Huron Caf Goes Green

There have been students asking for improved waste-management at the Dining Hall for years. I was asking for it many years ago when I was the O’Neil rep and placed on the Cafeteria Committee. There have been many different ideas of how to improve the Dining Hall’s sustainability practices but there is one coming that might actually be the answer. Due to student pressure about many issues, one solution serves to potentially solve quite a few of them. Switching to an All-You-Care-To-Eat model helps both to decrease prices and includes silverware and real plates and bowls (funny distinction between this and All-You-Can-Eat hey? 😅). Jennifer Flynn-Clark, AVP Students of Huron University, mentioned this proposed model at the Town Hall on March 27th. Once I learn more about the potential for the Dining Hall to move to this system, I will report it here. This is potentially a huge student-advocacy win that has been a LONG time coming.

End of the Year Item Drive

Part of my platform was ensuring that first-year students moving out have easy access to donating their gently used items. I reached out to Nourhan who directed me to Ashley Shantz, who you may know from the Info Desk. Turns out, Ashley has been donating gently-used items from first-year students for years! And I didn’t even know! (And I know everything 😅🤷🏼‍♀️). I really wanted to partner with the Take It or Leave It program at Western which is part of Western’s sustainability work. Ashley was excited to see that students were asking for this donation process so we decided to collaborate for this project. Emily, our VP Communications, designed some really aesthetic posters which were hung in the residences. Students are instructed to take unwanted items to the Info Desk, where Ashley and her team will store them and coordinate their pickup once the semester is officially over. I’m hopeful that this project is a success and can be a continued effort between the HUCSC and Administration to you know, save the planet and all. 🌍

SAC Renovation and New Building Update

Sooooo, let’s talk about this student-space situation. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Madi (outgoing VP Finance and Administration of two terms) and Inam (outgoing President), the $20,000 SAC renovation budget was all set to go. Then, the new building was officially proposed and set in motion. The need for a student space to exist in the new building is clear and I have been meeting regularly with administration to relay student needs and wants for the space (email me with yours president@myhuron.ca). Because of this, we would effectively be getting a new Student Activity Centre, named the Beaver Dam, in exchange for the current SAC. With shovels being put (literally) in the ground this past week, it’s clear the building is en route. So, that leaves the HUCSC in the middle where the existing space needs updating, but if it won’t be a student-centric space soon, should we spend money to update it? The answer that our council has come to is, no. However, current students shouldn’t have to live with a less-desirable space without getting the benefit that new students will have with the new building. This means that of the $20, 000 allocated, we will be using a small portion (maybe a couple hundred dollars) to perform some SAC updates. The rest of the funds will go toward the new student space, or more pressing student issues in the interim. It’s great that incoming students will get this building but it leaves current students a bit in limbo and a major investment into the current SAC would be a relatively inappropriate use of student-funds for a soon-to-be non-student space (I think I am trying to corner the market on the amount of hyphens you can use in a sentence!!).

“So CC that’s great and all but what are you doing to advocate for student-space needs right now?”

Thanks for asking! 😉 Knowing my commitment to student-serving-spaces and Huron’s lively performing arts groups, I am in favour of Huron’s potential new auditorium/theatre. V214 and the SAC have been amazing stages for the last couple of years, but Huron is bursting at the seams with performing arts talent and the school needs to respond to this. Because of this, I spoke in a video asking donors to contribute to the new auditorium (how much do I look like a reporter?? Be honest; I can take it. Do you like my scrunchie? Also, had anyone heard Billie Eilish’s new album? Bad Guy is such a bop.)

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HUCSC Opt-In Video

As you may or may not know, recent legislative changes from the Ford government have shaken post-secondary students’ worlds upside down. Of current interest to this post is that Students’ Union fees are now optional (for some aspects, I will dive into that beast another post) which has (surprise!!!) made my life really hard! All incoming Presidents at Western (and all other Students’ Unions across Ontario which I am pleased to be friends with) are working together to structure our fees and to organize our budget into the specified buckets with optional and non-optional fees. You might be thinking, this is great! ~$65 in my pocket is a good day. 🤑🤑

Except... 

