Background Advocacy has been a long standing and important pillar by sofiaie

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									Student Help & Advocacy Centre (SHAC)                                      Thursday, January 20th, 2010
Programme Launch Proposal

Background
Advocacy has been a long standing and important pillar of the service that is provided to students
by the Central Student Association. Advocacy services are currently divided and widespread into
many different areas of the CSA. The main CSA programmes providing advocacy include the
Human Rights Office, Financial Resource Room, and Legal Resource Room; the CSA Foodbank
also provides some advocacy services. The Academic Commissioner addresses academic and
accessibility advocacy cases. The Communication Commissioner addresses non-academic
advocacy cases. The CSA External Commissioner addresses a wide range of advocacy cases
including those referred from the Human Rights Office. The CSA Local Affairs Commissioner
also provides advocacy in the area of housing and tenancy. Needless to say, there are many
individuals that provide advocacy services.

However, there is no unifying training, quality assurance process or referral system currently in
place. Our current system requires students to self-identify their issue and make contact with the
appropriate person/programme. Additionally, many students also do not connect the word
“advocacy” with help. As such, when searching online or reading about services/programs many
students will not appropriately identify that the CSA is indeed a very appropriate choice in
addressing their issues.

We have also seen an increase in complex cases that span various areas of advocacy: academic
issues framed in potential human rights violations; tenancy and landlord issues related to
financial crisis; students undergoing legal issues within the university‟s petitions process. As
advocacy cases become more complex, it begs the question of whether our current structure and
approach are the best method of serving students in need.

The programme proposal developed from the idea of answering the questions: How best can the
CSA address the complex needs and issues that students are facing?

Research & Programme Development
The CSA External Commissioner and the CSA Academic Commissioner, who primarily deal
with the greatest advocacy case load of the Executive, decided to collaboratively tackle this issue
of how best to address student needs.

Many other student unions across the country have „Student Advocacy Centre‟ of many varying
titles and descriptions. However, the main component of all of these centres is to provide one
centre service through which to address any student need or concern. There are numerous
important cases of student victories that were a direct result of the support and services provided
through these centres.

The idea to provide one „unified service front‟ to students was proven to be an effective means of
getting students „in the door‟ and into the service. The programmes were more specialized from
an internal perspective, but the most important first step of getting students to contact the service
was achieved. Through that initial communication, the student would be provided with the most
appropriate support or referral as addressed on a case-by-case basis.

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Student Help & Advocacy Centre (SHAC)                                     Thursday, January 20th, 2010
Programme Launch Proposal

Internally focused to the CSA, the CSA Capacity, Analysis and Planning Committee conducted a
general student survey during the 08-09 year. While identifying many strengths of the CSA
operations and services, it identified commonly among students that a large percentage of
students were unaware or not using many of the advocacy services provided through various
CSA elected offices or programmes.

There is much anecdotal evidence of students making contact with any CSA Executive, Board or
Staff member and requiring at least one level of referral to another person. Every time a referral
must be taken, it opens up the opportunity for a student to not bother following up, to come upon
a closed door or to require a further referral. One general centre that would provide students with
the help that they needed in-house and not require any further referrals. Effectively, a one-stop-
shop for advocacy and student support shifts the effort and work of determining and finding the
most suitable support/help from the student‟s responsibility and time. As a result, this ensures a
more comfortable, efficient and effective outcome for the student. All of these are critical factors
in the eyes of a student who wants to see a quick and favourable outcome to their problem.

It became apparent that combining the currently divided advocacy services into one unified
programme would dramatically increase the quality, coordination, awareness and delivery of
advocacy services to students. This amalgamated service would provide the desperately needed
triaging that is currently missing from the CSA structure. Additionally, it would also provide one
common filing system that would provide a much better quality of service to students than the
current framework. The next step became developing rationale, support and an effective
operational model for this new unified service; this process has taken over an entire semester to
complete.

Consultation
Throughout the development of this proposal several different individuals and groups were
consulted and involved in the process. Information from CSA Programmes was used to construct
the main streams of advocacy that were provided and the number of hours spent between staff
and volunteers to provide these services.

