By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Exress
Talib Ali wants to regain the faith and trust of the UOIT student population.
Ali, the president of the university’s newly established Student Union, says the new organization will to work to regain those qualities.
The UOIT Student Union rose from the ashes of the now dissolved joint student association for Durham College and the university, which was put into receivership early this year.
“Students did not trust the student association,” he says. “We are trying to do everything right from the beginning.”
Although UOIT is a respected post-secondary institution, Ali says the campus lacks a “sense of community.”
“We lack that, we want to bring it back,” he says, noting it this hasn’t always been the case, as some years during his tenure at UOIT have been better than others.
For Ali, the focus of the new student union should be to “tackle all the problems that students basically face on a day-to-day basis.”
Joining Ali on the student union’s executive are vice-president of student affairs Miguel Salacies and vice-president of student services Wasseem Shaath. A third vice-president who will specifically represent students at UOIT’s downtown campus will be named in the near future.
In order to get off on the right foot, Ali and his colleagues have been engaging the student population.
“We are on the ground all the time talking to new students. This was something that was lacking from the previous organization,” Ali states. “We are trying to put ourselves out there as much as we can.”
While Ali says most feedback they’ve received is positive, there are some students who weren’t aware the university had a student union.
“Some students just don’t care. From those who care, we are hearing positive feedback.”
Olivia Petrie, assistant vice-president of student life at UOIT, says the university is looking forward to building a successful relationship with a student union.
“We’ve always been in support of a student-driven, student-conceived organization,” Petrie says. “We’ve been encouraging them to define their vision and to find what their structure has been.”
Ali praised university officials for their assistance in the establishment process, adding he was a bit surprised.
“I’d like to thank UOIT for supporting it. I honestly did not expect it,” Ali says, explaining he feels the university had also “lost faith in the student association.”
He credited Petrie and her department for helping the student union to “basically build from ground zero.”
A singular student government is something Ali believes those attending UOIT have been seeking for years.
“When the elections happened last year, there was a question asking if students supported their own student union, 92 per cent of the 1,500 UOIT students who voted said yes. A student attending Durham College had a completely different lifestyle than a UOIT student. There is a completely different mindset and the demands are completely different.”
With a much lower budget than in previous years, the student union is attempting to use their money wisely.
“We are having events that are not very expensive, but still enjoyable and catered towards students.”
According to Petrie, the student union is required to be accountable and transparent.
“We have an advisory group that meets on a regular basis,” she says, adding the student union must provide audited financial statements and governing documents to the university.
Overall, she is optimistic about the direction the organization is taking.
“It’s early days but I think the orientation they put on at the beginning of the year was very successful. They are building a strong campus community.”