The year has just begun but the STUSU President, Elizabeth Murphy, is already making some serious changes.
Murphy said a big part of that change is focusing on mental health.
“It’s a huge issue, and something that people don’t normally talk about,” said Murphy.
Already this year, Murphy and the students’ union have made changes to the student health plan to accommodate mental health needs.
The new plan will increase to cover $50 per visit as well as increase the overall maximum to $500.
“It only increases the plan per student to $1.80. It’s pocket change in order for people to see a psychologist and see them more than once,” she said.
Another major short-term goal for Murphy is electronic voting for the fall and spring elections, something she hopes will increase voter turnout.
The voter turnout has never been very high, said Murphy. It is usually around 20 per cent.
“We definitely want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to vote,” said Murphy.
Organizing events like a second Welcome Week right after Christmas break to get students out of their winter doldrums is a goal for the union.
“It could be an opportunity for students to get together and get back in the community of things,” she said.
The biggest goal for Murphy is advocacy. This year the STUSU will represent St. Thomas for the annual advocacy week in Ottawa. Murphy and her team will meet with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations to discuss mental health, work permits for international students, multiple entry visas and rights for aboriginal students.
“It’s extremely important this year with the Federal election coming up in 2015. Now is the time to be setting things up and be talking to governments,” she said.
The biggest challenges for Murphy and the university are significant, such as the new collective agreement that will be rolled out this year between the university and the faculty union.
Murphy said the result of the last agreement wasn’t favorable and hopes the students will be considered in this year’s.
“Last time [professors] went on strike and it was not a great experience for everyone involved,” said Murphy. “I want to make sure the asks of the faculty are reasonable; I mean, students have taken a big hit financially and they’ll likely have to do it again.”
Murphy said although the year has just begun, the future for the STUSU and STU students is looking bright.
“So far things have been going extremely well. For example, for Shinerama our goal was $5,000, which we were deathly afraid of, and we ended up raising $7,000.”
Murphy has come to find that being the STUSU President isn’t always glorious, but it is made much easier and more rewarding through the opportunities she’s faced with.
“None of this sounds fancy, there have been no direct results yet. But I’ve found with this job so much of it is taking the opportunities that come.”
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