Additionally, former CSA Executive Commissioners were consulted with on this project, in an
attempt to ascertain the total advocacy load that was experienced by commissioners and the
nature of those cases. All Commissioners that were consulted provided positive feedback. Some
were ecstatic to hear that the CSA was finally considering this form of project. They spoke to the
need for additional training to be provided to those student volunteers providing advocacy.
Generally many comments were made regarding taking this opportunity to improve quality.

The most notable partnership that has arisen out of these increasing quality deliberations is that
with the Legal Aid Clinic of Guelph. We met to work with the Legal Aid Clinic many times over
the past few months regarding the development of this proposal. They provided much valuable
information and recommendations regarding the structure and operation of the service,
particularly in the area of training and development.




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Student Help & Advocacy Centre (SHAC)                                    Thursday, January 20th, 2010
Programme Launch Proposal

The CSA Business Office has been heavily involved in the development of this proposal, both
regarding human resource structuring and financing the new programme. Their experience in
launching previous services provided invaluable „lessons learned‟. They are enthused and
encouraged with the work that has been put in and confident that the potential success for this
service can and will be fully realized.

Partnerships with the university have also provided some very valuable opportunities. Working
with the judicial officer of the university we were able to build onto the proposed model and also
able to help determine some unaddressed areas of need for student advocacy, particularly within
the judicial and probation systems of the university. These partnerships will be invaluable as the
training program for volunteers and staff is developed.

Once major pieces of this framework were developed the current contract staff within their
respective services were asked to vet the proposed structure and provide feedback. These
discussions were overall positive. Many of the final changes and refinements on this proposal are
a result of their expertise and experience and they must be given due credit. Due to some
unforeseen human resource complications with the Human Rights Office staff, we have not been
able to receive satisfactory feedback on this proposal. We will continue discussions with these
staff and any final amendments that may be necessary will be brought to the Board on February
10th, 2010 prior to approval.

Excerpts & Testimonials from the Consultation Process

“…this is a step in the right direction for student advocacy because from my experience, most
problems have many sides to them that fall under different commissioners' portfolios. Often my
financial need cases had problems with housing/landlords in particular.”

“I think Guelph could be a leader in developing something a lot better than what the GTA has”

“Overall I think it's a wise idea to remove the advocacy role from the Commissioner‟s office,
train someone for it specifically, or hire someone with experience, particularly for the more
difficult cases. It's probably more an issue for the tenant/legal cases, and less for the academic
cases, which are mostly information provision and basic adovacy. However, even with the
academic stuff if there was a specific office/person for advocacy there might be more capacity to
advertise the service and reach more people.”

“I have no doubt that creating something more central for all advocacy cases will be the best way
to service Guelph students.”

New Programme Proposal
The new programme shall be called the “Student Help & Advocacy Centre” (herein referred to
as SHAC). This programme shall act as the primary site for student advocacy within the CSA.
The proposal can best be understood as an amalgamation of three current CSA programmes into
a one-stop service, which include the Financial Resource Room (FRR), the Human Rights Office
(HRO), and the Legal Resource Room (LRR).

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Student Help & Advocacy Centre (SHAC)                                      Thursday, January 20th, 2010
Programme Launch Proposal

From the perspective of the CSA, this will provide us the opportunity to merge all of the
resources, information and best practices of all three services into this one new programme. This
proposal does not speak to stopping any of the current services provided by these programmes,
but instead will initiate an evaluative process of the current operations and integration across all
three services (ex: instead of three separate case file systems, one merged file system will be
created and managed).

From the perspective of students and from advertising and promotion perspectives, this will
allow the CSA to focus advertising the SHAC as the single-stop service for any problem or crisis
that a student may be facing. Instead of requiring students to recognize the name of a
programme/executive, what advocacy services it provides and if it is appropriate, students will
be directed all to the same location and the triage services will be provided by the SHAC Staff
and Volunteers.

