Back to school at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) means new student leaders and lots of planning for the coming year. At the end of last year, U of W students chose a new slate of representatives.
Kirt Hayer obtained 64.7 per cent of votes to become the U of W Students’ Association (UWSA) president. Jonathan Henderson and Reza Saker Hossain were elected to the positions of vice-president external affairs and vice-president student affairs, respectively.
Hayer, who has previously run unsuccessfully for president, is majoring in psychology and has been a student at the U of W since 2015. He hopes to promote “freedom of expression, viewpoint diversity and science” within the university. Hayer also plans on “advocating for international student issues, particularly in improving access to healthcare.”
“In terms of external advocacy, my executive team is working diligently to protect student interests with the implementation of Bill 33,” Hayer says, referring to provincial legislation which could effectively give the government control over student fees.
“We are currently engaged in consultations with the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration in order to shape this policy,” he adds.
With regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hayer is pleased with the university’s approach, mandating masks and vaccines on campus.
“I am in support of the vaccine mandate, as it ensures students can have the safest return to campus possible and decreases the likelihood of further interruptions. I would like to have more (in-person) events, but it is hard to make clear and decisive plans with the constantly shifting and difficult to predict public health situation,” he says.
Other student groups across the U of W are dealing with the challenges of the pandemic, while preparing to return to campus after eighteen months. Kiera Pond Augusto, president of the UWinnipeg Physics Student Association, says that the pandemic continues to complicate event planning for the upcoming year.
“COVID is affecting our planning, as we are working to make all of our activities a hybrid of online and in-person,” she says in a message to The Uniter.
“As well, we aren’t able to host as many fundraising activities as we would like,” Augusto says.
She adds that the UWSA has not been providing adequate support to student groups like hers.
“I have found that they have been very distant and unresponsive when I have tried to communicate with them,” Augusto says. “When they do respond they are quite nice, however, it takes a very long time for them to respond.”
Hayer says that no student group has contacted him about this problem, nor has the vice-president external affairs – responsible for this portfolio – expressed any concern about this.
“My idea is to have monthly meetings with the executives of all student groups that are interested, with the first meeting being in late September, in order to create a channel of communication and collaboration between various student groups and the UWSA,” he says.
Finally, Hayer says his team remains focused on “increasing the scope and efficacy of student services.”
“Some student services that we are advocating for include open-source educational materials, safe study spaces available on evenings and weekends through key-card access and improving tutoring services,” he says.
The UWSA’s event calendar can be accessed at theuwsa.ca/events.
Published in Volume 76, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 9, 2021)