Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance General Assembly sees four new policy papers approved

Elected representatives discussed open educational resources and Indigenous students’ campus experiences

OUSA representatives at the General Assembly at the end of October. 
Credit: 
Supplied by AMS Communications

During the weekend of Oct. 27 to 29, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) held their first General Assembly of the school year at Wilfrid Laurier University.

OUSA is an organization that represents the interests of over 140,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at eight student associations across Ontario.

With eight university institutions present, the Assembly included three elected representatives from each school. They gathered in Waterloo to approve new policies that will guide the organization’s advocacy efforts for the rest of the school year.

Four new policy papers were introduced, each of which tackled an issue affecting Ontario undergraduate students. Topics included open educational resources, accountability and system vision.

According to a Nov. 9 news release by OUSA, the fourth paper, entitled “Indigenous Students,” focused on “enhancing the experience of Indigenous students in the province.”

The AMS Executive team attended the conference. In an interview with The Journal, Vice-President (University Affairs) Palmer Lockridge said after three days of debate, all four policy papers were approved by the OUSA General Assembly.

The papers will join a library of 21 overall OUSA policy papers, all of which provide a foundation for the advocacy it will conduct in specific areas.

According to Lockridge, the weekend-long Assembly fostered a productive dialogue about issues affecting all of the campuses in attendance. The elected representatives were able to share their thoughts about how their own campuses tackle different problems, as well as hear about others’ efforts.  

“Every university comes with very different expectations, everyone has a very different student body,” Lockridge said. “There was a lot of good discussion around how we can come to something that is not just best for students at our own universities, but is something that we can advocate for across the entire sector.”

Lockridge also touched on the AMS Executive’s goal of implementing open educational resources (OERs) by the end of their term in office. OERs are openly licensed educational materials that are free and accessible in spite of geographical, financial or other barriers, and are meant to be used for learning, research and other educational purposes.

Lockridge said some universities — like the University of British Columbia — have brought OERs to many of their first-year courses so most students don’t have to pay for their textbooks. Queen’s hasn’t seen much advancement in this area as of yet, Lockridge said.

“We’re really pushing for anything that will provide affordability to the largest number of students at Queen’s possible,” he explained.

The next OUSA General Assembly will occur in March of 2018. Lockridge said the AMS will submit papers on topics such as student health and wellness, mobility, credit transfers and mature students. In addition, Lockridge said the AMS will submit feedback on the “Indigenous Students” paper from Indigenous students’ associations on campus.

He also stated that these papers are open to input from any Queen’s students interested in commenting. The papers will be publicly available for review next year when they’re released for AMS Assembly prior to the next OUSA Assembly.

“We’re always looking for any Queen’s students who are interested in writing the papers, or contributing to what we’re putting forward to the province,” Lockridge said. “It’s always better to respond with an actual experience from a Queen’s student to say why [a recommendation] might be a good thing to put forward or why we may want to reevaluate and do something different.”

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