As a part of their last few meetings, the McMaster Students Union Student Representative Assembly voted to adopt three policy papers which will guide future legislation.
Throughout the year, SRA members, MSU research assistants and other MSU members compile research which they then condense into 30 to 40 page papers. Students also had the chance to voice their concerns on the given topics during the MSU’s policy conference, which occurs every semester.
This year, the MSU and its advocacy and research teams focused on three issues: sexual violence prevention and response, environmental sustainability and public transit and transportation.
Each of these policy papers included major recommendations to shape the advocacy the MSU takes on while negotiating with other institutions such as the city of Hamilton, the university and Metrolinx.
Sexual violence prevention and response
The sexual violence prevention and response paper focused on creating recommendations for prevention, health services, promotion of resources, survivor centric responses, training, provincial legislation and integration with services both on and off campus.
The paper made a number of recommendations, ranging from including the sexual violence response coordinator or executive members from the MSU Women and Gender Equity Network during the Student Success Centre’s planning of Welcome Week and similar events to making changes to the Student Wellness Centre’s current approach to follow-ups with survivors.
Many of the recommendations focused on altering the structures currently in place to support survivors of gender-based violence and alter the culture on campus to be a culture of consent.
It also challenged McMaster’s current sexual violence response policy, arguing it ought to alter its language to be more inclusive of marginalized groups. The paper also recommended that Security Services be taught anti-oppressive practices and receive formal training regarding McMaster’s sexual violence response policy.
The paper also challenged Residence Life’s current approach to sexual violence disclosures, which calls on employees to disclose any information to the residence manager. The paper argues that the policy ought to change to allow employees only break confidentiality if the survivor explicitly requests it.
It also calls for province-wide bystander training and the inclusion of sexual violence related healthcare to the University Health Insurance Plan, the main healthcare plan for international students.
The environmental sustainability paper focused creating recommendations to reduce waste on campus and ensure the university follows sustainable practices. The majority of the recommendations focus on adhering to the best possible environmental sustainability practices and promote sustainable policies.
The policy paper also recommends divesting from fossil fuel and using more sustainable energy sources, in addition to setting a target of being carbon neutral by 2040.
The paper argued the university ought to eliminate single-use plastic products and expand programs such as their reusable takeout containers to promote best possible sustainable practices.
The paper also argued that the university ought to take a more proactive approach to eliminating waste by reducing nonessential energy use in unused buildings and installing sensor lights, to list a few examples.
It recommends divesting from fossil fuel and using more sustainable energy sources, in addition to setting a target of being carbon neutral by 2040. It also recommends that the university make sure that their educational material and other material relating to sustainability remains up to date.
The paper advises that the university take an active role in educating students on sustainable practices, by creating a unified sustainability campaign with other organizations on campus and by establishing a network of sustainability-related groups on campus and in Hamilton.
Public transit and transportation
This policy paper focuses on how to better improve the infrastructure of major public transit systems McMaster students use, with a focus on the Hamilton Street Railway and Metrolinx’s Go buses.
The majority of their recommendations for the HSR focus on improving the current structure of bus lines and frequencies to better service students.
The paper recommends that the city of Hamilton audit and then repair damaged and inaccessible sidewalks and create more bike lanes in the Ainslie Wood-East neighbourhood to promote biking and make the commute safer for cyclists.
The paper offers a number of recommendations for the HSR, ranging from ensuring all HSR employees are given adequate sexual violence, diversity and anti-oppressive practices training to better promoting their social media. The majority of their recommendations for the HSR focus on improving the current structure of bus lines and frequencies to better service students.
With respect to Metrolinx, the policy paper offers similar recommendations, such as increasing frequency and consulting McMaster students when considering service changes to lines McMaster students frequently use.
The paper also offers recommendations for future advocacy, stating that the city of Hamilton ought to invest in the 10-year Local Transit Strategy every year until it is complete and that the provincial government ought to increase its funding allocated to the HSR.