Student representatives from across the country took to parliament hill to advocate for post-secondary education students.
Elizabeth Murphy, STUSU president, and Luke Robertson, vice president education, took part in the Canadian Alliance of Student Association’s 2013 advocacy week from Nov. 17-22. Their flights and hotel were paid for by STUSU’s conference budget.
Murphy said this conference was important because sometimes an issue needs to be pointed out before it can be fixed.
“It’s not necessarily that the government doesn’t care about these issues, but just that they aren’t on their radar,” said Murphy. “We wanted to bring these issues to the light of the people who can advocate change by bringing it up in Question Period or bringing it to the attention of the appropriate MP.”
Robertson said the STUSU felt this conference was good because the union is a full member of the association, and they wanted to represent St. Thomas.
The conference’s focus, Robertson said, was to meet MPs, Senators and stakeholders to present “asks” about post-secondary education. “Asks” are a call to action for the government Murphy described as “putting a solution to the problem in one sentence.”
“[We were there to] advocate for the betterment of initiatives that the federal government has control over to better the student experience in Canada,” Robertson said.
Meeting other university representatives was a high point for Robertson. He said meeting them proved the issues St. Thomas University students are having are similar to students from other universities.
“It’s very refreshing to see that what we do is not unique to us in some cases, and there are many other people who are going through the same things,” said Robertson.
For the most part, Robertson said the people he talked to were positive. He used his first meeting as an example, which was with Dominic LeBlanc, MP for Beauséjour, Robertson’s home riding that encompasses Mount Allison University.
“[He] was particularly interested in financial aid as he has a university in his riding and many students who travel,” said Robertson. “We also discussed mental health. It’s an emerging topic in post-secondary education and an issue that’s being raised more and more on campus.”
Robertson said LeBlanc was receptive to those topics and has committed to asking a question in Question Period during legislative assembly with regards to financial aid.
Robertson said it was great to see how interested and responsive MPs and Senators were to the questions asked by student representatives.
“A lot of people in this country do care about students and are eager to learn more about what can be done to improve the student experience,” said Robertson.
Murphy said this conference was worth STUSU’s time despite being unsure going into it.
“I think a lot of people consider lobbying to be like a photo-op but I’m pleased with the conversations that we had,” said Murphy.
“Many [people] agree that education is a priority and are interested to see what we have to say. These people do care, we just have to bring the problems to their attention.”
Robertson and Murphy will be making a full presentation about their time at advocacy week at the semester’s final STUSU meeting, Thursday in Holy Cross House room 5.
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