This initiative aims to make students feel welcome before they even get to McMaster. With the help of International Student Services (ISS), we will be partnering with Airways Transit Limited to alleviate the cost of transportation for international students by picking and dropping them off at the airport during peak times of the year. The cost of transportation to and from the airport is a large expense on top of the thousands of dollars’ international students are spending on tuition. The McMaster Students Union will support this initiative by providing transportation during Welcome Week, both reading weeks, winter break, as well as at the end of the school year.
Extended GO Bus Hours
This one is for you, commuters! The last bus for a variety of GO Buses routes leaving Hamilton is at 10:45 p.m and commuter students pay into many on-campus services that extend past this time. Our goal is simple; we want students to be able to participate in student life without the worry of missing their ride back home. We have reached out to Metrolinx to extend GO Bus services at McMaster University. In addition, we are also reviewing the service schedules to coincide with our university schedule. Through consultation with Metrolinx, our objective is to re-evaluate GO Bus schedules to ensure that they better accommodate student’s schedules and co-curricular activities.
Increasing study space is not enough. It’s evident that there are not enough outlets on campus which result in ineffective spaces for students to work. Through conversations with facility services, we have discussed the feasibility of implementing more outlets in the McMaster University Students Centre, and both Thode and Mills library. We will be implementing power bars to maximize the amount of electronics that can be charged on campus, creating more effective study spaces for students.
Better Lighting On and Off campus
Students have identified the need for increased lighting in low-traffic areas on campus as well as in off campus student-populated areas. The issue at hand is that poor lighting, broken lights and lack of light poles are contributing to the safety of students on and off campus. The City of Hamilton is currently beginning to upgrade street lighting on residential streets throughout the city over the next three years. However, while in office, the MSU will prioritize working with the Hamilton municipal government to implement more LED lighting on campus and off campus within the next year.
Decreasing Physical Barriers on Campus
Currently there are areas on campus that remain inaccessible to folks. Through conversation with McMaster’s Director of Maintenance, this initiative is targeted towards investing more money in physically accessible pathways, roads, stairways and parking lots, in order to increase safety and physical accessibility throughout campus.
Program Based OSAP Funding
The cost of tuition for McMaster students varies by faculty and program. Currently, OSAP’s free tuition model does not account for individual program funding and professional programs are capped at 5% increases per year by the government while nonprofessional programs are capped at 3% increases.
Our priority is to reevaluate the current OSAP structure to ensure it takes into account the financial disparities between programs and make sure both professional and non-professional programs are regulated at an annual 3% inflation rate.
In addition, collaborating with the Financial Aid Office will ensure that students who are in these circumstances and do not have the finances to pay their full tuition will not be charged interest until they have received financial accommodation.
Tuition Regulation for International Students
Tuition fees for international students remain at an all-time high. Ranging anywhere between $25,000 to $40,000, the cost of learning at McMaster is exponentially high. Over the past decade, tuition fees for Canadian students have continued to rise past the rate of inflation. More recently, the Ontario government brought forth legislation that regulates tuition fee increases. Unfortunately, international students have been left out of the equation and their fees have increased annually, unregulated. The student’s union will make the regulation of international student tuition as an advocacy priority.
Currently, the bursary cycle occurs in February, which is not beneficial to students because it does not align with current McMaster tuition deadlines. The MSU will work with the financial aid office using their advocacy tools to alleviate financial burdens for students and push the bursary date earlier so that student’s financial needs are met. Students who do not receive the appropriate amount of funding are guaranteed bursaries; however, they are charged interest for these shortcomings. Students should be offered the available resources from our institution to ensure that they are not paying more than they need to.
Extended Study Break Before Exams
McMaster students need an adequate amount of time to study and prepare for their final examinations. The time between the last day of classes and the first day of exams has historically only been one day. While in office, the MSU will advocate for adopting an approach where students receive a longer break to adequately prepare for their final examinations.
Opt-out of Back to Back Exams
The current examination policy states that “three consecutive examinations over two days” is a conflict. The break between exams are vital to resting our body and mind before the next round of studying or to prepare for the next upcoming exam. While altering all problematic elements within exam scheduling is a long term goal and students have the choice of whether or not they want to reschedule, we are going to work towards revising the examination policy and suggest that students with two consecutive exams in one day is grounds for rescheduling.
