Laurier representatives attend OUSA’s fall general assembly
The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) fall general assembly took place this past weekend on Oct. 29, 2017 at Wilfrid Laurier University.
The assembly took place on the Waterloo Campus in the Fred Nicholas Centre in the Turret.
Wilfrid Laurier University’s Students’ Union is a member of OUSA. OUSA is a coalition of student associations from across Ontario in select post-secondary institutions.
The purpose of OUSA is to present research and ideas to the provincial government in order to improve the quality of post-secondary institutions.
“To be part of OUSA as an organization gives us an opportunity to advocate on behalf of students for issues which are pressing society at the provincial level and actually help alleviate some concerns,” Kanwar Brar, president and CEO of the Students’ Union, said.
Brar and Stephanie Bellotto, vice-president of university affairs and Steering Committee Member of OUSA, as well as Nick DeSumma, delegate of OUSA and former Students’ Union chair of the board of directors, represented Laurier at the fall general assembly.
Brar explained that the role of OUSA is to make it possible that students and representatives from various universities can come together and look at policy.
“OUSA general assembly takes place twice a year. It’s an opportunity for member schools to come together and look [at] policy with provincial government, and impacts students and all school members get together and work on that,” Brar said.
Once the papers are looked over by OUSA members, the policies are taken and then lobbied through provincial government.
“In about two weeks Stephanie Bellotto and I will be going to Queens Park for Lobby con, and that is an opportunity for us to meet with elected representatives and members of provincial parliament,” Kanwar said.
“In one-on-one conversations, what we do is take policy ratified by the general assembly and speak to that and lobby the government on initiatives and priorities which are needed for students, it’s an opportunity for both of us to do that,” Kanwar said.
“I think it’s important for any student who has any concerns going forward, whether it’s these policies or our organization, I think it’s important for them come to us and bring those concerns to us because we can’t effectively act on them if we don’t know about them.”
The major themes spoken about at the fall general assembly this year are three papers presented by OUSA meant to spark student advocacy.
“Three papers presented at the general assembly [included topics of] Indigenous students, accountability and system vision,” Brar said.
“What OUSA and all the member schools do is they take into consideration new evidence and new research and, based on that, they amend those papers so they are [at] a better standing provincially,” Brar said.
Brar explained that in order to have effective student advocacy, we need to have consideration for other universities’ opinion on various post-secondary topics.
“Aside from even the official plenary, which is the massive board meeting, we’ve had breakout sessions where we’ve had more intimate conversations in groups,” Brar said.
“[We] have gone over some of the concerns and recommendations – it’s been a really constructive way of actually engaging with other schools and their perspectives.”
Before the OUSA fall general assembly was even underway, Brar explained a situation where Bellotto consulted Indigenous Student affairs persons for possible recommendations on these issues.
“OUSA offers the opportunity to look at the province as a whole in regard to post-secondary issues and [to] be able to make recommendations and initiatives which are catered to those needs.”
DeSumma offered some valuable insight on why it’s important for students to speak up and offer feedback on policies so delegates and representatives can lobby for their student experience.
“I think it’s important for any student who has any concerns going forward, whether it’s these policies or our organization, I think it’s important for them come to us and bring those concerns to us because we can’t effectively act on them if we don’t know about them,” DeSumma said.
“We’re doing our best but it’s amazing if we have that student input and feedback.”