By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
For the first time in many years, students at Durham College have their own dedicated student government.
Following the 2016-2017 academic year, the joint student association for Durham and UOIT was disbanded with the intention of creating separate organizations for each institution. The decision followed a period that saw the previous organization mired in controversy.
As reported earlier in The Oshawa Express, UOIT’s student union was established at the beginning of this school year, and the college’s new governmental body, Durham College (DC) Students Inc. is embarking on a similar journey.
Peter Garrett, a 2017 Durham graduate, and Naqi Hyder, a current student, both serve as officers and transition managers and have played pivotal roles in developing the new organization. Once the business of the former association was completed over the summer, work began to create the foundational pieces of DC Students Inc.
The three main services the organization inherited include the student health plan, outreach programs and Riot Radio, the college’s radio station, all of which, according to Garrett, are being “streamlined to be more accommodating and specific to Durham College students.”
The priority heading into this year was for services to be available to students from day one.
“We wanted students to have full access. Anything the DC students had previously, they still have access to,” Hyder states.
However, to Hyder and Garrett, the major difference about DC Students Inc. is the level of communication with students, something both say has lacked on campus in the past.
“It’s been beneficial for students to have more engagement in comparison to previous student associations and this is the only way to promote that we focus directly on Durham students,” Hyder says.
DC Students Inc. has hit the ground running to build connections with the student body.
The organization is active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and has attempted to remain highly visible at a number of campus events.
“We’ve reached about 1,000 new students coming to Durham to introduce them to us and sent information to all the staff and faculty in case students asked them questions,” Garrett says.
Roundtables with local MPPs Lorne Coe and Granville Anderson were held earlier this fall, addressing topics such as reduce tuition costs for students and the services available to them in the community.
“We’ve tried our best to give students an opportunity to voice their opinions,” Hyder says.
Looking towards the end of this year and into 2018, the focus will be on preparing for student elections.
“The information will definitely start rolling out in January and the actual polling will be in February,” Garrett notes, adding he believes there is a high sense of optimism on campus in regards to the new student government.
Students will elect a president and two vice-presidents, and there will be a board of directors featuring a representative from each of Durham’s different schools of learning. Although they will work closely with college officials, Hyder says DC Students Inc. will be fully independent.
“We as an organization will make decisions that are only our own. If you think of stakeholders, our only stakeholders are the students, that’s how we look at it.”
With that said, both acknowledge the college is an important partner in the establishment of the new student government.
“Our goal is to work hand-and-hand with the college to assist students. They understand that, and if we require any sort of assistance, they’ve never held back and appreciate that,” Hyder says.