Name: Sagar Jha
Program: Fifth-year marine biology
G: Why are you running for President?
J: I’ve been considering running for DSU executive for a very long time. I’m running for the DSU now because I like the direction it’s heading in right now. And for the last two years it’s gone in a very new direction, with a lot more organic and grassroots leadership, supporting societies that students actually care about, for example the Loaded Ladle. So, I’m running for DSU because I love what’s happening on campus and I don’t want to see the momentum stop.
I’m running for president specifically because the president is the spokesperson for the student union and as the spokesperson, and being in my fifth year I can finally for the first time say that I’m proud of what the student union and body does, and I want to take that message elsewhere. I want to not only change the community’s perception of students from what it is now, because what it is now is pretty negative, but build bridges between the Dalhousie community and the greater Halifax community.
G: What qualifies you for this position?
Frosh leader four years, Top Off-Campus O-Week Leader in his third year, Academic and External Commissionaire, CKDU Radio Programmer, Music Committee, Hiring Committee, Indian Subcontinent Students’ Association (INDISA), See You in September Music Video, Brains for Change, Soapbox, TedxHalifax.
G: What do you plan to do if elected?
J: 1. Focus on grassroots leadership and leadership overall, turning students into leaders while doing community outreach.
2. Recreate the SUB; I know there’s a big renovation coming up and I think there needs to be a lot more student input going into that process, as well as a lot of fun things we can do with it to make it a fun and functional space.
3. Focus on effective student services. We have a lot of great services here in the student union and at Dalhousie, but one of the biggest weaknesses of them is that no one knows about them. We need awareness campaigns around what we have and more support for things that need it, addressing mental health as a student union much better, as well as the summer student U-Pass and better wifi. Also, more collaborative space for societies. I envision a quick-book meeting space for societies where there’s a shared photocopier, button maker, a huge calendar for societies to put their events up, etc. to avoid redundancies. We currently have 11 sustainability societies, there was one month where we had four clothing swaps within two weeks.
4. Focus on equity and advocacy in the student union, and equitable representation in the union. Right now, there’s one out of 20 candidates running in the elections who’s female and 55 per cent of the Dalhousie population is female. Also, right now there’s a great momentum around student debt and a sort of student debt movement and I’d like to see that keep moving.
5. Reconnect students with what they’re learning. Maybe try and set up for credit things, where students go out into the community and either teach young people what they’re learning or apply their knowledge.
G: What’s your stance on the DSU potentially leaving CASA?
J: I think it’s a great idea to leave CASA. I went to council the other day and there was a presentation from CASA, and they presented a lot of hollow arguments. They were saying that since 1995, CASA has managed to avoid all federal cuts. Well, that’s because in 1995 they had huge cuts and there was nothing left to cut federally! Every year, students at Dal each pays $2.50, while the average student anywhere else in Canada pays less than two dollars per student for CASA. CASA has been quite an ineffective lobby group, they pride themselves on having lots of meetings but there’s been no campaigns. I think CASA has been very inefficient and ineffective at representing us, so when I hear about an advocacy coordinator, I see that as us getting our own federal lobbying person hired full time.
G: What are your thoughts on the new food-service system in the SUB?
J: What I would like to see is a more representative decision making process. Right now it’s a mostly full-time staff making the decisions about food. I think having an actual representative food board is super important, and something that needs to happen. I also think student ownership is something we should encourage. The Loaded Ladle is a food serving community and I really believe that where you serve food, there should be community. I think if we engage students more in the process, it will be a lot better. I also think hours needs to be strengthened, and that food service at Sexton needs to be improved at well. You can get a grilled cheese on Fridays outside, but only because of Engineers Without Borders.
G: What do you think of the lack of women running in the election?
J: This is rooted in history and a reflection of politics in general, women are so under represented in provincial and federal governments as well and I’m not using that as an excuse, but that’s something that needs to change over all. It’s a huge disappointment to me not to see more women running. As to the reason why that happened, I think that in a lot of ways the student union promotes a certain type of person, and that person is a white male, to run. I’m not saying women don’t have the skills, the student union has just promoted that and it’s a problem. Hiring an equity coordinator would be a start.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Watch one of Jha’s campaign videos: