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HomeNewsCandidate profile: Thomas Eaton

Candidate profile: Thomas Eaton

On Mar. 11, Eaton posted the following on his Facebook page:

“Hello everyone,

I am writing this post to let everyone know that I’ve decided to drop out of the DSU elections. I’ve made this decision for personal reasons and it was not made lightly. I would like to apologize to all of my supporters and thank them for everything that they’ve done. None of this would have been possible without you.

The only endorsement I would like to make at this time is for Alexis Stevenson. She is committed to making this campus a better place and has already done so. She’s been the president of both the Computer Science and Equestrian societies. She understands that societies and athletics are at the core of the Dalhousie community.

Finally, I would like to wish all Vice President Academic/External candidates the best of luck. I also would like to remind them not to forget about the academic side of the position. Academics means more than just tuition fees.

Thank you everyone for your support,
Thomas Eaton”

Name: Thomas Eaton

Age: 22

Program: Fifth-year computer science

Relevant political experience: Vice-president external for computer science society and DSU’s computer science rep. President of Dalhousie Gaming Society in his second year at Dal.

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

Eaton: I’m running because this year I think we had a really ineffective year. I think there was a lot of focus on advocacy and not a lot of focus on education. I think we make a lot of noise for the sake of making noise.

There’s a lot of things I would like to change. I think we need to get back to the fundamentals of why we’re here. We’re here as a union to represent all students. We’re here as a union to make the lives for students easier and to make sure they succeed, and this year I don’t know if that has been accomplished. That’s why I’m running. 

G: What do you plan to do if elected?

E: There’s a few things I’d like to change. I think we need to focus on big-time lobbying this time. This year is going to be a provincial election, that’s going to be a big one. We, as students, can push for things now because the government is in a weak position: they’re going to need students’ votes if they want to win.

I don’t think lowering tuition is attainable. I don’t think that would happen in a very long time, but we had a freeze a few years ago and I think that’s something we can push for. Maybe we won’t have success with that, but I think we should definitely push for that, and if nothing else we need to get more grants for people, certainly a freeze combined with grants will do so much this time and I think we can push for that and I think it’s attainable.

G: What qualifies you for this position?

E: I have lots of leadership experience through the [computer science] society. We actually lost our president a few months ago so I’ve taken over a lot of the running of the society. I’ve been a part of councils and I care about education.

I think that because students don’t vote very often that we are often marginalized. There was a leadership debate last year where education didn’t even come up. We need to get students involved so that students can make the change. We need to push them towards attainable goals and the government will listen to us this time. We’ve got to get students involved, and I think that’s what we really need this year. That’s what I can do, I can be that leader that gets students rallied behind this.

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

E: I’m completely against it. The DSU never really consulted with council, that was a big one for us. For very little money—it’s over $2.50 cents a person—it’s not a huge burden to ask students to pay, but they get a lot for it. They are one of the primary consultants who consultant on student loans. If we’re trying to push for things, like ending the parental contribution on student loans, than they are the ones that will have to do that federally for us. I don’t think even if we hire a new position, we’re going to have the same clout in Ottawa that we would with CASA.

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

E: I think this year we’ve got to change the way student loans are structured, we’ve got so many people who are denied. This year we’ve talked about how there are posters everywhere that says education is a right, I don’t believe that free education is a right because I don’t believe that will ever happen, but through student loans many people can come to school. We have way more students attending here in Canada than we do in Europe, and I think our system here is better, but we need to make it more affordable to do so and we need to make sure that you aren’t barred from getting the loans you need to be able to come.

One of the things we can do right away is push to get rid of the parental contribution, both federally and provincially. I have a friend whose father dropped out of the military and got a severance package the year before she went to university. She wasn’t able to qualify for a single penny in loans, even though they had that money they didn’t have a steady stream of income and she had to work three jobs just to be able to stay and pay for university. It makes it really hard, you don’t have a level playing field if you’ve got to work three jobs and you’ve got to fight for a loan. There are things we can do to make university accessible and to make sure we have the best and brightest minds.

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

E: I feel that’s one that’s really been missed this year. We have some issues, like in Sexton campus there’s no accessibility space. It’s things like that that’s really being missed and we need to coordinate better with our faculty societies because they know what they need, right? Faculty-level societies, they’re on the frontlines. The DSU sits in this building, and anyone who sits in this building, that’s what they see. Our faculty-level societies are on the ground and I know that because I sat on one. They know what they need and we can better consult with them.

The Student Union Building opened up its bottom floor this year for 24-hour study space, and that’s great, but we need a 24-hour strategy. It’s not good enough to have one floor open, which can support how many people, and then we’re done. We need more than that. We have lots of unused space like the McInnes room, but also we need to think about how students are going to get home when they’re done studying. Tiger Patrol replicates the bus service. It’s done early in the evening, it doesn’t run for 24 hours during the study time so if you’re here you’re stranded. We don’t have a walk-home program like Queen’s University. Dal had a walk-home program for years then they mothballed it. I think we need to consider why that was done and then consider if we can improve it instead of just scrapping. It’s great to say we have a 24-hour study space, but if it’s not accessible, you can’t use it and it’s dangerous to get home.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

The candidates for VP (academic and external) are: Aaron BealeJon Magill and Jessica Dempsey.

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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