Four contract staff along with two types of support volunteers will coordinate the SHAC. The
responsibilities of the staff will be divided broadly into service management, volunteer
coordination and educational events/campaigns (including promotion). The reduction from seven
(7) current staff (between the three current programmes) to four contract staff is being met in a
variety of manners. Support provided by the Executive Commissioners will be provided for
major cases. As well the partnership with the Legal Aid Clinic (see below for details) will also
provide a great deal of relief for advocacy services. Finally, particularly in the area of
promotions, those responsibilities will be shared with the work of the full-time Media and
Promotions Assistant who was hired last year.

Additionally, a more intensive volunteer program will be developed, with two main categories:
Office Volunteers and Advocacy Volunteers. Office Volunteers will operate similarly to those
currently involved, in that they will provide the main bulk of hours to keep the SHAC open for
as along as possible. In addition they will provide the triage services for students, collecting
information on the nature of their issue/concern/problem. If this cannot be resolved with basic
resources or information, they will be referred to one of the Advocacy Volunteers.

Advocacy Volunteers will undergo an intensive volunteer training program that includes core
training provided by the Legal Aid Clinic, Judicial Office, Women in Crisis, Human rights &
Equity Office, as well as other special status groups where necessary, etc. Subsequently, each
Advocacy Volunteer would have the opportunity to „specialize‟ their area of support by
completing additional training hours in a particular area: academics, housing, financial, human
rights, etc. These volunteers would then provide the one-on-one and minor crisis intervention
services required by students. This process would be overseen and managed by the Volunteer
Coordinator of the SHAC. On major cases and issues that require support and public advocacy,
the most appropriate Executive Commissioner will become involved.

The SHAC will also continue to provide the educational event and campaign programming
currently coordinated through these programmes. This will be supported through an events
committee comprised of some SHAC Staff, CSA Board members and interested students. The
important and specific awareness events and campaigns currently run by the HRO have been
included in the new job descriptions and will continue to be integral parts of the operation.


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Student Help & Advocacy Centre (SHAC)                                      Thursday, January 20th, 2010
Programme Launch Proposal

Staff Structure & Cost
The SHAC shall have a four-person staff team. There shall be one main programme coordinator
who shall serve as the primary supervisor for the other three staff. The Academic/University
Affairs Commissioner shall be responsible for supervising all four staff and this service. Other
supervision duties have been shifted among the Executive to accommodate for this new
programme amalgamation.

The following four job positions and descriptions have been developed:

       1.) SHAC Coordinator (Year round)
             Summer, Fall & Winter - 47 Weeks @ 15 hours/week
             Total Hours: 705
             Honourarium: $8178 minimum

       2.) SHAC Volunteer Coordinator (Year round)
             Summer - 17 Weeks @ 10 hours/week
             Fall & Winter - 30 Weeks @ 15 hours/week
             Total Hours: 620
             Honourarium: $7192 minimum

       3.) SHAC Education & Promotion Coordinator (Year round)
             Summer, Fall & Winter - 47 Weeks @ 10.0 hours/week
             Total Hours: 470
             Honourarium: $5452 minimum

       4.) SHAC Assistant Education & Promotion Coordinator (Fall & Winter only)
             Fall & Winter - 30 Weeks @ 7.5 hours/week
             Total Hours: 225
             Honourarium: $2610 minimum

Much consideration was given to the staffing structure, composition, inter-relations, division of
duties and hours. This final model is a result of all of the feedback received. It provides a strong
and balanced structure for each semester as needed, but also provides new-interested students
entry-level positions to get involved. This will help in succession planning and long-term
sustainability of this programme.

Detailed job descriptions have been developed and are being served as Notice of Motion at the
January 27th, 2010 CSA Board Meeting as per policy for new staff positions. They will be moved
for approval and voted upon at the February 10th, 2010 meeting of the CSA Board.

The costs savings that are accrued from the creation of these new positions will go back in the
SHAC Budget to serve three main new areas around increasing quality of service: volunteer
training and support; increase programming dollars available for campaigns and events; and
hours to support work provided from the Legal Aid Clinic of downtown Guelph. We are
confident that this new structure and budget will provide students with an exceptional service.

