Humber’s student government IGNITE joined the College Student Alliance (CSA) on April 1.
The CSA is a non-profit organization advocating for post-secondary students on the provincial level. Student unions are not allowed to go to the provincial government by themselves, so CSA meets with individual student unions and the government to allow their voices to be heard.
“By joining the CSA, we continue our dedication to being a catalyst for student advocacy and an active contributor to the larger student union community,” IGNITE CEO Ercole Perrone said in a media release.
IGNITE’s board, representing students at Humber and the University of Guelph-Humber, voted unanimously in February to join the advocacy group. After researching multiple advocacy groups, the IGNITE Board of Directors decided on the CSA.
“CSA does lots of research on topics that have been brought up by their membership. They suggest policies … and advocate for change and action with the government,” Gabi Hentschke said.
Hentscke, a member of the IGNITE board of directors, was recently re-elected to serve a second term on the board starting in May.
“Some of the main issues that the 2020-2021 board has talked about [bringing to the CSA] was affordability of school for international students, especially in light of COVID, and how it [COVID] impacted the students not only financially but also their mental health and all of those different aspects,” Hentscke said.
Jason Baryluk is the CSA Interim General Manager and Director of Advocacy. He says IGNITE joining the CSA is a win for both parties.
“Something that’s really important to us is building more organizational capacity in order to be more helpful to students,” he said. “So it’s a win-win for both organizations.”
The CSA has been involved in many advocacy victories over the past year. A few of these include post-graduate work permit extensions, $7 million in increased mental health funding for students, and strengthening sexual violence policies at post-secondary institutions in Ontario.
“We were advocating very hard for the mental health funding and the government came out with a rather large amount last year, which was dedicated directly to supporting students on campus and it was really fantastic with that happening,” Baryluk said.
Student advocacy has become especially important during the pandemic.
“If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is the importance of having a unified voice in college student advocacy,” Baryluk said. “It has shown that we need someone advocating for college students, and we need student unions to come together in order for us to do that more effectively.”
The CSA’s platform for this year includes COVID-19 effects, mental health, international student fees, Indigenous student supports, OSAP and student debt.