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Should Huron drop the Western University name? Students don't think so, at least not yet

Huron University College's student council is opposing a proposed move from its college to tweak its formal affiliation with Western University. 

Huron University College announced it's looking to amend the affiliation agreement with Western

Last month, Huron, the Western affiliate made up of 1,300 students, announced its intention to amend its affiliation agreement with Western and hand out their own degrees that would not bear the Western University name for students entering the school as of 2023.  (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Huron University College's student council is opposing a proposed move from the university to tweak its formal affiliation with Western University. 

Huron, the Western affiliate, announced its intention last month to amend its affiliation agreement with Western. It would hand out its own degrees that would not bear the Western University name for students entering the school as of 2023. 

"The intention is not to cease being affiliated," said Barry Craig, the president of the college of more than 1,300 students. 

"What I'm looking for is just the degree of autonomy that any other university has," he said, adding that in addition to scrapping the Western name, more independence would allow Huron to control its own academic programming and admissions standards, both which are currently managed by Western. 

Student representatives said the move is being made without their best interest in mind. They feel senior administration has failed to properly inform or consult with them on the proposal.   

"The avenues of feedback that have been established and have been articulated by senior administration as being central to their consultation process have been passive rather than active. They've placed the burden on the community to make themselves heard," said Ziyana Kotadia, the president of the Huron University College Students' Council (HUCSC). 

"Senior administration has not displayed any intention to release a survey, to conduct focus groups or otherwise host or facilitate other proactive feedback mechanisms to get an unbiased reflection of student feedback."

Kotadia said the council will not support the move unless changes are made to the consultation process. HUCSC released a 29-page report outlining the reasoning behind their opposition as well as a survey of more than 300 students. According to that report, most of those students would not support the proposal, based on what they know.

One of the main concerns, Kotadia said, is the possibility that future students might be excluded from accessing services offered through Western's University Students' Council (USC), such as the discounted bus pass, the health and dental plan, as well as other opportunities to work for USC's clubs and events.

Barry Craig, Huron University College's president, said he's only looking to amend one part of the affiliation agreement. (Submitted by Huron University College )

The proposal still has to be approved by Western's board of governors in July before Huron can move forward with its plan. 

 While the entire affiliation agreement will be up for discussion, Craig said he is only looking to change one component and leave the services, facilities and course offerings tied to main campus the same. 

"Our goal is to negotiate an agreement with Western such that all the desirable elements of affiliation, all the things that students value and that we see as valuable and that Western sees valuable will remain untouched and I'm optimistic that we can find an agreement that works for all parties," Craig said. 

A negotiation does leave the door open to Western rejecting the proposal, however, Craig said he's optimistic. 

"I've got a lot of confidence in the leadership at Western ... and I think they'll come to the table in good faith. Hopefully, we work out something that works for Western and Huron." 

"I'm never going to sign a deal that's not in the best interest for a university and its students."

In its report, the HUCSC is recommending the vote be delayed until students have more opportunities to give feedback and the university delivers a clear framework of the proposed changes. Craig said he's open to that request. 

"I'm happy to do more consultation with students. There will be a point at which, you say, 'OK, I think I've shared as much information as I possibly have and it's all out there,'" he said, adding that in light of the report Huron will be offering other forms of consultation. 

"We've invited every faculty member, every staff member, every student and every alumni of Huron to participate and communicated with them directly."

Kotadia said she is hopeful their recommendations will be taken seriously. 

"Students are the stakeholders who have the most insight into what a good student experience looks like and as a result, students are the most qualified to speak on how this will impact the student experience both for current and prospective students," she said. 

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