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UNBSU turns 100 and is still going strong

As we’re about to start a new school year, the UNB Student Union (UNBSU) is entering its 100th year as a student association and is gearing up to execute the plans they have for 2014-2015.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the UNBSU, and they plan to have feedback from the students to see where they want to go.

“It’s been one hundred years now, we’re going to spend good amount of time asking students, what you want to see from here? Now is the time to really take a look back and decide where we want to go from here,” said Greg Bailey, president of the UNBSU.

Major themes of the UNBSU’s plans for this year are the issues international students face, mental health awareness and advocacy at the provincial and national levels.

The UNBSU is lobbying for more funding and support for the university’s international students. While international students pay more than twice the fees of domestic students, the budget of the International Student Advisory Office at UNB has been cut over the past few years.

“We’d definitely like to see a commitment from the university for better support to international students,” Bailey said.

“In the strategic plan UNB has stated a goal of having 20 per cent more international students. If UNB wants to reach that goal, the support to international students should be [increased].”

The second major theme of the UNBSU’s plans is mental health. The student demographic is vulnerable to mental health issues and to raise awareness about the issue, the UNBSU plans to have a mental health week in October.

Beyond raising awareness, the UNBSU has also said that one of the biggest challenges is a shortage of staff at UNB Counselling Services, which is something they plan to tackle.

As it now stands, counselling services had one counsellor for every 2400 students, which is lower than the recommended number of one per every 1500 students.

The provincial election in September is another item on the UNBSU agenda. The Student Union plans to encourage students to vote this year.

“Students have some of the lowest voter turn-outs in the country, but they obviously are very affected with the results of elections,” said Nicole Saulnier, UNBSU vice-president external.

To encourage the students to vote, the UNBSU plans to have polling stations on campus, a “Get Out to Vote” campaign and a “Rock the Vote” concert where students who vote will get discounts for the concert tickets.

On a lobbying level, the UNBSU has contacted the major political parties in the province for the
upcoming elections. They are working with the New Brunswick Student Alliance, an association of student organizations in the province, to push for student concerns to be addressed in the parties’ platforms.

“We’ll make sure that a good relationship with the government gets formed, and we can work together in the next four years,” said Saulnier.

They also have plans for national advocacy.

Along with other student associations in the country which form the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the UNBSU plans to help with an advocacy week in Ottawa this November to get student voices heard at the national level.

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