TRUSU adapting to serve students online during the pandemic

The Students’ Union tackling COVID-19 challenges for students with a community approach

Cole Hickson, the recently elected President of the TRU Students’ Union, is having an unusual year in the captain’s chair. As it was announced during the summer, regular classes will not return for the 2020-2021 school year. This has left the Students’ Union with some new challenges.

Dedicated to providing services for, and representing the students of TRU, TRUSU has found itself with no students on campus. Along with a drop in student population, the member base is significantly smaller.

Despite the challenges, TRUSU pivoted to its approach to supporting students to meet them where they are: online.

“We are taking a community approach to a community problem,” said Hickson. “Challenges are a natural part of this, but we are committed to students getting the help and advocacy they deserve regardless of if they’re at home or on campus.”

“The biggest changes had to be made to the Entertainment and Services Committee,” Hickson stated. “Not having students on campus means we can’t throw things like the Back to School BBQ, or host our on-campus lecture series, or even host club gatherings.”

To compensate for these losses, the Students’ Union is taking a “no student left behind” approach to pandemic issues, with a focus on relief, recovery and reform.

The relief part came earlier this year when TRUSU contributed $100,000 to need-based bursaries for TRU students through the TRUSU Emergency Bursary.

Recovery and reform are an ongoing issue as TRUSU adapts its member’s services to be available through online mediums. Some of these changes include making an opt-out for the TRUSU medical and dental plan, as well as UPASS, more straightforward.

Another key piece in the recovery is the introduction of the Deals app to TRU students, which makes saving money on plenty of services simple. TRUSU also has kept its front desk open so students can get in-person help with forms, resources, and other things.

“We also shifted our ‘breaking bread’ lecture series to more of an informal online event, where students can gather from their homes and listen to an expert in their field discuss something they’re passionate about,” Hickson stated.

A key focus for the Students’ Union and Hickson is developing the student caucus. “The students’ voices are important, especially now. We want to make the changes necessary to support students, and need students’ help to know what those changes are.”