OUSA breaks down barriers

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) is hosting their Blue Chair Campaign at seven campuses across Ontario in the interest of raising awareness about the barriers keeping prospective students out of post-secondary institutions.

“It’s really OUSA taking action to draw attention to the fact that in the Ontario post-secondary education system there are countless numbers of students who don’t have access to our institution and to a university degree,” explained president of OUSA Dan Moulton.

The campuses involved are providing information to students from Jan. 11 to 22 regarding the financial, cultural, geographical and motivational barriers that prevent youth in Ontario from pursuing a post-secondary education.

At both the Waterloo and Brantford campuses, Laurier students will be encouraged to join the discussion the challenges of accessing university.

“We have 1,000 fortune cookies to give out and each fortune cookie is filled with a little fact about education,” said Kory Preston, Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union vice-president of university affairs.

In addition to providing information, an on-campus party will be held by each school on Jan. 14.

Laurier’s event will be hosted at Wilf’s starting at 9 p.m., featuring a performance by Let’s Go To War. Wilf’s bartending staff have also created a special blue chair drink for the occasion.

“We’re going to provide some interactive activities for students who do come out and attend that event to start the discussion about what are the barriers to university and send a message to the government that these barriers should be reduced,” said Preston.

While some of the participating schools, including the University of Western Ontario, are using the campaign as an opportunity to raise funds for community education initiatives, Laurier has decided not to incorporate a fundraising campaign.

“We really wanted to make sure that our events themselves were barrier-free and we felt that in these tough economic times charging a couple of extra dollars to a student might be a deterrent from coming out to our event and starting a discussion,” explained Preston.

In the previous two years of the campaign, Laurier did raise money for Pathways to Education Kitchener which works to reduce poverty and promote education in local neighbourhoods.

Preston expressed a desire to reinstate a fundraising campaign in future years once the economic burden on current students is not as severe.

For now, Preston stated that the priority of the campaign at Laurier, “is having this discussion and send[ing] the message to the government that universities matter.”

Bringing the issue forward to become a priority within the provincial government will hopefully lead to greater funding in the future.

“We need to see more leadership on that part of our government and students are calling for that across the province,” said Moulton.