Huron’s proposed split with Western will affect the college’s future students dramatically — and not for the better.
The affiliate’s separation from Western University would see Huron University College establish its own Senate to govern its academic affairs and hand out its own degrees. While Huron's administration may want full control over the school’s academic programming, students’ concerns seem swept to the side.
Huron’s president Barry Craig admitted he doesn’t think his students were asking for the split and Huron University College Students' Council president Ziyana Kotadia said her team was only informed of the plan a day before it was released to faculty, just a few days before students heard the news.
Students will be some of the only people directly affected by this change — their voices need to be heard.
Huron students have been vocal online throughout the consultation period, saying they were drawn to the affiliate because they would be in smaller and more hands-on programs while still being granted a Western degree at the end of it.
Without this, prospective post-secondary students who get into both Huron and Western will have to choose between having a degree from a top 200 university in the world and being able to take classes that may appeal more to them.
Most students would choose the degree.
Moreover, while the response from Western’s president Alan Shepard has been diplomatic, there is no telling what type of deal the university and Huron will reach once negotiations end.
While Huron has repeated that the split will only impact the college’s academic programming and its students will have access to Western services, they have no way to guarantee this. The college hasn't started negotiations with Western yet and if Brexit has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t stop paying your club membership and still expect the benefits.
If Huron really wants to split from its academic affiliation with Western, Shepard himself admitted it’s unlikely Western will permit the college to keep paying an affiliate rate to use main campus’ libraries and gyms.
Even if Huron officials were to negotiate a deal to use Western’s services that didn’t up the cost of ancillary fees, Huron students would face the problems that come with likely losing their seat on the University Students’ Council.
The USC coordinates students' bus passes, the club system and on-campus concerts, while both the HUCSC and the USC have said they want to continue working closely together, there’s no telling what services Huron students might miss out on if they’re forced to leave London’s biggest student union.
It’s possible Huron is staging this split as a bargaining chip to push Western for greater academic autonomy, but if that were the case, Western seems unlikely to take the bait. At a glance, there is not much Western will lose through Huron’s secession, while the affiliate will have to come to terms with managing its own services.
Current Huron students may not be the ones who will receive the first Huron degrees, but they are the ones who know what those future students will want — and their college needs to listen to them.
Corrections (March 29, 2021, 11:51 a.m.): This article was corrected to reflect that Huron's students' council was informed of the decision as Huron's faculty was informed, rather than when students heard a few days later.