Brighter World Transcript
The Co-Curricular Record (CCR) is an official document that recognizes skills, experiences and achievements gained both inside and outside of the classroom during one’s undergraduate career at McMaster. Currently, McMaster uses digital badges on Avenue to Learn to document skills, experiences, and achievements that are only issued in the classroom. The MSU will work with the University, the MacPherson Institute, and the Student Success Centre to ensure that an official record will be developed that acknowledges the achievements of McMaster students both in and outside of the classroom.
More Group Study Space
Through collaboration with MUSC Administration, the MSU will offer additional study rooms to students after office hours. Students will be able to book out study rooms through the MSU for themselves as a quiet study space or for group work throughout the year. The online booking system will be similar to the system currently used by McMaster libraries, allowing students to book rooms with their Mac ID from the hours of 7p.m.-12a.m.
McMaster Student Absence Form
McMasters Student Absence Form (MSAF) acts as a powerful tool in reducing student stress when unforeseen situations arise. Currently, MSAF requires each student to contact their professor to discuss the extension and fails to provide consistency amongst professors which often results in further stress. Firstly, we will work to incorporate a section in the MSAF that outlines the student’s personal estimation of assignment completion. This will provide the instructor with the necessary information to assess and make an informed decision regarding the accommodation while aiming to reduce the worry of the student. Secondly, the MSAF policy will be altered to clarify the current policy which states that the MSAF can be used to cover work missed in the 3-day period. The MSU will work towards ensuring that this 3-day period is clarified to 3 business days all across the board as it provides students more opportunity to finish assignments and ensures consistency amongst instructors and throughout courses.
Tax Free Tuesdays
There is no doubt that campus food is expensive. Continuous advocacy and plans to regulate and lower food costs will be a priority while in office. Chris Roberts, the director of hospitality services, has agreed to pilot Tax Free Tuesdays - an initiative that allows students to purchase food from hospitality services on Tuesdays, tax free.
Healthier Food on the Go
Students on campus have diverse dietary restrictions that must be met. Students require friendly and on-the-go food options that are both tasteful and meet their nutritional needs. The demand of diverse and healthier food options is an ongoing conversation that we aim to address. One way in which we will do this is by increasing and providing different options for “hot-to-go” meals. For those who prefer healthier food options, Bridges is the spot to be! Although extending Bridges hours is not cost-efficient, we will alternatively cater to student needs by having Bridges staff prepare meals after hours that will be available at popular on campus food locations such as La Piazza and Centro. This new initiative will provide students with a larger variety of quick, healthy, vegetarian food options located in the heart of campus during later hours of the day.
Supporting Student Accessibility Services
Bettering the Note-Taker initiative at McMaster is a critical priority of this campaign and will be done so by collaborating with Student Accessibility Services. Through conversations with SAS, an area they expressed needing support was through awareness and knowledge of their note-taking positions. With more than 1,800 students registered with SAS, the student’s union should work towards supporting SAS and the important services it provides. In collaboration with SAS, we will increase outreach and awareness of Note-Taker Volunteer positions on the MSU website with a summarized job description created by SAS using the MSU Job Description Template. Continuing to advocate for better support of student services is a priority. However, our interim solution is to incentivize note-takers by giving them MSU Courtesy Cards which offer discounts at MSU businesses. While our end goal is to fully incentivize note-taking through wages or honorariums similar to other institutions, this partnership with the MSU will begin to encourage more students to volunteer.
Increasing Sexual Violence Support
The MSU is committed to fostering a campus where student safety is a priority. This past year the sexual violence policy was introduced to our campus and since then, student’s concerns surrounding sexual violence on campus has grown. Increasing sexual violence support can manifest in different ways, if elected the following will be a priority:
Currently we have one Sexual Violence Response Coordinator (SVRC). The MSU advocating for another SVRC is by no means suggesting that the current SVRC isn’t effective in their role. Sexual violence response should not come down to one individual; with the addition of a new sexual violence coordinator, the role of providing education and additional support resources can be better distributed. By allocating more resources to sexual violence response, the university is demonstrating that this is an area of priority.
The end goal should be to have more resources provided by the university. Peer support, while effective, has inherent limitations, as services like the Women Gender and Equity Network (WGEN) are staffed by student volunteers who are often asked to perform emotional labour well beyond the scope of their roles. Peer support should be a compliment to more formalized resources and not one of the exclusive forms of supports.