I would first and foremost like to thank you for the incredible opportunity you have given me this year to serve as your president. If I have not had the pleasure of meeting you this year, my name is Jaydee Tarpeh and I have served as president of UWSA 2015/2016.
Being president is not an easy task. There are long days, tough conversations, and harsh criticism, but it is a rewarding one. Waking up and knowing that you can advocate for your fellow students, be a listener, a comforter and many things to many people you would never have known makes it worth every single minute. Over the last year, you have all been part of the process of shaping up the organization, picking up from where the previous executive team left off and continuing to move in a positive direction. Bravo!
In my eyes, a president and as a leader in this capacity, it has been an absolute pleasure being of service to you. Serving in this role, I have had the opportunity to connect with many of you and you have provided me with many unforgettable moments and I can only hope that I have done what I can to make the life of each student and your experience on this campus a little better.
Just over a year ago, I said that electing me and putting your faith in me had put me in a position to accomplish all that I hoped to see for the average student of the University of Windsor, I think this year we have done our best to make that possible. I also acknowledged that bringing everyone on board was the only way to move forward and make our University and the student experience better. This is why we have accomplished so much this year, especially being the first executive team to work for a full year under a completely new set of by-laws. With the support of our UWSA staff, cooperation from administration and our other partners, we have honoured our commitments. Just to highlight some improvements this year, here are a few things we have managed to achieve:
A Universal Bus pass (Fall 2016) to ensure that transportation is accessible to every student no matter your economic status. A UWSA Bike share Program (Launching in May) to provide alternative ways to travel across campuses.
The UWSA Hub, an online interactive portal to connect the campus through clubs and societies and to give students access to information about all that is happening on campus. Advocating for and expanding work-study to include international students for fairness. Dropping the $5 debit minimum because students should not be restricted when they are making purchases on campus.
We came into the office with three amazing employees and we are leaving with a full, functional, and effective office with more than eight employees.
We finalized the development of the Lancer Lounge, a flexible lounge space that meets the needs of every student as well as student groups (Projected to open September 2016). Working on a brand spanking new UWSA website that improves students access to information and their experience. This board passed new UWSA policies that give guidance to how the organization should work in the interest of students, and these are just to name a few.
In retrospect, through forming partnerships and strengthening relationships, bringing everyone on board has been the foundation of our success this year. From the executives, Sukhjot, Matthew, Tofunmi, Rajiv, all who have put in countless of hours of dedicated work and tireless effort, to the University administration who have been willing and eager to work with us, to our fellow student unions who have always stood by us, to the custodial staff who make sure we can work in a clean environment, and to the extremely hard working and passionate UWSA staff who are the fuel of this organization and the student movement. Most importantly, to the students who have made our accomplishments possible this year, without you and your support, none of this would have even been remotely possible.
Now let me turn your attention to where we go from here. As a student union, our purpose is to respect and be the voice of all students, but also to protect the unheard and oppressed voices. We have been working for more than 40 years to accomplish our mission of representation, advocacy, and services. Let me be honest with you, most times our climb is steeper in accomplishing these things if you the students are not involved. We as students have an incredible amount of power in our hands and we need to take advantage of this power. We do not need permission from anyone to take back the power. Be it from the hands of the administration or the hands of UWSA influencers, it is no longer enough to sit back and complain behind closed doors, it is no longer enough to be “apathetic”. In fact, I do not believe that any student is “apathetic”; however, students simply may not have the platform to make their voices heard. So, I encourage you to build that platform if it does not exist. Push the boundaries, have an impact in your community, and have an impact on the individuals that you meet daily. The student movement needs your energy and your momentum to accomplish anything.
In short, we need to get involved in our student union and be active on our campus. You need to make sure that your voice is heard loud and clear, whatever your perspective and point of views may be. We as a student union will continue to encourage your freedom of speech and productive dialogue. We also need to protect and be the voice of the voiceless and oppressed. This is why we have such a wide variety of services focused towards these groups and their interests, but let us not forget we are also a university campus and it is our duty to encourage conversation and protect freedom of speech. We have come to a place in our university where sometimes the lines seemed blurred. I am giving you a call to action to get active in your student union, get active on your campus, voice your thoughts, and make our campus vibrant. You need your student union, but most importantly, your student union needs you!