What the HUCSC does costs money and it’s difficult to allocate how much spending went where. That sounds vague, but it’s a real problem. For example, when I was in second-year, I was VP Student Affairs. I sat on a roundtable that determined that a Fall Reading Week was important to improve the student experience at Western. These lobbying efforts were done by paid and non-paid executives of the various Students’ Councils (because it’s a part time job but the wage is about $10/day). Student fees paid the salaries of these executives and it is difficult to say how many hours of work were allocated to this issue per executive. In a world where student fees are Opt-Out, lobbying efforts will benefit everyone, but will be paid for by just some. The economic argument is that, “if I opt out then I benefit for free”. However, if everyone Opts-Out, these organizations (like my beloved HUCSC) will go bankrupt and cease to exist, where we can no longer advocate on behalf of students. Students’ Unions exist on almost every campus in North America for a reason. Students need a formalized voice. To continue our ability as the HUCSC to help improve the student experience, please Opt-In.

 

With that in mind, our amazing VP Communications, Emily, is hard at work creating Opt-In promotional materials for students to see when paying their fees. The USC has agreed to promote our video once it’s complete as well (thanks Crystal!). Inam, Emily, the other incoming Affiliate Presidents (Hailey White, Kings and Mikaila Hunter, Brescia) are working together to create brochures and other print content to show students. I will link these materials below. As a short-term strategy as well, the Alumni Board has agreed to list the HUCSC as an Alumni Donation category for the online portal. We are fortunate to be in a position where all of our stakeholder groups want the HUCSC to continue to exist so we are partnering with a number of them (particularly alumni, faculty, and administration) to get these materials in the hands of students.

USC Opt-In Video

I was invited to speak in the USC’s Opt-In promotional campaign. As Huron was the Affiliate representation for this project, I knew that it was important to knock it out of the park. The video was overall super boujee and people even did my hair and makeup (I came from the gym and had just done both but it took about 20 mins for the team to get me camera-ready 😂😂 excuse me I’m not at professional-levels of hair and makeup???!!) Okay so other than the hair and makeup part, the video is sure to be really impactful and informative. I’ll share the link here once it’s up. The outgoing Communications Officer,  incoming Communications Officer, Nico, and the Marketing director Crystal are amazing to work with.

(Yes I wore the same outfit both days 😅😅 don’t hate it’s just such a Huron outfit!! I had to be an outfit repeater! I’m also moving houses which limits my clothing options so)

(Yes I wore the same outfit both days 😅😅 don’t hate it’s just such a Huron outfit!! I had to be an outfit repeater! I’m also moving houses which limits my clothing options so)

Grad Banquet 2019

I had such a great time at Grad Banquet (put on by the amazing Sophie Koehn and her team). Another invaluable event put on by the HUCSC (in partnership with administration) which helps send off our amazing graduates. I’m sad to see so many of my friends graduate (5th yr life lol ✌️) but I’m equally as excited to see what they do in the future. Ivey was a great learning experience and I’m just at Huron’s campus next year (except one course 😤). I’m very excited for my last year and I look forward to meeting the rest of Huron’s Psychology class of 2020 which I am now part of!! Woot!! Brains! 🧠

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SO I get elected, now what?

OUSA

Before getting elected, I ran for another "position" on the USC - being an OUSA delegate for the 2019 OUSA GA. OUSA is a powerful lobbying body that I have been watching for a few years and you can learn more about what it has done in the past here: 

I went during the first weekend of March to represent Huron and Western alongside my lovely team of nine other student delegates. We were joined in Waterloo by the other kickass Student Government teams from Queens, Waterloo, Brock, Trent, Laurier, MacMaster, and Laurentian (in no particular order :) ). We were working on policy papers to present to the government regarding LGBTQ+ Support, Student Financial Aid, and Student Employment. Though all three topics have had fascinating headlines in the news lately, the Student Financial Aid paper was one of intense focus for our team.

