AMS works with OUSA to make policy recommendations

The AMS has been working with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) over the past year to create change for students. 

OUSA discussed four core policy recommendations at a conference in Toronto.
Credit: 
Supplied by Sahiba Gulati
The AMS has been working with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) over the past year to create change for students.
 
From Nov. 13 to 17, OUSA participated in the Student Advocacy Conference for Provincial Lobby Week in Toronto. The student representatives discussed various issues with over 30 MPPs, with the aim of creating policy recommendations to drive change.
 
The AMS was one of the founding members of OUSA in 1992 and has been a full member since 2004. OUSA represents the interests of 150,000 university students across ten student associations in Ontario and lobbies on behalf of its members to influence provincial legislation and policy. 
 
“OUSA has been a huge support in helping the AMS learn and be an advocate for students,” Sahiba Gulati, AMS commissioner of external affairs and member OUSA’s Steering Committee, told The Journal.
 
At the conference, Gulati said OUSA discussed four policy recommendations. The first is sector sustainability for international students—advocating for the provincial government to offer more support to institutions to create more sustainable funding for post-secondary education.
 
The others were gender-based and sexual violence data collection, education in the classrooms, and healthcare and transit for rural and northern Ontario students.
 
“With the amazing individuals on the Steering Committee, we can’t think of a better group that will allow us to advocate for the students at Queen’s,” Gulati added.
 
In October, OUSA’s General Assembly was held at Laurentian University. At Assembly, policy papers—which analyzed past data and information at each institution—were brought forward and discussed, which Gulati said resulted in strong recommendations.
 
The papers addressed issues of ancillary and incidental fees, tuition, student entrepreneurship, employment, and employability. All three policy papers were discussed, refined, debated, and ultimately approved by the institution—this means these policies will be embedded within OUSA’s post-secondary partners. 
 
“It takes a long time to create change at the provincial level, but constant lobbying and past recommendations that were brought forward years ago are now in place, because of the advocacy efforts of OUSA,” Gulati said.
 
She added that, given the transition from online to in-person learning, the AMS has been “doing a lot of work” with OUSA to advocate for undergraduate students on the provincial level.
 
The AMS is working on creating focus groups made up of Queen’s students to gain their insights into policies regarding the transition from online to in-person learning.
 
Gulati said the past two years have been difficult, as the online format meant meetings with external student unions and MPPs were done virtually. Now that operations are back in-person, Gulati is happy to continue advocacy work.
 
“As someone who previously had no political background, it has been very eye-opening on the amount of work that goes into policy work and creating change.” 
 
Gulati also spoke to the Steering Committee’s general priorities for the year, which include gender-based violence and housing. 
 
“[The Steering Committee discussed] these priorities […] with our inputs on representing Queen’s students as well as students across Ontario.”
 
She said this past September, all OUSA affiliated schools participated in a campaign to advocate for students about gender-based and sexual violence.
 
“This topic was chosen as the first six-to-eight weeks of post-secondary education is defined as the ‘red zone’ where students are at the highest risk to experience sexual violence.”
 
The AMS also held a booth in partnership with the University to provide resources and have an ongoing speaker series for students to stay informed. 
 
Gulati added OUSA is working on a campaign for next semester that will advocate for issues surrounding student housing. 
 
Next March, the AMS will host the Spring General Assembly, where the ten post-secondary institutions that make up OUSA will discuss and approve three policy papers, on the topics of teaching and assessment, two-spirit and LGBTQ+ students, and student accessibility and disability inclusion. 
 
The AMS will write the teaching and assessment policy paper with the University Students’ Council at Western, Gulati said.
 

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