It has been a sincere pleasure and privilege to serve as your UMSU president during a year like no other. Through multiple waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, U of M students have served on the frontlines in health care and our communities, faced cuts to vital services, and had to contend with threats of academic disruption. And all the while increasing tuition has compounded the pre-existing uncertainty of what it means to be a post-secondary student these days. It’s safe to say that the 2020/21 academic year has truly put us all to the test.
Even though it was not the kind of test that we’ve become accustomed to as students, it was a test for us all to further prove the worth of our intellectual contributions, community-building talents, and visions for the future. Our challenges as citizens are far from over, but we still have much both to celebrate and to look forward to.
Through the Winter 2021 term, we have seen student advocacy seriously pay off. We have seen the University’s administration rollout UMSU’s proposed compassionate grading model, and the provincial government adopt student recommendations on how to limit Bill 33’s impact on student-funded services. Among many other notable projects, UMSU has also continued to advocate for international student access to Manitoba’s public health care system, and taken steps to help the U of M administration map out an equity framework.
In recent weeks, UMSU has also worked hard to begin implementing the April referendum results based on the votes of UMSU members, which entails:
● … becoming an official member of the reputable Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), allowing us to influence policy documents, lobby week directives, and campaigns at the federal level.
● … becoming an official member of the Manitoba Alliance of Post-Secondary Students (MAPSS), which was founded this year as the largest Manitoban advocacy organization, collectively representing over 61,000 post-secondary students.
● … providing universal legal aid for students through the Student Care Legal Aid Protection Program, at an opt-outable rate of $28.00 per student.
● … bringing back the U-PASS at a rate of $208.00 per semester, with its return being contingent on the University’s course delivery decision for Winter 2022.
As vaccinations roll out and a glimpse of our next, post-pandemic chapter draws near, our role as students and future professionals is to fully consider what our new reality should look like – in the classroom, in the workplace, and in our communities – and what our responsibility will be in shaping it. Regardless of your field of study, this past year of your academic life may not only stay with you for years to come, but it may possibly call you to action if you let it.
Thank you for your letters, e-mails, proposals, and trust during my tenure. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to have heard so many heart-wrenching, uplifting, and inspiring stories from the student body this year. I have tried my best to let student voices be my guide throughout my time as UMSU president.
Congratulations on making it through the 2020/21 academic year with flying colours. To new graduates, I am confident that our generation will go on to do unparalleled work for the world around us and that begins with you.
Chi-Miigwetch. Merci. Salamat. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.