With the rising cost of living and the return to in-person classes, the St. Thomas University Students’ Union plans to tackle new challenges impacting students.
In its priorities document, STUSU outlined six pillars to combat these issues during the 2022-23 academic year. The Aquinian reached out to STUSU’s executives to explain how these pillars will help students.
Reconciliation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples
Alex Nguyen, STUSU’s president, said Indigenous reconciliation is a priority.
“This union has always been in support [of Indigenous people] and we are trying to create spaces for our students to voice the truth,” she said.
Nguyen said STUSU will implement a decolonization and Indigenization policy based on Indigenous history and culture. STUSU will also work closely with the STU Student Reconciliation Committee and the Indigenous representative.
“I would say the Indigenous student representatives, along with their committee, will be the one to point and lead in these kinds of initiatives because it’s not our space,” said Nguyen. “It is their space to do whatever they feel comfortable and it is our space to support them.”
Julia Evans, vice-president of education, said her objective is “bringing advocacy closer to students.” She aims to implement more in-person events such as awareness campaigns that will bring politicians like Green Party leader David Coon to campus.
Evans also wants to familiarize students with advocacy groups like the Canadian Alliance of Student Association (CASA) and the New Brunswick Student Association (NBSA).
“Keeping students in the loop with what work we’re doing with NBSA is really valuable because it shows them the direct connection with our membership to these organizations,” said Evans.
STUSU is also implementing the ‘More Than Tuition’ campaign, divided into two phases.
In the first phase, they surveyed students to see how the cost of living is affecting them and in the second phase, STUSU will advocate with the NBSA to seek solutions at the provincial level.
“People are dealing with tuition and then the rising cost of living, mental health concerns, transportation, higher grocery prices,” she said. “It’s just such a multi-dimensional issue and we really want to bring attention to it.”
Enhancement of the student experience
Minahil Fatima, STUSU’s vice-president of administration, said she wants to make clubs and societies more visible. She said student engagement declined over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic because students didn’t have information about clubs early on.
They held the clubs and societies fair on Sept. 9 during welcome week.
“There was a lot more movement [at the clubs and societies fair],” said Fatima. “I did talk to a couple of clubs and societies and they were also remarking on how there was an increase … in interest [from students].”
Anahí Álvarez, STUSU’s vice-president of student life, said she will reach out to mental health associations to better awareness campaigns and resources, although the specific associations are yet to be defined.
Other issues, such as combating sexual violence on campus, expanding sexual assault awareness and supporting training are also on the agenda.
Equity, diversity and inclusion
Nguyen said STUSU is hosting the second international student roundtable during international education week in November.
“I’m trying to encourage more students to attend, especially [because] the roundtable is where [international] students can voice their concerns and listen to others,” she said.
Nguyen is also part of the equity, diversity and inclusion committee of the NBSA and she said she is working to convince the province to start an action plan on those three topics.
“We’re looking at producing policy statements [and] also raising awareness on EDI in provincial governments,” she said.
Transparency and accountability
There are plans to redesign and populate the STUSU website, which Nguyen said will enhance the student experience. At the moment, the website acts as an information hub, but Nguyen wants to transform it into a more engaging website in the future.
“The website is so static, it’s not where you ask questions and stuff, so we’ll try to make it more engaging to students,” said Nguyen.
Evans said with the ongoing problems affecting students, sustainability sometimes gets left behind. She admits the sustainability committee has been neglected in favour of other topics, but added her objective is to revitalize it this year.
“I want to use our committee [and] our resources as a support system to these students and these projects on campus,” she said.