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Student Help & Advocacy Centre (SHAC)                                     Thursday, January 20th, 2010
Programme Launch Proposal

Volunteer Structure and Training
As was indicated earlier in the proposal, the SHAC shall require a strong volunteer base. In
return for student‟s time and effort, they will be provided with invaluable and incomparable
training and professional development. They will also receive experience that will make them
highly competitive in job markets or for future academic degrees. There will be two categories of
volunteers within the SHAC:

       1.) Office Volunteers
              -Undergo basic core training as well as SHAC Office Orientation
              -Will be trained and responsible for managing the case file system
              -May commit to volunteering as many or as few hours a week as desired

       2.) Advocacy Volunteers
             -Undergo core training as well as area-specific training (in academics, tenancy,
             legal, financial, human rights, etc.)
             -Will receive on-going professional development opportunities
             -Must commit to volunteering at least five (5) hours per week

At this point in the programme proposal, the volunteer training programs have yet to be
finalized. It was believed that this area would be one that the current contract staff would provide
some of the greatest insight and feedback upon. As such, if this proposal is approved, the
remainder of the winter semester will be spent compiling and constructing the various volunteer
training programs and sessions. This will be a collaborative process and will mean continuing
our discussions with the Legal Aid Clinic, Judicial Office, etc.

Through our collaboration with university and city partners it is our intention to develop a
volunteer training program that is of the highest quality. We would like the university to
recognize this service and to provide it as a referral to students who are going through formal
university processes. This is not currently the practice with our programmes and would be a great
achievement for the CSA and a huge advancement in representing and supporting students.

Partnership with Legal Aid Clinic of Guelph
The Legal Aid Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County provides FREE legal advice to low-
income people in Guelph and Wellington County. Most students would fall well within the
financial situation required by the Legal Aid Clinic to provide service. However, the Legal Aid
Clinic of Guelph has only one office, which is located downtown at specific hours that may not
be most accessible to our student population.

Through our discussions with the Legal Aid Clinic we have come to a very flexible, non-
contractual agreement that would allow us to offset the cost of providing the Legal Aid Clinic
services through a satellite office that would run out of the Student Help & Advocacy Centre.
Basically, the CSA would be able to bring in a lawyer from the Legal Aid Clinic to provide
services to students directly within the SHAC for a certain number of hours per week. The


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Student Help & Advocacy Centre (SHAC)                                      Thursday, January 20th, 2010
Programme Launch Proposal

individual who has agreed, if the CSA Board agrees as well, to provide these „satellite hours‟ is
eager and excited to have the opportunity to connect with and work in a student environment.

Provincial Regulations only allow legal advice to be given directly from a lawyer or from
someone working directly beneath them. As such, the CSA cannot provide legal advice in its
current capacity, but through this partnership the CSA will be able to provide compensation to
establish a situation where students will still have a one-stop shop to receive the help they need.
Additionally, the same lawyer from the Legal Aid Clinic has agreed to provide support to the
training programs for both the SHAC Staff and Volunteers. She will develop the training
modules that fall within the expertise and expectations of the Legal Aid Clinic, which include:
providing advocacy, case file systems and note taking, tenancy/landlord issues, etc.

The extent to which compensation will be provided to the Legal Aid Clinic is completely at the
discretion of the CSA Operating Budget. The Legal Aid Clinic is completely aware,
understanding and willing to accommodate variations in hours between semesters and changes to
the amount upon re-evaluation.

Space
Student space has been a long-standing issue at the University of Guelph and one that the CSA
constantly faces. Given the nature of the current programme amalgamation into the new
combined single programme, a suitable space must be found. While not ideal, the SHAC would
be able to operate out of the current amount of space provided by those merged offices (2
rooms). The CSA Finance & Human Resources Commissioner will continue to evaluate and
search for the most ideal and suitable space available.

The SHAC Office space will generally be divided into a public area with resources for students
(with as many being available after hours as possible). It will also provide a private space for
which one-on-one advocacy can be undertaken. Some construction may be required in start-up of
this new programme, but both the CSA Business Office and CSA Finance & Human Resources
Commissioner are aware and in support of financing any one-time start-up costs.

Feedback & Questions
Please feel free to contact either the External Affairs Commissioner at csaext@uoguelph.ca or
the Academic/University Affairs Commissioner at csaacad@uoguelph.ca. Your feedback,
suggestions and questions are important to us and we will address them as soon as possible.




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