New Year, new U
September 22, 2011 9:34 PM
Her new job may be trial-by-fire, but Olwyn Foley is keeping her cool.
"The hardest part of this job is how fast the year goes by, and to be honest I think we really need to look at what this organization should be doing, and what it is doing. I want to develop a really strong strategic plan this year... The things I’m working really hard on this year, I want to continue next year and five years down the road," says Foley.
The Xaverian Weekly sat down with Foley to discuss what she and the rest of the students’ union has been up to over the summer. Though the students’ union executive gets four-month-long start on the academic year, they still feel the pressure to address everything on their platform before the year’s end.
Foley and Nathanial Minichiello were ratified by council as the 2011-12 Students’ Union President and Vice President on February 9, 2011. They began hiring the executive soon after.
Aaron Norris, Greg Coulas, Mariah MacKeigan, and Meaghan McNeil were ratified by council as VP Activities and Events, VP Finance, VP Student Services and VP Student relations respectively on March 13. Taylor Smith was ratified as VP Communications on March 20.
All students’ union employees took their positions officially on May 1.
“I think [the executive has] a great dynamic… Most of us are new [and we’re] getting along very well and working really well together,” says Foley.
While the union has been working on numerous initiatives since they took office in May, Foley outlined some highlights of the past four months:
She explained that in response to a suggestion from last year’s coordinators, the students’ union made an effort to plan frosh week events that appealed to everyone. She noted the recreational free-for-all, the movie night, and the LGBTQ BBQ as examples. “O-crew was phenomenal. They were really dedicated,” says Foley.
Foley also stressed that, as in previous years, having all members of the union’s staff, including the executive, sign a contract ensuring that they remain sober was helpful in coordinating a successful and safe week.
Foley was also excited about the new frosh 411 helpline, which proved to be a great success.
Visitors to the fourth floor of the Bloomfield Centre will notice some significant changes to the office structure this year. Due to the rearrangement of campus security this year, the position of VP Campus Police no longer exists.
Foley explains that losing a member of the team is “unfortunate, but we’re dealing with it.”
Using the extra office space, Foley assigned the Chair of Council Evan Read his own office. Space was also set aside for students who sit on Senate and Board of Governors, who will have office hours this year. The councilor office is now to the front of the hallway, a move Foley hopes will make councilors more accessible to their constituents.
Foley and MacKeigan attended conferences for The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and The Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations (ANSSA).
During the CASA conference, delegates helped set priorities for the year. Foley notes the initiative to make certain amendments to the Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP) is particularly interesting. CASA is questioning certain assumptions CSLP makes about a student’s ability to pay for university. For example, they are criticizing that parent income is being taken into account when allotting a student a loan.
Foley also notes that, given the growth of the aboriginal population in Canada, the amount of funding being provided by the Post Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) is not adequate. Therefore, CASA has decided that it’s an opportune time to ask the government to increase funding for First Nations and Inuit students seeking post secondary education.
Talk at ANNSSA revolved around the announcement that there will be a decrease in funding to Nova Scotia universities, explains Foley. This would result in tuition increases. “We talked a lot about how to get students engaged, how to let students know that we have huge say in what goes on, and if we can collectively speak on that we can probably have a huge impact in what our tuition is going to be, how much funding we get, and how many scholarships the government gives us,” says Foley.
Students should expect to see some initiative from the students’ union regarding tuition increases, says Foley, explaining that “last year [ANNSSA] did the Tapped Out campaign and a march against tuition increase, so I expect we’ll see those types of things again but we don’t have anything planned yet.”
The Automatic Appointment of the Chancellor
The students’ union is also continuing its involvement with the campaign to stop the automatic appointment of the Bishop of Antigonish County as the university chancellor.
On September 27, 2010, the students’ union voted to take a stance against the automatic appointment of the chancellor of StFX. With all but one council member in favour of the motion, it carried.
Subsequently, the Board of Governors created a committee to fully examine the issue. Thomas Lattimer, who sits on the Board of Governors, is the representative for students. The committee will examine what bylaws are involved in the appointment of the chancellor, as well as the role and responsibilities of the chancellor, and submit a report to the board by April. Foley expects there will be an update by September 30 at the first BOG meeting of the academic year.