RORY MACLEAN / ASHLEIGH MATTERN
Saskatchewan students will have a louder voice in the provincial capital thanks to a new coalition of undergraduate student groups.
The project is called the Saskatchewan Students’ Coalition. The coalition represents the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union, the University of Regina Students’ Union and the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology Students’ Association.
Chris Stoicheff, USSU vice-president external affairs, spearheaded the project.
Representatives from each group were on campus Sept. 11 to make the announcement before an audience at Welcome Week.
“This is an initiative that shows Saskatchewan students are working together to come to consensus on a few issues, such as student housing and student loan interest rates,” said Stoicheff.
The group is the first of its kind in Saskatchewan but not in Canada. Nova Scotia currently has an active provincial student lobby group, the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations.
Stoicheff says that with a provincial election coming down the road in two years, now is the time to get such a group going.
John Elder, president of the SIAST Students’ Association for the Kelsey and Woodland campuses, says that most post-secondary students have the same issues.
“It’s tough to find affordable housing; you have interest rates that are building up, you’re accumulating debt all over and you’re looking for that unified voice,” he said.
Rob Norris, Saskatchewan minister of advanced education employment and labour, says having the groups join together will make them easier to deal with.
“I’ve had a variety of meetings over the course of the last two years I’ve been in office,” he said.
“I think this is something that is going to make those meetings much more productive. The issues were very similar in many instances and this is going to help fast track some of that dialogue.”
Norris also sees a broader benefit to strengthening student activism.
“Out beyond student issues there’s obvious growing and greater concern about connectivity to community and I see the opportunity today to see more student involvement in Saskatchewan communities,” said Norris.
The group made the decision to remain strictly for undergraduates at the moment but Stoicheff says the coalition’s constitution is set up to make joining or leaving the group very easy, so they are open to graduate student associations in the future.
For now, he says, they are tapping the First Nations University of Canada and Gabriel Dumont Institute’s student associations as prospective members.