 With the recently-announced changes to OSAP and Student Financial Aid in Ontario (you can read more here if you're not familiar:  so we worked together with the other student delegates to propose a plan that would best aid Ontario Undergraduate students. 

We worked for three days on these papers in conjunction with preparatory readings and research to create the most refined policy papers possible. These papers are then sent back to the Research & Policy Analysts of OUSA to be prepared for presentation to the Ontario government. 

Nico Waltenbury, the incoming Communications Officer of the USC, asked me to write a short blog post explaining my experience at OUSA: 

"I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I found out that I had been selected to go to the Spring 2019 OUSA Conference. All I knew was that I was going with a team of stellar students and that I was sure to learn a lot. I had heard of OUSA before from other students’ social media, but I never really had a clear understanding of what it is or why it exists. Under the mentorship of experienced OUSA delegates, I was given a crash course how the system works and how I would add value. The OUSA conference fully immerses you into the world of student advocacy on a greater playing field. It also appears to be the epitome of the value that an extra-curricular activity can give to an undergraduate student.

We debated and collaborated with some of Ontario’s best and brightest regarding many student issues, namely how to better serve marginalized communities. Though delegates disagreed on how and by what means, all students appeared to agree on the underlying notion that marginalized communities need more support, and it is in part the responsibility of students’ unions to do so. I am so proud to have been part of that power-house group of students all fighting for an safer and more inclusive student experience.

A few days since the conference, it’s clear that OUSA gave me a truly unique learning experience that I am so grateful to have had. Not only do we work tirelessly to improve the lives of students, but we also benefit from all of these experiences. You are given a project or task, which you lead and take ownership of. It’s a real-world experience and application of your skills. It’s safe to say that these organizations have played a central role in my personal and professional development. I can’t express how important they are for students to use as a training-grounds where they can accelerate their career.”

 

USC Training

My role on the USC requires me to know how the USC works and its processes. Last Saturday, the other incoming Faculty and Affiliate Presidents, along with faculty and affiliate councilors, attended a day-long USC Training Session held by the outgoing Speaker, Madison Ing. It was a great opportunity to learn about the USC Bylaws, Standing Committees, and another refresher on Roberts' Rules. 

 

SPO Elections Process

As a councilor on the USC, it is my duty to ensure that the USC is upholding its promise to add value to and support Huron. Over the last few weeks, I have been discussing and meeting with Student Programs Officer candidates. The SPO role has existed for three years and the role has been taken in different directions each year. The SPO is internally elected by both the incoming and outgoing USC councilors so both Inam and I met with the three candidates to discuss how they could benefit Huron and Western.  The election took place this Sunday at the USC AGM and we will find out the election results shortly.

 

Kairos Indigenous Blanket Exercise

I didn't attend this event as part of my role as President of the HUCSC. But, I'm really glad that I could share my experience on a platform like this. It has inspired me to solidify Truth-and-Reconciliation-themed programming to be part of the Vice President Student Affairs portfolio and I look forward to working with that VP once they are elected to do so. At this event, I was joined by a number of wonderful student-leaders.

 

The Kairos Indigenous Blanket Exercise is an immersive experience where you are challenged to take on the role of an Indigenous person. It walks through sensitive topics such as Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop, and other policies which have affected Indigenous communities. It was a truly heart-wrenching, painful, sad exercise. And I am SO glad that I was able to take part. Building empathy and understanding for Indigenous communities is one of the most important things we can do for university students. As noted by one of the event leaders, "education got us into this mess, and it will be education that will see us through it". I encourage anyone who is able to attend an event like this to do so, and to reach out to organizations like Kairos to find out how they can build a relationship with their local communities. 

