Dear fellow students,
Hope you’re all doing well and successfully done with your finals.
It’s the last week of April that commences the beginning of spring, however, it is the last week of the term for your URSU Executives that were elected last year. The past year has been like no other and all of our plans were affected by the evolving situation of the pandemic, however, we adjusted our projects in hopes of continuing to contribute to the holistic experience of our students.
As I mark the end of my term, I would like to familiarize you all with the projects and the advocacy efforts of your students union in the past year. To begin with, we commenced our term advocating against the record high tuition that is far above the inflation rate. We commended the university’s decision for 0% increase in tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year and removal of Recreation of Athletic Fee until last year. After the resumption of the RAF starting this winter, we immediately launched a campaign against the RAF and are continuously advocating against it on behalf of our membership.
After getting valuable feedback from the students about the Proctortrack software from the Proctortrack town hall and the survey, we immediately began raising voice highlighting various concerns of the students and also launched the “Stop Proctortrack” campaign that resulted in reaching out to professors directly and further helped in the removal of the software from many classes. Going ahead, URSU will continue to fight to bring improvements for the academic success of the entire student body as per the mandate of the membership.
In June 2020, URSU actively participated in the Black Lives Matter movement held across the world to empower our students against injustice and discrimination. Furthermore, in August 2020, URSU joined the Migrant Rights Network in a country-wide movement to demand equality for the migrants being concerned about the hardship faced by the international students that resulted in the success of the campaign when the federal government recently launched new Permanent Residency Pathways for international students and migrant workers.
Adapting to the situation, URSU organised a blend of online and in-person events to continue to organise annual Welcome Week which included an Outdoor Movie Night, Drive-in Breakfast, Trivia Night and more. Also, we had a very successful Winter Welcome Week and Sexual Health & Mental Wellness Week being held entirely online. We continued our URSU Cares Pantry throughout the year following health restrictions. It is noteworthy that the pantry has expanded a lot as compared to previous years and from this year to address the food insecurity among students, pantry will be organised in Spring/Summer semester too, with more dates added to help those in need.
This year, URSU launched our Computer Rehoming Initiative with help from Computers for Schools Saskatchewan. This new program addresses the technological needs of students.Through the initiative, students in need of computers can get one from their students’ union free of cost. We hope to expand the program in the future to serve the growing need of technology in an online educational environment. It was also this year that we designated March as Community Service Month to help the wider community in need. URSU partnered with passion2action and funded student groups that further helped in distributing grocery packages and essential supplies to the households in need during the pandemic. URSU is also working hard to address the students’ stresses resulting from mental illness apart from our investment in Mywellness and organising fun contests.The Executive also launched Coffee With Executives to meet with the students over a cup of coffee to alleviate the mental stress of students.
Most recently, URSU launched two new bursaries to help alleviate the financial burden of students: the Covid Relief Fund and the Students with Disabilities Grant for students who need financial assistance apart from the ongoing Emergency fund. We are hopeful that both the bursaries will help students in this difficult time and will positively impact their academic experience at the university. The Board of Directors also approved the initial budget of 2021-2022 budget with no increase in URSU fee. We will continue to explore different opportunities to provide the most cost-effective services to you all.The Board also worked to develop the strategic plan 2021-2023 and the Executives did set the goals to be accomplished with the vision of:
“A caring community where every student feels connected and thrives”
This year the relationship between URSU and the university administration has become stronger than ever. The execution of the Info-Sharing Agreement that, today, has given me an opportunity to communicate with you directly, is another great achievement. The presence of university administration at the URSU hosted student town hall to answer the questions of students directly shows the care of the administration towards the union and the students. This year, URSU Executives met with the University of Regina’s leadership team on a bi-monthly basis and took to them the ongoing concerns of students. The presence of URSU designates on the campus reopening and other major decision making committees has also contributed towards URSU being a valuable partner in the decisions that matter most to students. This strong foundation will surely help ensure an effective dialogue between URSU and the University of Regina in the future.
This year, the URSU Executive have made significant efforts in advocating for the students at all levels of the government. In collaboration with the national organisation Future Majority, URSU hosted a Candidate Election Forum before the provincial election to give students a chance to ask questions to the candidates directly. The Executives raised concerns over tuition, loans and post-secondary funding to the Minister of Advanced Education, the official opposition, various MLAs and requested to take measures to help the post-secondary students. It resulted in the provincial budget having more funding and additional aid for the post-secondary sector. We also brought the concerns to the leader of the national New Democratic Party about the current climate of the post-secondary students. Furthermore, this year URSU has also improved its relationship with the City of Regina by witnessing the willingness of the Mayor having monthly conversations with me on the issues that matters most to the students and the residents of Regina. We are hopeful that the future years will witness more collaboration between the union and the government in fulfilling the goal of caring for our students.
The formation of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee is another feather in the list that will embody the cultural diversity of our campus and will further reflect the key issues faced by the students. URSU has also made significant developments in addressing the global issue of climate change. The expansion of our Sustainability Committee, the hiring of a Food Insecurity Coordinator, collaboration with the University on the President’s Advisory Committee on sustainability and engagement of students with a Sustainability Town Hall shows URSU’s commitment to act before it is too late.
Also, this year URSU invested in a new online platform called “UniVerse”, in hopes of getting all the student-run clubs, societies and associations under one roof of the URSU family to engage with fellow students and group members more efficiently. As you are reading this very first newsletter from your URSU President, it has been possible only because of the platform, that is another addition to improve the communication between you and your elected leaders which will foster in bringing more up to date information in the future.
As I always say, your students’ union is “for the students and by the students,” and we have made significant amounts of progress until now with the trust with which you elected me and my fellow Executives. The dedication of the Board of Directors and the hard work of staff members has also been similarly responsible for all the accomplishments until now and I believe that it will continue to grow, improve and adapt based on the circumstances.
I would like to commend you all for your passion, determination and hardwork in your academic lives and I am confident that the future holds a lot for you all!
Thank you again for being a valuable member of your University of Regina Students’ Union.
Wishing you all lots of success, happiness and good health,
Gurjinder Singh Lehal