Student council's OUSA membership under review this month

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The University Students’ Council is set to review its membership in the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and Western students are being asked for input.

According to USC external affairs coordinator Patrick Duncan, the council’s provincial and federal representation is reviewed every two years. This year, the USC is discussing its provincial membership in OUSA.

OUSA is a coalition of elected university student councils from across the province. The organization provides research and ideas to the provincial government on how to improve postsecondary education in Ontario through lobbying, advocacy, awareness campaigns and various other means.

The USC has been a member of OUSA since the organization’s inception in 1997, but had previously been part of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students.

The CFS, founded in 1981, represents over 80 student unions across Canada and, unlike OUSA, aims to represent student interests at both the provincial and federal levels.

Several other differences also exist between the two organizations, despite their similar goals.

While the CFS advocates solidarity, OUSA offers student unions the ability to be autonomous, David Simmonds, VP-university affairs for the USC and OUSA president, explained.

“We take positions [on issues], but if a member school is uncomfortable with that, they can step back,” Simmonds continued.

He said OUSA focuses solely on matters of postsecondary education, whereas the CFS takes stances on various issues.

Dave Molenhuis, the Ontario representative for CFS, said the federation is uniquely member-driven, unlike OUSA.

“OUSA was founded as an organization of student councils and has a student council mentality about it,” Molenhuis added. “We’re differentiated on that ... [CFS] has more focus on individual membership.”

Molenhuis noted OUSA does not run services for students.

“We still own Travel Cuts, the largest student-owned and operated travel organization in the world,” Molenhuis said. “We’re leaders in that respect.”

On Feb. 13, students can attend a public forum to discuss the merits of membership in OUSA or the CFS.

“We’re looking at both organizations holistically and inviting both organizations to come speak to us,” Duncan said. “As well, we’re getting student input on the process to get a broader vision of what the campus is looking for and what Western’s needs are.”

The public forum will aid the USC’s External Affairs Committee in drafting a report to bring to council. Voting on the issue will occur in early March.

Simmonds, who chairs the committee, declared a personal conflict of interest and is acting only as an OUSA spokesperson in the USC’s decision process.

The forum will be on Feb. 13 from 4:30-6 p.m. in the McKellar Room, University Community Centre.

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