This February the “community relations” bit of my title was most prevalent, with amazing conferences and partnerships formed across Canada.
Early in the month, I had the incredible opportunity to represent UVic at Converge 2017, a conference where students, politicians, and university executives came together to develop a vision for what we wanted Canada to become. Looking forward to 2067, we talked about innovation, reconciliation, pluralism, and inclusivity in a rapidly changing global landscape.
The highlight of the event was hearing from Prime Minster Justin Trudeau on what defines Canada. He clearly explained how openness to immigrants was a competitive advantage for Canada. He stated that we are a society that has understood that defining ourselves based on ethnicity, language, religion, etc. doesn’t work. He emphasized that there is no ‘typical’ Canadian, and that we have discovered how to make our difference a source of strength.
There were many other amazing speakers at the conference, but what was truly valuable is having the opportunity to discuss a myriad of student issues with university presidents and staff, members of parliament, and more. Many were intrigued with the potential of open textbooks to reshape education and I am hopeful that conversations will blossom into action.
Count on Our Vote
This March you will be seeing a lot more of the Count on Our Vote campaign – a joint campaign between the Alliance of BC Students and the UVSS. In the second week of February myself and three amazing volunteer leaders (Chitra, Pauline and Gerrald) went to the Alliance of BC Students campaign conference to work with other student unions to prepare for launch.
Chitra, a volunteer leader, says that “as a volunteer, it was an amazing experience meeting students from other student unions. I’m really excited to be working together on the such an important campaign. We are really optimistic that student voter turnout will be higher than ever this election!”
We have the swag all ready to go and are excited for a big launch this week!
This week will also be the culmination of a lot of hard work with the Alma Mater Society of UBC and the Simon Fraser Student Society to lobby government on student issues! We will be meeting with Andrew Wilkinson, Rob Fleming, David Eby, and Andrew Weaver to make the following three requests:
Clearly outline student housing rights outside of the RTA.
Reaffirm commitment to maintaining the 2% domestic tuition cap
Continue investments in the BC Open Textbook Program to allow existing resources to be kept up to date and support the creation of ancillary textbook materials.
Stay tuned for the results in March updates!
The month of March will be focused on getting out the vote for the provincial election! Get excited for debates, forums and speakers, centered around student issues! Make sure you pledge to vote @ CountOnOurVote.ca.
P.S. Congrats to incoming Anmol Swaich! March will also be full of training to make sure Anmol can hit the ground running with great ideas in May!
Happy new year! I know, a little late. The start of 2017 has been awesome for UVSS campaigns, and we are excited to let you know what we have been up to!
TextbookBroke Semester 2!
This year we ran the #TextbookBroke campaign for the second time, and although we got less entries, the reach was still amazing. The campaign reached over 40,000 people on social media with over 2000 likes on posts and over 300 shares! Our efforts were featured on the front page of the Saanich News receiving widespread community awareness – even UVic showed us some love with a share on their Facebook page!
The winner of this year’s contest was Cayra Tansey who spent $500 towards her textbooks. Cayra received 231 likes and 80 shares on her entry.
For those hearing about the TextbookBroke campaign for the first time, the campaigns purpose is to bring awareness to the problems in the publishing industry, where students are captive consumers and there is little correlation between product value and price. In addition, the campaign promotes innovative alternatives to expensive publishing resources, such as Open Educational Resources. OER’s, which are produced with government grant funding and open for students online, are set to save students over $100,000 at UVic alone in 2017!
The 3rd Annual Mental Health Awareness Event ft. Kevin Breel
This week the UVSS partnered with Student Life to make the Annual Mental Health Awareness Event the biggest to date! Over 450 students, faculty, staff and community members came out to engage with community groups, hear from the amazing keynote Kevin Breel, and engage is discussion. My favorite part of the event was the student story performance; before Kevin spoke five students got up on stage to bravely share their story, their hardship, and their continued struggle with mental health. This event left me energized to continue our work with the ReThink Mental Health campaign, spreading positive messages and raising awareness of campus resources.
