Responding to the COVID-19 crisis has been and will be a critical responsibility that will shape Thompson Rivers University for many years. This is a crisis that affects us all, and challenges everything we do together. The Students’ Union has taken a collaborative response to this crisis that brings together diverse resources and perspectives to put people first, build back better, and a create resilient future.
A Community Crisis – A Community Response
We recognize that this crisis is deeply disruptive for everyone in the university community. Teaching and learning have adapted in real-time. Many students lost jobs and had limited government support. Enrolment declines and a university deficit have left some faculty and staff without employment too. And we are all concerned for our health and that of our family and friends. But we’re in this together.
This community crisis demands a community response – a response to provide relief, recovery, and reform. We believe relief efforts should use a lens of empathy and leave no community member behind. We believe recovery efforts should imagine effective and equitable solutions to new challenges. And we believe this and further reforms should strengthen community relationships to be more resilient into the future.
Our Actions: Relief, Recovery, and Reform
The Students’ Union has taken many of our own actions to provide relief, recovery, and reform. At the outset of the crisis, we deployed immediate support for those in greatest need and created new financial supports and relief. For example, we:
- Made an additional $100,000 contribution to the TRUSU Emergency Bursary
- Offered 24-hour Food Bank availability by appointment
- Created and funded a new student wage subsidy program in partnership with TRU Career & Experiential Learning to provide 25 students with full-time summer employment
- Cancelled the UPASS fee in the Summer semester with an opt-in for those who rely on transit
Through the summer we prepared new ways to serve our members and the university community as we continue to navigate the pandemic. This has meant new ways to be accessible, support basic needs, and maintain a social student life experience. For example, we:
- Reopened the Students’ Union Building with safety protocols on June 01, and expanded digital access to services at ca
- Launched the Deals App that partners with local businesses to offer students discounts
- Continue support for student life through virtual Clubs Information Sessions
- Declare that TRU is safe and welcoming for LGBTQ+ folks by hosting the virtual TRUSU Pride @ Home
Finally, we believe it is critical that all voices are included when determining how to best continue our collective affairs so that all needs and ideas are considered. We are supporting student voices from the campus to Parliament. For example, we:
- Recruited more than 60 student representatives through the Student Caucus to participate in university decision-making in the virtual environment
- Empower students to participate in local initiatives, such as the North Shore Plan and the Kamloops Climate Action Plan
- Advanced student priorities in provincial and federal budget consultations with recommendations to expand student grants and student employment programs
- Support student participation in the snap provincial elections with info on candidates and voting options
Our Community Work – Consultation, Collaboration, and Support
To build a truly community-based response, the Students’ Union has also been reaching out to leaders and stakeholders across campus to find opportunities to work together. We are pleased to provide the following update on these efforts to exchange information and ideas, facilitate student consultation on solutions, collaborate on common initiatives, and provide or receive support in areas of shared objectives.
Summary of Meetings
- 42 individuals
- 34 meetings
- 18 divisions/offices
The greatest result of our discussions with administrators, faculty, and staff is a deepened appreciation of the dedication to the mission of the university and – more directly – to students and to each other. From preparing and supporting courses in alternate delivery, to transitioning to working remotely, to developing digital access to services, to maintain research continuity, to creating safety plans and more – we are inspired by and grateful for the incredible work undertaken by so many over the last six months.
Our discussions were oriented to identifying and actioning opportunities to work together with these dedicated partners. The following is a summary of tangible outcomes in the areas of student consultation, collaboration, and support provided or received. For example:
To ensure students can help shape the university’s response to the pandemic, we:
- Worked with Learning Technology & Innovation on the development of the Learning without Walls Moodle course, providing student volunteers for an early access review, survey, and focus group
- Worked with the Office of Safety &Emergency Management to collect student perspectives on hours of operation for campus study space
To work together on common initiatives, we:
- Participated in Orientation activities such as the “Drive-Thru Swag Giveaway” with the Faculty of Student Development and International Student Orientation with TRU World
- Worked with IT Services to promote the “Shaw COVID-19 Student Internet Initiative and Support Plan” to provide free smart devices and a free semester of service to fifty students
To provide support for other’s work, and to get support for our work, we:
- Provide anti-oppression and sexual violence prevention and response training to Peer Mentor and other student leadership groups across campus
- Received support from Campus Infrastructure and Sustainability and the Office of Safety and Emergency Management to develop opening plans for the Students’ Union Building
The difficult reality is that this pandemic will be with us for a while, but we have an incredibly dedicated and caring university community. We are committed to continuing to work with this community and its response to COVID19. One that leaves no one behind and tackles inequities, that finds new ways to deliver the quality education, research, and student experience we’re known for, and that brings the best that has been demanded of us now into a stronger and brighter future. We look forward to sharing more.