As we’re reaching the end of the school year, the USC would like to highlight the amazing efforts your student council has made this year. The Council is the governing body of the USC, made up of student representatives from your respective faculties. It is responsible for drafting policies or initiatives and suggesting changes to improve the entire undergraduate student community.
Having a student council is so important to ensure your voice is heard: “It is a way for you to engage in democracy within the Western community, and to have the opportunity to be hands-on about improving your personal student experience,” says current Vice President University Affairs Lauren Jarman.
To Social Science Councillor Sofia Ouslis, representing students is “an honor.”
“It’s such a unique position to have people bring their concerns to you and trust that you will represent them well. Everything that impacts student life, both internally and externally, gets deliberated at council meetings,” says Ouslis.
Your Council has been working really hard to improve your student experience here at Western. Here are just three of the many accomplishments they have made this year:
PurpleCARE USC Healthcare Expansion
Led by Arts and Humanities Councillor Tiffany Lin and Engineering Councillor Wen Bo “in the pursuit of ensuring and maintaining student wellness,” Council has pushed to advocate for increasing PurpleCARE’s mental health insurance coverage. PurpleCARE is the USC’s health and dental insurance plan, which provides coverage for benefits such as prescription medication, counseling, emergency assistance, etc. The proposal aims to expand PurpleCARE by increasing the mental health insurance coverage amount substantially. This will ultimately increase the access to off-campus mental health resources for students, and remove the financial barriers many students feel when accessing support. The proposal has been brought forward to the PurpleCARE trustees, who voted to increase mental health coverage to $1200 (that’s a $450 increase!). This will go into effect in the fall of 2023, and will benefit all undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Health Plan.
Wrapping up their final years at Western, Lin and Bo recognized the insufficiency of PurpleCARE’s current mental health insurance coverage for students. After conducting research on other universities’ mental health insurance coverage models, speaking to community leaders of mental health organizations, and collecting student testimonies, Lin and Bo came up with this proposed policy to “highlight the existing issues students face when seeking support both on and off-campus” and create “a holistic but accurate picture of the demand for an improved coverage model at Western.”
Lin and Bo acknowledge that “a finite increase in mental health coverage is not a permanent fix” for students, and that there is a long journey left: “Western and the USC will need to continuously work together to find long-term solutions to address mental health concerns.”
Through this proposal, Lin and Bo hope to alleviate short term barriers to accessing mental health resources, and continue conversations to recognize students’ mental health to ultimately improve student’s experiences on campus.
Spearheaded by Sofia Ouslis, the Pedestrian Safety motion is “both a response to injuries in London by buses and cars and a way to keep City Councillors and the Mayor accountable to their campaign promises.” Based on the principle that pedestrians should feel completely safe walking throughout London, the motion recommends an increase in infrastructure and support to pedestrians, bikers, and public transit users. Many students at Western do not necessarily have the capacity to drive to campus, and this motion aims to create a safer environment for them. The motion, which was written by Ouslis, was passed unanimously by council. It has informed the current VP External Affairs’ advocacy efforts and has become a USC priority.
“I personally got involved as a Councillor with a large emphasis on student safety, so when I learned about the several automobile and pedestrian collisions on campus and in London, I knew something had to be done,” says Ouslis.
The efforts of your student council has contributed to the City of London’s recent announcement of the Renew Construction Program, which is investing over $200 million in constructing over 16 kilometers of new bike lanes, 14 kilometers of new sidewalks, over 25 other improvements to road intersections, and many more projects.
Through this advocacy effort, Ouslis is “looking forward to less pedestrian accidents, students feeling safer walking, biking, and taking public transit and an infrastructure built towards sustainability.”
Student Financial Aid
Written by VP University Affairs Lauren Jarman, AVP Student Experience Madison Milanczak, AVP External Affairs Sara-Emilie Clark, and VP External Affairs Jessica Look, the Student Financial Aid policy paper is a revision of a previous paper advocating for increased financial aid. This student-informed paper will ensure that students have better access to information regarding financial aid and increase “better support for equity-deserving student groups, including BIPOC, Queer, International, and Disabled students.”
While the paper was written and researched by USC student employees, it was voted on at Council before it could be implemented as an Advocacy priority. It went through thorough scrutiny by your Councilors, and eventually passed unanimously.
To Jarman, ensuring that students are being taken care of “starts with money, since almost everything else that a student may need access to is dependent on financial stability.” The paper also recommends Western to increase the number of bursaries, scholarships, and financial aid advisors and that the provincial and federal governments increase grants and eliminate interest on student loans, among other recommendations.
While the paper is just the first step to easing the financial difficulties of students, Jarman is working with the incoming Vice President University Affairs Maria Farooq to start mobilizing these recommendations and with the Western administration to fulfill the recommendations before the next academic year.
And there you have it! There are many more initiatives that your student council has accomplished this year, and they are so happy they got to represent your interests. If you have a question or concern you’d like to discuss with your respective faculty councilors, you can contact them through your faculty council or you can reach out to [email protected]