In addition to continued outreach for ReThink Mental Health and Let’s Get Consensual,, the UVSS is gearing up to run an exciting new campaign “Count on Our Vote.” This campaign’s purpose is to encourage informed student voting. We are excited to be working in partnership with the Alliance of BC Students, a provincial organization representing over 60,000 post-secondary students. Stay tuned for more info!
Director of Campaigns and Community Relations, Maxwell Nicholson and Director of Student Affairs, Emma Kinakin meet with Minister Wilkinson to lobby on provincial student issues.
What a wonderful last couple weeks it has been at the UVSS! Definitely some exciting updates from the campaigns department and much more in store for next semester.
Lobbying on Housing
First, we have continued to meet with Saanich city councilor Fred Haynes and the University of Victoria to discuss a viable solution to the housing crisis in Victoria: allowing universities to build more student housing. Currently the government restricts universities from self-supported capital projects, which restricts their ability to respond to a growing demand. The problem is complex, but we now have the support of the Union of BC Municipalities (all the mayors in BC), the Alliance of BC Students, the Simon Fraser Student Society, the UBC Alma Mater Society, the UVic administration, and the Camosun administration, and are continuing to put pressure on the government to fix this problem. On the 29th I had the pleasure of saying a few kind words about Fred’s leadership on this issue to a room of Saanich community leaders at the Victoria Caledonian Brewery & Distillery (lovely craft beer!).
Meeting with the Minister
On the first of December we continued the conversation about student housing, lobbying the Minister of Advanced Education about the housing problem and four other issues, recommending they:
Increase funding for BCcampus’ Open Textbook Project by $500,000 a year for the next 3 years to expand the number of open textbooks available to BC students. (See the UVSS TextbookBroke Campaign)
Establish a needs-based student grant program that addresses student needs and provides incentives for completion and conduct a review of the current B.C. student loan eligibility requirements and interest charged on B.C. student loans.
Provide resources to institutions implementing Sexual Misconduct policies, expand the scope of Bill 23, and create a dedicated provincial task force to create a comprehensive provincial wide plan to address sexual violence. (See the Let’s Get Consensual Campaign)
Our pragmatic approach was well received, and we will continue to be pushing for these important student issues!
Finally, exciting news on the mental health front – Bell Let’s Talk is partnering with us with a $3,500 for our Mental Health Awareness Week, which will feature keynote speaker Kevin Breel on January 18th, a renown speaker with a TED talk boosting almost 3 million views! Stay tuned for more event details.
I am truly honored to represent students on these issues, and my door is always open to hear what you want to see from the campaigns department! In the meantime, good luck on exams, and have a wonderful holiday season!
-Maxwell Nicholson, Director of Campaigns and Community Relations
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Last Friday, on October 27th, a host of spooky, quirky and creative costume-attired runners joined the UVSS campaign team to participate in Run for your Brain, a Halloween themed obstacle course with the purpose of promoting mental health on campus. The course, which consisted of fun challenges such as hay bails, quidditch, a spoon race and more, took under a minute to complete with the winner, Hadem Chang, completing the race in 31.74 seconds. Thanks to the support of Original Joes, the participant with the fastest time as well as a few lucky entrants received gift cards ranging from $25 to $50. With over 50 people completing the course and many more stopping by the booths to speak to the fantastic partner organizations that came out to support the campaign, the event was a huge success and a lot of fun for everyone involved!
The goal of Run for your Brain was to promote ReThink Mental Health, the UVSS campaign to support student mental health on campus and promote the different resources available in the community. The obstacle course was designed to be fun but also to encourage students to think about stress. By requiring runners to follow quick instructions with no warning and think about things that caused them stress students were shown that, while pressure and stress are emotions that all students face, there are ways to deal with and manage them in safe, effective and even enjoyable ways. With the support of so many great groups such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, NEED2 Suicide Prevention Education & Support, and the BC Schizophrenia Society, the Run for your Brain event educated students about stress management and the different resources available to them.
Check out the ReThink Mental Health website for more information about resources and other cool events coming up throughout the year!
-Lorissa Corrie, Volunteer Leader
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