Ombuds Office, OUSA and CASA observership discussed at SRA
SRA meeting on Jan. 29 involved discussions on the role of the Ombuds Office, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the MSU rejoining CASA.
he Student Representative Assembly meeting 22M took place on Jan. 29 in Gilmour Hall. In this meeting, the assembly covered the accessibility and services of the Ombuds Office, the initiatives being pushed by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and a motion for the McMaster Students Union to have observer status on the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
University Ombuds Carolyn Brendon and Assistant Ombuds Meghan Rego attended the SRA meeting and spoke on the role of the Ombuds Office and the services it offers to McMaster University students.
The Ombuds Office representatives as a part of an outreach initiative to help the university better understand the role of the office within the community.
The Ombuds Office is located at MUSC 210 and offers free and confidential counseling to all members of the McMaster community. Brendan explained that the mandate of the Ombuds details three key principles by which their practices abide by — independence, impartiality and confidentiality.
The Ombuds Office operates outside of the academic and administrative hierarchy and strives for minimal institutional impediments. They also abide by standard confidentiality principles, in which all information discussed is confidential unless there is an imminent risk of harm.
The Ombuds Office deals with academic and non-academic issues, including student financial matters, behavioral and professional codes of conduct, employment and any other student-related issues and concerns.
OUSA President Jessica Look and executive director Malika Dhanani also spoke at the SRA meeting about their organization. OUSA is a collaboration of student governments across the province that advocates for affordable, accessible, accountable and high quality post-secondary education.
Some of the core functions of OUSA include developing informed substantive policy papers, lobbying the provincial government to enact changes and representing the student perspective on the provincial level.
Look and Dhanani detailed how they aim to uplift the student voice through their blog, where student contributors outside of OUSA are free to submit pieces on policy issues they are passionate about. Additionally, OUSA offers summer student internships.
Following the discussion on OUSA’s initiatives and role representing the MSU, the meeting transitioned to other matters, including a discussion around seeking observership with CASA.
The motion to discuss and vote on CASA observership was moved by MSU President Simranjeet Singh and seconded by Vice President (Education) Elizabeth Wong. Singh shared that CASA is currently the largest body that does advocacy work for student unions at the federal level.
The MSU is currently part of a separate federal advocacy organization, the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities. Singh explained that with UCRU, the MSU was able to meet with 20 Members of Parliament during lobbying week, while members of CASA were able to meet with 156. The MSU was a member of CASA in the past but left in 2017 due to issues with their management of affairs.
Singh and Wong are proposing CASA observership, a two-year process in which the MSU would attend meetings and try out a CASA membership. Observership would allow the MSU to make an informed decision about whether shifting to CASA involvement would be beneficial.
Observership can be revoked at any point with no consequence and the MSU would remain with UCRU throughout the observership. Following some discussion, the motion was passed with 26 in favour, zero opposed and two abstaining.