On May 16, 2015, Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, the MSU’s Vice-President (Education), was elected President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance at the organization’s Transition Conference. The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) represents students from seven universities in Ontario, including all full-time undergraduate students at McMaster.

Nestico-Semianiw previously served as OUSA’s research intern in the summer of 2014, and the MSU’s External Affairs commissioner before being elected as VP (Education) in April.

His duties as OUSA President will involve acting as the chief spokesperson of the organization, chairing the steering committee meetings composed of VP (Education) equivalents from all member schools, and representing the organization to media, the government, and other stakeholders.    

Nestico-Semianiw says that increased internal advocacy support within the MSU will help balance the increased commitment to external advocacy as OUSA President.

“With some of the past VP (Education) there’s always that discussion of internally and externally-confused. This year we’re fortunate to have much more internal support with new research assistants that will be hired and an increase in [Advocacy Street Team] hours… I’ll be going to Toronto several times a month for meetings and working with [OUSA] home office. The time commitment is essentially more for travel and attending meetings.”

In his new role, he wants to continue the work of Jen Carter, his predecessor, by building consensus within OUSA’s member schools on issues pertinent to Ontario undergraduate students.

“It’s something that Jen did last year that gained a lot of positive reception. You’re the President, but the fact is that this is OUSA, and it’s not Western’s lobby group or Mac’s lobby group. The spirit that she took and I think I’ll be taking as well is making sure that all schools feel that they are satisfying what their students want.”

Tuition is one of the most topical advocacy points for undergraduate students across the province and at McMaster. Ehima Osazuwa, the MSU’s current President, was elected on a platform that included the creation of a task force that examines tuition advocacy options.

According to OUSA’s Tuition Brief, tuition in Ontario has increased by $2,658 in the past decade, whereas an increase consistent with inflation would have only amounted to $766. Ontario has the highest tuition fees in Canada, and they continue to rise at three percent every year for undergraduate students.    

Nestico-Semianiw believes that the goals of the MSU’s Tuition Task Force are in line with OUSA’s advocacy.

“In the tuition policy that OUSA releasted this year, the principles and recommendations are essentially for a tuition freeze for the 2016-2017 year. This is what Ehima will be advocating and what our stance will be this year as well.

“Tuition assistance is very topical, even the funding formula is another big thing the province is engaging with this year. My goal is to talk to other VPs (Education) and see what their goals are,” said Nestico-Semianiw.

Although discussions about a tuition freeze will also be carried out internally with the university, Nestico-Semianiw believes that the bigger goal is provincial funding.

“We could always have this discussion between student unions and the university, but I truly do believe that when it comes to the university… if we’re asking for a tuition freeze, the money is just not there. We need to ensure we’re not high-fiving and student services are being cut because there’s now this lack of revenue. The main goal is to be able to use OUSA as a vehicle to advocate for increased funding from the province for more affordable education,” he said

As for next steps, Nestico-Semianiw will start by reaching out to other schools.

“The approach very much has to depend on what our schools want to see because, as I said, I ran for president because I did believe that this is something that our students wanted and that this was the time for us to do that, but it’s not just the MSU’s OUSA.”

“I did get the sense at TransCon that [tuition] is a priority for many of our schools, and figuring out how we want to advocate to the province.”


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