On October 19th, SMUSA hosted their annual AGM and showcased to students what the Student Association has been up to over the past couple of months. A good portion of students showed up for the event most likely in anticipation of the year ahead and of course for the much-promised pizza. Right after a brief introduction the MC of the night, VP of Student Advocacy Lexa Ali, went straight into what was outlined for the evening, followed by opening remarks by SMUSA President, Ossama Nasrallah, who outlined SMUSA’s priorities for the coming school year. Ossama went on to highlight how SMUSA’s major priority for the school year would be mental health. In line with priorities from the previous executive team, SMUSA has already hosted two mental health first aid workshops open to all students. Though, these workshops have had limited seats, the mental health first aid workshop has equipped students with a variety of skill sets to be able to adequately handle a mental health crisis. In addition to the mental health workshops, SMUSA has also had a relatively successful Wellness Week, which took off on Oct 16th and reiterated the attention being shed on mental health on our campus through various activities outlined for students.
In addition to prioritizing mental health, the team also outlined a variety of other goals for the school year. These include; having gender neutral bathrooms, and supporting our indigenous students on campus (which SMUSA has already taken initiative on by appointing the first indigenous student advisor). A particularly interesting set of goals include; prioritizing international students in setting them up with MSI as soon as they start their studies, having a reserved book at the library for every course taught on campus, and etc. There was also talk of having a transitioning course set up for high school students starting at university the following year. Ossama even flew out to California to gain some insight on the implementation of the potential transition course at Saint Mary’s. There was also talk of a proposal that this course could hypothetically replace the mandatory English 1205 course. How that would be digested by students on campus hasn’t really been gathered yet, but it would be an interesting discussion to start on campus.
There has also been talk of pushing for a longer winter break/reading week. Students at Saint Mary’s University have the shortest winter reading week in comparison to other universities in Halifax (i.e. Mount Saint Vincent and Dalhousie University, which were granted an entire week off). SMUSA promises to bring up this issue to the senate and hopefully find a way to grant students an adequate amount of time off during the fall semester.
Now, for exciting stuff planned by SMUSA this year, mention of a patio at the Gorsebrook had students buzzing. This large endeavour will definitely be costly, but it could potentially be financially beneficial for the Gorsebrook as well. Past years there have been issues with keeping the Gorsebrook afloat, but having an outdoor patio may be just the ingredient for an exciting and financially positive summer.
Despite talk of all these great initiatives, there was one large issue that wasn’t on the forefront of discussions at the AGM. Tuition fees. Such a major concern shared by all students and yet there was a lack of discussion surrounding what SMUSA is actively doing to counter tuition increases. Tuition for international as well as domestic students have incrementally rose over the past couple of years, resulting in unbearably high fees. There was brief mention of this hot topic, by the executive team and even more so by our VP of Equity and Wellness – Lawson Morassutti. Due to Lawson’s involvement on representing students on the StudentNS committe, he was there to address work implemented by StudentNS and what work they’ve been doing alongside the provincial government to try to counter increases in tuition fees. Going forward students are certainly concerned with tuition fees and it should definitely be at the forefront of objectives set out by SMUSA.
It seems like SMUSA has a full plate of projects set out for the rest of the school year and we at The Journal are looking forward to covering these exciting initiatives.
Zahra Dhubow, Editor-in-Chief