Council #2 Recap: Councillors initiate working groups to address racism, sustainability, sexual and gender based violence and affordability.
Last Sunday, USC Councillors gathered over Zoom to commence their annual Summer Council meeting for the 2020-2021 year.
After a moment of silence in memory of US Civil Rights Leader John Lewis, the Council convened and deliberated over 8 motions. At the beginning of the meeting, USC Vice President University Affairs Victoria Barroso and Vice President Communications and Public Affairs Camellia Wong presented key findings from the USC’s COVID-19 Student Experience Survey, which launched in June. Barroso and Wong highlighted students’ concerns surrounding the quality of their experiences regarding academic and social life this Fall.
The Council approved motions to adopt four new working groups including: (a) Anti-Oppression Working Group, (b) Environment and Sustainability Policy Working Group, (c) Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Working Group, and (d) Tuition and Affordability Working Group.
Anti-Oppression Working Group
Council was presented, and further passed a motion to create an Anti-Oppression Working Group composed of four USC Councillors and four students-at-large. The Council recognized that students on campus have been, and are, subjected to prejudice, harassment, and discrimination and that these incidents are systemic.The working group will assess the forms of oppression present on campus and put forth recommendations to guide the USC’s advocacy and initiatives this year.
“Students have made it clear that our campus community is not always an equitable place. The Anti-Oppression Working Group will survey our diverse student body and create informed, data-driven solutions to the inequities they have identified”, said Social Science President Fakirani.
“I’m beyond excited that the USC recognizes that tangible change that needs to be made and am confident that the Anti-Oppression Working Group will propel actions in a forward direction to make this campus the best it can be,” said Councillor Mahakul
Environmentalism and Sustainability Policy Working Group
In a unanimous decision, Council voted to create an Environment and Sustainability Policy Working Group, which will examine the USC’s sustainability policies. “Issues of environmentalism and sustainability have been consistently identified to be of importance to our constituents.” said Councillor Barkhouse.
“Sustainability is an issue that is close to my heart and I am proud that our Council has committed to addressing climate change and bolstering our environmental practices this year”, added President Reesor.
Creation of Sexual and Gender Based Violence Working Group
Council also examined students’ concerns related to COVID-19. With students spending increased time in residence, it is possible that incidents of sexual and gender-based violence will increase. To address this issue, Councillor Alie put forth a motion to formalize the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Working Group, which will research the prevalence of sexual violence on campus, particularly in residence and identify policies to combat on-campus sexual harrassment and assault.
Councillor Alie reflected, “it is crucial the Western and the USC continue to address rape culture and sexual and gender-based violence in a substantive and survivor-centric way. This working group attempts to do just that; as a survivor myself, it means a great deal to be able to co-Chair this group of talented and passionate students as we move towards creating a safer campus.”
Student Affordability Working Group
Council passed a Motion to Advocate for Increased Student Affordability during COVID-19. The motion tasks the USC Executive to continue their work advocating for increased education affordability, with a particular emphasis on calls to the federal and provincial governments to provide universities with subsidies to decrease tuition and calls to Western University to increase the amount of available scholarships and expand bursary eligibility for the 2020-21 school year.
Additionally, Council has formed a Student Affordability Working Group, which will examine students’ affordability concerns and set advocacy priorities for the USC. They will produce a policy paper that addresses affordability concerns that will be presented at the November Council meeting.
Councillor Zhou recognized that “the majority of students, including professional students, are concerned about the cost and value of online education. Many students have loans; the pandemic will have a lasting negative impact on finances by affecting students’ ability to work, and by disrupting traditional recruitment processes for future employment. Through this motion, we want to emphasize the importance of affordability not only next year, but also in future years.”
For additional information regarding this Council meeting, visit our Youtube page. Regular USC Council meetings are held on the final Wednesday of every month at 7:00. Meetings are open to all students, staff, and the community.
Callista Ryan | July 27, 2020