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Candidate profile: Jacqueline Skiptunis

VP academic and external candidate Jacqueline Skiptunis. (Photo by Chris Parent)
VP academic and external candidate Jacqueline Skiptunis. (Photo by Bryn Karcha, DSU)

Name: Jacqueline Joan Skiptunis

Age: 24

Hometown: New York, NY

Program: Russian studies, 3rd year

Position: VP academic and external

Relevant Political Experience: VP Academic for the Dalhousie Arts and Social Sciences Society

Dalhousie Gazette: Why are you running for the position of VP academic and external?

Jacqueline Skiptunis: For the past year and a half, I’ve been noticing a lot of things about this university that aren’t good for academics and students. Tenure-track professors aren’t being hired—my favourite professor was a limited term appointment, and she was only around for a one-year contract, which is totally unacceptable. It sounds like it should be a professor problem, the DFA (Dalhousie Faculty Association) should handle it. But, in reality, if you don’t have tenure-track professors, you don’t have people here in the long term, you don’t have people to guide students through their entire university career, so student miss out.

I think it’s a huge problem because students suffer. The value of your degree is diminished when you come from a place that doesn’t prioritize academics, that won’t buy books for its library. It’s not that they won’t buy them, it’s just that it’s been financially managed in a way that the library is where you notice the massive funding discrepancy in September. It’s totally unacceptable, it shouldn’t happen.

DG: What would be your plan if elected?

JS: I’m an international student, which most people don’t pick up on. I think the services for international students are deplorable. You’re brought here, and if your ability to speak English is not at par with people who have lived in Canada their entire lives, who come from countries or families who speak English as their first language, you need support. You shouldn’t be brought here and be thrown into a university saying “here you go, learn, it’s great.” You need help with ESL, writing your papers, adjusting to life in Canada. So I can imagine how it must feel for people who feel it more strongly, lacking that support.

This, improve the relationship between students and professors and get students more involved with how the university is run. I think students, for what they pay, should get what they need.

DG: What is your stance on the DSU’s decision to leave its external advocacy groups?

JS: There’s a lot of opportunity in it—I think independent advocacy is a great thing. I do however like the idea of being connected with other universities within Nova Scotia. I think having lobbying power at the federal level is also vital for students. Whether or not we have to have membership in those organizations to have access to that lobbying power or to take part in their events, I don’t feel very strongly about right now. My priority right now is this university. And from what I’ve seen from those two organizations, they haven’t directly benefited us; they haven’t addressed fundamental issues that I see at this university.

DG: What should DSU’s lobbying goals be?

JS: I think the easiest one on that is tuition. The first one that comes to mind is the international differential fee; there has to be some kind of certainty that every year it’s not going to jump up by six or 10 per cent. International students are a huge part of our student population, and are a relatively vulnerable part. They aren’t protected the same way domestic students are, and we need to amend that.

Another goal within the university is tenure-track hirers. That is something I’ve seen that affects students. If you talk about international and domestic students going through their degree program, and if you don’t have tenure-track professors who are going to be here for at least four years, how do you serve students, how do you help them through four years of their degree?

DG: How would you improve the academic experience for students?

JS: By giving them the certainty that the programs and courses they see on the academic calendar—the courses they are promised when they first sign up and that they need to finish their degree—will be available to them. This can be done with tenure-track professors, increased and more equitable funding to faculties and respectful negotiation with administration.

DG: How do you feel about running unopposed?

JS: I think it’s indicative of a huge problem within our student population. I don’t know if it’s unique to us, but that fact that no one else wanted this position or knew this position was available. People don’t see it as something they want to do because it looks like a really unhappy amount of work or they don’t know what it is, that it exists and that it’s something they could do and could use for some really great things for the student population.

It’s nice to be unopposed—it means I don’t have to work as hard on a campaign. But it’s pretty upsetting that more people aren’t running. I’m still doing class talks because it’s my responsibility to let people know who I am, and that I’m running. Hopefully next year we’ll have an elections committee a lot earlier in the year and they’ll be publicizing the fact that there will be elections. Ideally they’d start in October/November, so students know these positions are available and can adequately prepare themselves to run.

Correction: An earlier version of this story used an incorrect acronym to represent the Dalhousie Arts and Social Sciences Society. The Gazette regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused.

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