As part of the USFA’s work building connections with other bargaining units and student groups on campus, the External Relations Committee recently met with representatives from both the University of Saskatchewan Students Union (USSU) and the Graduate Students Association (GSA).
While each organization has its own priorities, they have common issues of concern to students. Chief among those is the mental health of students, particularly during the pandemic. USSU funded a program: “Empower Me” – 24/7 counselling service by phone available in seven languages worldwide. This service goes beyond mental health, also offering personal coaching for adjustment.
Another concern of both organizations is communication with faculty. Many students are reporting little opportunity for regular interactions with professors and very little or no communication with supervisors. Communication between students and faculty is vital in an environment where there is more self-directed learning, and creating opportunities for communication with students will be positively received.
Affordability and financial support challenges for students have increased because of the pandemic. Student jobs were cut in March, the Provincial Government removed the requirement that employers provide two-weeks’ notice and students paid by honoraria made them ineligible for government help. The $18.00 fee reduction by the University, as compared to $70.00 by USSU, and the re-introduction of late-fees for tuition are seen as insulting and totally lacking in empathy from administration. When it comes to tuition for Graduate Students, while there is a process for consultation, tuition is set without the GSA having a seat at the table (USSU has a representative on the Board of Governors).
The External Relations Committee will be meeting regularly with USSU and GSA representatives for continued dialogue.