Policies and priorities with OUSA

Graphic by Lena Yang

Graphic by Lena Yang

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, an organization which works closely with the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, is now hoping to get the attention of students at the school.

Otherwise known as OUSA, the student organization lobbies in partnership with the Ontario government on issues related to post-secondary, such as tuition and sexual violence on campus.

“[OUSA] lobby in partnership with us with the provincial government, so helping us as student leaders get meetings with MPPs or attending round tables or being part of the legislation development,” said Laura Basset, vice-president of university affairs at the Students’ Union and an OUSA steering committee member.

Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, president of OUSA, believes the student organization achieved a great deal over the course of 2015, which includes looking into student financial assistance and making student debt more manageable.

“Looking at things like the separation of loans and grants has been something that OUSA’s lobbied on for a number of years and that’s something we’re very receptive to saying in the budget because it allows students for more flexibility,” said Nestico-Semianiw.

Member associations of OUSA, such as Laurier, meet once a month and discuss issues, including ideas for the upcoming federal election.

“What we used OUSA for was essentially a venue for best practice sharing so we would have discussions about what each of our member campuses’ were doing regarding the federal election and we could share what we’ve done in the past, and our strategies for this year,” Nestico-Semianiw explained.

“Our #LaurierVotes brand came from #MacVotes, like McMaster, so it gives us a really good form to interact with other students from other schools that we wouldn’t necessarily have outside of OUSA,” said Bassett.

Every year, student leaders write policy papers which OUSA advocates and lobbies with the provincial government.

This year, OUSA’s policy papers will be focused on teaching and assessment and student success with student financial assistance in mid-November.

Students from each of OUSA’s member schools will provide amendments and see if the policies are what students really want.

“Their mandate is to represent us and our ideas over policy platforms to the provincial government,” said Bassett.

Twice a year, member schools of OUSA will come together for a general assembly to discuss the policy papers and what the organization will be advocating on for the next four years.

OUSA will also be releasing their Ontario post-secondary survey which asks questions that relate to on-campus services and student debt.

“We also can break it down by demographic so we can understand what the narratives are and if there’s any correlations to experiences based on LGBTQ+ type students or Aboriginal students or international students,” said Nestico-Semianiw.

Along with their policy papers, OUSA has priority picks; this years’ being tuition framework, experiential and work integrated learning and funding formula.

“Laurier’s turning towards more social innovation entrepreneurship opportunities so work integrated learning touches that aspect,” said Bassett.  “All three priorities, all the main priorities are going to touch students largely in the next coming year.”

“Those are mainly the advocacy priorities we look at and we try to meet those through research, through our policy and through the campaigns and lobbying we do with the ministry,” said Nestico-Semianiw.

Bassett hopes there will be more awareness of OUSA and their opportunities for university students.

“[Students] don’t necessarily know about the 30 per cent off tuition rebate, OUSA had a large hand in that, they don’t know that a lot of the accessibility or affordability pieces that come with that,” she said.

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