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OUSA represents nearly 150,000 undergraduate students across the province. Image: Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum

Union testing to see if alliance is good fit for U of O students

On Feb. 1, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) announced via Twitter that the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) had joined the alliance as an ‘observer school.’ 

OUSA represents nearly 150,000 undergraduate students across the province and advocates for the interests of students at the provincial level through public policy recommendations. It is run by an eight person steering committee made up of student executives from member schools’ student unions.

According to OUSA president Julia Pereira, as an observer school, the UOSU is able to participate in events, conferences and send non-voting delegates to OUSA’s general assembly. 

“OUSA introduced an observer status option for prospective members to get a better idea of what OUSA is before they decide to transition to be a full member,” said Pereira. 

While OUSA has not had an observer school in several years, the organization’s executive team had decided to review the observer status in hopes of attracting more schools to join in the future. 

“The pandemic has brought on a lot of challenges, but it also kind of reduced a lot of barriers to learning about what OUSA is and kind of getting involved,” shared Periera.

Both Periera and Tim Gulliver, advocacy commissioner for the UOSU, made it clear that students are not being charged as a result of UOSU’s observer status with the organization. 

“We’re using this opportunity to learn more about OUSA and see if their approach and their priorities reflect those of U of O students,” said Gulliver.

Gulliver said the UOSU was well aware of several different provincial and federal organizations that they could potentially join in order to help further their advocacy efforts. 

“It was just a question of timing and a question of making sure that these organizations are the right fit for us,” he said. 

OUSA conducts their own research on problems faced by students and writes policy papers that they then present at Queen’s Park and advocate for on behalf of their member institutions. 

They have a policy library of 22 issues that are reviewed and rewritten yearly before they are ratified at the General Assembly. Once the papers are passed, OUSA advocates on the provincial level. 

“I think that it’s important to decide democratically as a group what their priorities are, to advocate for them, and to stick to that and secure those principles,” said Gulliver. 

Periera believes that one of the things the UOSU brings to the table is a voice for Francophonie and Franco-Ontarian students, as well as a school that is situated in the National Capital region. The only other bilingual institution that is a member of OUSA is Laurentian University in Sudbury. 

“It would allow our organization to be more accessible [to French speaking students],” said Periera. 

Gulliver voiced similar sentiments, saying the UOSU’s membership would be “an opportunity for the organization to look into how it can become more bilingual or at least be a stronger voice for Franco-Ontarian students.”