By: Louis Ferracuti
Recent changes made to the First Year Council aim to increase first year student engagement with student governance.
The recent shutdown of the Inter-Residence Council left a void in terms of first year advocacy. Vice president (Administration) Shaarujaa Nadarajah says that the MSU stepped in to fill this void with the changes made to the FYC.
The biggest change being made is the introduction of the FYC Coordinator position, which is aimed to help First Year Councillors navigate the responsibilities of the FYC. KJ Webster will be taking on this role in its pilot year.
Webster is optimistic about the prospects for student engagement that come with the changes. She explained that the uniqueness of the FYC comes from the fact that it acts as both a service and a governing body.
“I am very excited for this restructured system,” said Webster. “I think this reorganizing has the power to redefine the first year experience, and will have a real impact on current first years and all the classes to come.”
In the past, the FYC was essentially self-sufficient and autonomous, but also without much direction.
“One of the yearly problems we hear about with the FYC is the fact that there’s no real person coordinating this structure,” said Nadarajah. “So [we decided to] develop a part-time manager position to oversee that.”
Beyond the introduction of the FYC Coordinator, the new structure will incorporate residence councillors from every residence building, who will be overseen by the VP Internal of the FYC. Representatives from the various faculty societies are overseen by the VP External of the FYC. Combining the structures of residence and faculty student governance is hoped to both simplify and increase student engagement in governance.
“One thing that we do see with respect to student governance is getting those perspectives and those voices, and first years obviously make a large proportion of those voices,” said Nadarajah. “Having an elected councillor for each of these buildings, and allowing us to implement the advocacy structures that we have on the SRA on a first year level, I think will increase engagement across the board.”
Nadarajah also noted that increased student engagement in first year on has numerous benefits. Students who are engaged early on tend to continue their engagement throughout their undergrad. Students who are engaged in student governance may also be more aware of the stances advocated for and services provided by the MSU, according to Nadarajah.
The changes were conceptualized and developed in June of this year in collaboration with the Elections Department and Housing and Conference Services, and are already in the process of being rolled out. Elections for first year councillor and residence councillor positions were held the past week, with nominations and campaigning already having begun from the first week of the fall term.
“I think the MSU being able to connect with more students starting on a first year level is going to make a massive change in terms of student engagement across the board,” said Nadarajah.