 

Truth and Reconciliation

Many of Huron’s students, faculty, and administrators feel strongly that Huron should do more to address Indigenous issues on campus. Though my work is a reflection of student interests and I am responsible only to students (I love having ~1100 bosses️) faculty and administrations can be strong resources to partner with on projects. Realistically, a lot of the change required will fall on the shoulders of faculty and administration, and the HUCSC can act as a force of lobbying with student consultation. Huron and the HUCSC is reflecting as settler institutions with colonial histories on the path to Truth and Reconciliation and what our role is in the journey; as this is one that comes from students, but ultimately requires the collaboration of many parties to become effective. For this issue, my executive team and I feel that the more people we can have supporting our efforts, the better. So far, my work in this area has been a lot of reading, meeting, and event-attending. 

 

I’m lucky in that I am surrounded by field experts. My relatives, fellow students, and professors have dedicated so much of their time and efforts to research indigenous history and what it means to be an indigenous person living in Canada today. FASS (Faculty of Arts and Social Science) just passed xxxx. Some examples of what I am reading are linked at the bottom of this post. I want to educate myself as much as possible about the issues that indigenous students face, and that starts with understanding Canada’s history. Then, I started looking into what other organizations are doing to take steps toward truth and reconciliation. Next, I met with eight people to gather their thoughts and feelings and ideas on this issue. These people included Indigenous students, professors, and administrators. We brainstormed the many many ways that the HUCSC can be involved in Truth and Reconciliation efforts, and we are continuing to work to narrow down what action would be the most effective. In this process it has been crucial to consult indigenous voices, especially students, and ask how we can meet their needs as we re-evaluate Huron’s direction.

 

One thing that I would like to note is that these issues we want to tackle are complex, systemic, and emotionally-exhausting. As an extremely empathetic person, I find it particularly draining to read about Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop. I want to thank my team members for their work on this topic so far. I know it is hard to learn about Canada’s history. It is so uncomfortable. I have been personally grappling with it since I decided to take this deep dive. I feel like there is a hurdle that one needs to overcome before they can truly become an advocate and ally for indigenous issues. The first time you hear a really detailed land acknowledgement, it can leave you feeling a little grey, and confused. Continued exposure to this advocacy for education eventually led me to the other side of the hurdle where I feel that there is hope and action to be taken, and some clarity, and less hopelessness. 

 

One thing that I keep mentioning is that my discomfort doesn’t trump centuries of mistreatment, marginalization, and racism. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not your fault that these atrocities happened. But it is our responsibility to reflect on how we can move forward as both Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous persons. I feel a deep sense of gratitude when I think about how many amazing and empathetic people there are at Huron. These people are connecting with local First Nations communities, studying Canadian history, and putting on educational programming that is to everyone’s benefit. That’s leadership (with heart). 

Free Menstrual Products Project

There is a growing global movement which states that feminine hygiene products are too expensive (or that they should have no price at all). This issue has been brought forward by many students to me and to the executives at the USC. The USC’s outgoing Student Programs Officer, Carina, is dedicated to reflecting her constituents’ values throughout her work. I saw the value in the program because a) menstrual products can be very expensive b) menstrual emergencies can occur c) there are limited places to purchase menstrual products on campus and d) a student shouldn’t be taken away from their studies or class due to not having menstrual products. Recognizing that there are many students who attend Western and Huron who have limited disposable income, Carina and her team created a Free Menstrual Product campaign and invited Huron to take part. The USC organized the collection of the menstrual products (specifically, tampons) and distributed them across campus. I was given a (huge) box of these products and I took them to the high-use Women’s and Gender-Neutral bathrooms at Huron. I put them in little brown bags which noted that the project was organized by the USC. The program was a massive success at Huron, as all items were fully used, restocked, used, and restocked again until the products ran out!

 

In the future, I see Huron partnering with more organizations on this issue. As more students come to me with the concern of affordability of and accessibility to menstrual products, I look forward to reflecting the community’s values in the work done at the HUCSC. One thing that was discovered through this process is that tampons cannot be used universally for a variety of reasons. Perhaps pads could be offered as well, to service even more individuals.