Editor's note: the Gazette is funded in part by ancillary fees.

Ontario’s recent changes to post-secondary funding have made this year's USC election one of the most decisive in recent history.

A recent Progressive Conservative announcement includes plans to reduce tuition fees by 10 per cent, implement opt-out ancillary fees, eliminate free tuition for low-income students and remove the six-month grace period to repay loans.

In light of these changes, the next University Students’ Council president will be responsible for ensuring that the union can survive despite large potential cuts. The vice-president has the opportunity to lobby the provincial government directly, in hopes of reducing the cuts.

Our next president’s task

Under the proposed legislation, the PC government will allow students to opt-out of ancillary fees that are deemed “non-essential," threatening many of the services and supports provided by the USC. These will likely include the bus pass, Orientation Week, club system and The Spoke and the Wave. 

To mitigate this, the next USC president can work to increase engagement: the more students who are actively engaged with the USC, the more students who may not opt-out of fees.

This year's election (Photo)

Western students weave their way through the University Community Centre, Sept. 12, 2018.

The incoming president will also need to manage a bleeding budget. The already competitive process to secure funding will have even more services asking for help, and the president is often the best liaison to the administration — a lifeline for a struggling student experience.

“We believe this provision will reduce essential student services and make support services more expensive for individual students,” said the USC in a statement in response to the proposed changes.

Our voice in Queen’s Park

The vice-president will serve on the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance’s steering committee, where they will lobby the provincial government on behalf of the organization’s 150,000 members.

Our next VP’s task is off-campus in Toronto. Many vice-presidents, including Danny Chang and Jamie Cleary, served as OUSA’s president, where they acted as the organization’s chief student representative to the media and government. OUSA’s presidency has produced a much-needed relationship with the PCs this year, who swept into government with several reversals to the university-friendly policies of the previous Liberal government

Team ForYe’s Frank Ye said in Wednesday's debate that Jared Forman would run for the OUSA presidency, and Bardia+Cat’s Catherine Dunne said she would “seriously consider it.”

In addition to their OUSA role, next year’s vice-president can lead the USC in steadying its contract with the London Transit Commission. Currently, each student receives a bus pass, which accounts for around $240 of the USC’s ancillary fees per student.

Since the bus pass is a mandatory fee, the USC has been able to negotiate a lower price through a bulk purchase. As a bargaining front, the USC will be hamstrung by the potential cuts, as they can only offer a fraction of the same foot-traffic to the LTC’s busses.

A student bus pass with unlimited ridership, purchased from the LTC, currently costs $70 per month.

The next USC president, vice-president and the additional three executive members will be tasked with steering the organization through unprecedented challenges.

“We need to make sure that the impact of this government announcement does not harm the services we provide to our students,” said Danny Chang, OUSA’s sitting president and the USC’s vice-president.

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Liam is a News Editor at the Gazette. You can contact him at liam.afonso@westerngazette.ca, or @liamafonso on Twitter.

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