this weekend for their second general assembly of the academic year. OUSA holds these assemblies twice a year to discuss, amend, propose and ratify new policies for their position as advocates to the government and administrations on behalf of Ontario university students.
The assembly passed three new policies relating to student health, student mobility and mature student accessibility to post-secondary education. According to Sam Andrey, executive director for OUSA, these new policies were really at the heart of the meeting.
“They really were the biggest part of what went on over the weekend,” he said.
The new student health policy sought to draw support to students who are survivors of sexual violence.
“There’s some data to suggest that almost one in five female students experience some sexual violence over the course of their studies, and we’re going to work with the provincial government to have sexual assault support centres on or near campuses, or to have campuses develop services with links to community support centres,” he explained.
This policy will also pressure universities to commit funds to support members of the student lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer community.
“LGBTQ support on campus happens through Pride Western, which is a USC service, but it doesn’t come out of the university’s operating budget. We want to grant funding towards these types of student associations to help them continue the good work that they’re doing,” Patrick Searle, vice-president university affairs for the University Students’ Council, said.
The other two policies will attempt to make it easier for students to transfer credits between Ontario universities and to make post-secondary education more easily attainable for mature would-be students, who often have difficulty paying for university.
OUSA also had to address a defeat at the assembly—despite a high amount of lobbying on the part of OUSA, Ontario tuitions will still rise by five per cent next year.
According to Sean Madden, president of OUSA, this is the seventh year in a row that Ontario university tuitions will rise.
“We advocated for either a freeze or just an inflationary increase, but this at least gives us another year to get our support in order,” Searle said.
Searle understood, however, that this news was quite unwelcome to those whom it affects most.
“Not a lot of people are happy about this increase, and that definitely includes students. We’ve had some wins this year, but this is a loss for students.”