Things have to come to a head in terms of clubs and their relationship with the USC. So much so that the Muslim Students' Association (MSA) and Western Hillel have come together to form a new group called the Student Organizations Union (SOU) to advocate on behalf of clubs.
Hassam Ansari, MSA president, and Robbie Cohen, Western Hillel's vice-president of engagement, have come together to form the first organization of its kind at Western.
“We want to show that it can be done,” said Cohen. “A Jewish student and a Muslim student coming together and bringing everyone else together.”
In response to a number of contentious issues — including lack of communication between the USC and clubs, lack of food accommodation and lack of club space — the SOU was brought together to foster relationships between clubs and the USC.
As of yet, the group is still in its initial stages with Ansari and Cohen acting as co-chairs. In the future they hope to formalize the group with more members.
“Moving forward we’re actually going to put together a committee that oversees how SOU should be structured,” said Ansari. “As of right now, we’re trying to build consensus and work together and have everyone as equals at the table.”
While the current issues faced by the SOU solely deal with clubs, the group hopes to advocate for students and any groups in need of support.
“That’s why we called it the Student Organizations Union and not just the clubs union because there are multiple organizations here that are student led and could need help in the future,” said Cohen.
Ansari and Cohen stressed that the SOU is not an adversarial group; Rather, their purpose is to facilitate better communication between the USC and clubs. The group also hopes to bring clubs together for more interaction with the varying cultures and interests across campus.
The university, argued Ansari, is a microcosm of society, housing an eclectic sample of individuals from all backgrounds. As a result, Cohen and Ansari see their initiative as having benefits outside the university.
“If you look at some of these communities that tend to be more insular, I think that it’s the perfect opportunity for them to actually interact in this microcosm of society,” said Ansari. “It allows them to understand one another before they actually step out into the world.”
Ansari argued that this interaction is important, especially considering the fact that some students will go on to hold political positions.
Currently, there are about 20 clubs who are members of the SOU, including the Muslim Students’ Association, Western Hillel, the Black Students' Association, Indigenous Student Association and the Caribbean Students' Organization.
The SOU plans to have an impact on this election by collectively endorsing a presidential slate. As some of the biggest clubs on campus, their endorsement can potentially have a significant swing on the election. According to Ansari and Cohen, the group hopes to endorse a slate that best aligns with their plans for clubs' relationship with the USC moving forward.
Moving ahead, the SOU simply hopes to bring students together through groups and clubs.
“At the end of the day we’re all students, we should all be friends,” said Coehn. “Why not have a platform to feed off each other, learn from one another and make these connections and make these friends.”
More details on the SOU and the USC's response will be laid out in following articles.