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Candidate profile: Jessica Dempsey

During the March 13 All Candidates debate, Dempsey told the audience she identifies as a trans woman. reports that Dempsey will appear on the ballot as Jessica Dempsey. This article has been updated to reflect that fact.
Dempsey is, as far as the Gazette is aware, the first transgender candidate to run in the DSU elections.

Name: Jessica Dempsey

Age: Not provided

Program: Second-year management (special undergraduate)

Relevant political experience: Third year running for the VP (academic and external) position (2013, 2011, 2010). Sat on a DSU restructuring committee for a summer two years ago. Assisted in federal, provincial and municipal elections, as well as handling social media accounts.

G: Why are you running for the VP (academic and external) position?

Dempsey: I’m running because of two things, the cost of education and access to education. And we need to reduce barriers for students, not put them up. We need to look to the future and this needs to change.

G: What do you plan to do if elected?

D: First of all, the biggest thing we have right now that is really going to impact us is the $17.5 million deficit that we’re looking at through the BAC [budget advisory committee], and basically I think that whole budget and proposal is not fair for students, so that’s something that really needs to be looked at in a big way both at the university and on a provincial level.

Second is students with accommodations at the university. We need a representative on council, we need an accessibility representative, not an accommodation representative because accommodations is through the Centre for Learning and Teaching and that’s their mandate, but we need accessibility for every student. Also one thing I would like to see is that exam accommodations be put to an online system so students don’t have to take papers to professors.

G: What qualifies you for this position?

D: The only way that I’ll be qualified for this position is if students elect me. I can’t change anything; I have no authority until I’m elected.

G: What’s your stance on the DSU potentially leaving CASA?

D: I think it’s disappointing to hear that. CASA does a lot of work for students. CASA has a new program online, Rob LeForte [former DSU VP (academic and external)] works for CASA. They have a new initiative on textbooks, to lower textbooks by 10 per cent. They’re one of our lobby groups, we’ve invested $500,000 since they started in 1995. The DSU needs CASA. They’re a federal lobby group and the other thing, too, is CASA also supports grant funding through the university, especially for students who need it and especially students who are under accessibility who need to access that funding. A lot of this grant funding comes through that federal program.

G: What should the union’s lobbying priorities be?

D: The reason that we have CASA and ANSSA (which is now Students Nova Scotia) is because we fund these lobby groups to do external lobbying so the union can concentrate on other things, but the disconnection is that we need more student engagement with CASA & Students Nova Scotia so they understand the importance of these groups and so these students understand these groups are lobbying for them.

The students are the ones who should be acknowledged, but raising the cost of post-secondary education doesn’t bring any more value to it, and also in the position that I’m running for, access to education is important, too.

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

D: There’s a term, universal design, and it’s basically about having every student on an equal playing ground, regardless of what, who, where, when, why, where they’ve come from. Nobody is smarter than anybody else, it’s reducing the barriers to education because everyone has somebody to offer to the world.

In saying that, too, how can somebody have a good academic experience if they have to worry about money all the time? How can somebody have a good academic experience if they have to work two jobs to get through university? The groups that get affected the most are the people that are underrepresented. A perfect example is when they cut Neera Datta’s position here. Students needed that, it was the only learning disabilities specialist we have, I think, for all three universities [that Dal’s Counselling Centre serves]. The DSU and the president’s office funded her position and her position was going to be a result of cuts.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Other candidates for VP (academic and external) are: Aaron Beale, Jon Magill and (formerly) Thomas Eaton.

Ian Froese
Ian Froese
Ian was the Gazette's Editor-in-chief for Volume 146. He was the Sports Editor for Volumes 145 and 144.

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