Presidential interview: 2024-25 UMSU outlook

New UMSU president discusses plans for upcoming academic year

The 2024-25 UMSU executive was inaugurated on April 25 and has begun planning for the upcoming academic year.

UMSU president Divya Sharma said UMSU’s biggest goal this year is a year-long mental health campaign. “It’s abundantly clear that post-secondary students are struggling with their mental health. The stress caused by the pandemic has had a lasting impact, the majority of which remains at the top of students’ minds,” Sharma said.

A recent literature review of 32 studies analyzing student populations around the world confirmed increases in stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and suicidal ideation in university students during the pandemic.

Sharma said there are particular struggles facing international students, as “they’re away from their family, it really has an impact on their mental health.”

CASA conference

In May, several members of the UMSU executive and the Indigenous students’ representative travelled to Ottawa to attend Foundations Conference, an annual conference with Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). This conference introduces newly-elected student leaders from CASA member organizations, such as UMSU, to the federal government’s role in post-secondary education.

Sharma said at the conference, UMSU representatives “learned a lot of different things, from understanding how policies are made, [and] how to lobby in a good way, but in a way that can achieve results.”

CASA’s 2024-27 strategic plan was presented by former UMSU president Tracy Karuhogo. Prabhnoor Singh, UMSU vice-president external affairs, “highly” suggested in his report to the UMSU board of directors that “UMSU follows a similar plan.”

CASA’s strategic plan has not been posted publicly yet.

According to Sharma, UMSU has “already actually started working on that,” and plans to share more information on its strategic plan at the next board meeting.

“Every year a new executive team comes in, and they have their own priorities and that’s fantastic, but when we think about a critical organization like UMSU, we need to think about that long-term side of things,” said Sharma.

The University of Manitoba released its strategic plan for 2024-29 this April.

Ad hoc committee struck to write definition of anti-Palestinian racism

On June 13, UMSU approved motion 0615 which will create an ad hoc committee to recommend a definition of anti-Palestinian racism for inclusion in the UMSU position statements book. The committee is tasked with consulting students, staff and faculty at the university, examining how other universities have addressed anti-Palestinian racism and using this to write a definition.

The committee will present its final report with recommendations to the UMSU board of directors by Dec. 9.

A previous motion, motion 0597, brought forward on March 14 called on UMSU to adopt the Arab Canadian Lawyers’ Association’s (ACLA) definition of anti-Palestinian racism. This definition includes “denying the Nakba”– an Arabic term meaning “catastrophe” which refers to the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians from what is now Israel in 1948 – and “failing to acknowledge Palestinians as an Indigenous people with a collective identity, belonging and rights in relation to occupied and historic Palestine.”

According to Sharma, UMSU decided to strike an ad hoc committee rather than adopt ACLA’s definition because it wanted to make sure “student voices were represented.”

The ad hoc committee will be composed of five anonymous UMSU board members.

Board members interested in joining the committee must submit a resume and cover letter to the UMSU selections committee.