Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and formatted for style and clarity.
The Dalhousie Gazette sent a similar questionnaire to each candidate in the 2019 Dalhousie Student Union election.
Name: Ruby Coles
Running for: Vice-president (Student Life)
Program and Year: Fifth-year sociology and social anthropology with a certificate in disabilities management
Why are you running for this position?
I am running for VP Student Life because event programming and wellness are two of my favourite jobs! I have seen the current program framework and would love the opportunity to expand on the current event list. I will add more resume building workshops, more networking opportunities for folks in faculties that don’t necessarily have these, and actively work towards creating a safer, more inclusive campus culture for all. Student life is about so much more than course work and I will ensure students are given all the opportunity they need to feel supported and to succeed throughout their university careers.
What do you admire about the current DSU executives?
I have been involved with the DSU for five years now and have honestly loved it more than anywhere I’ve ever worked. The environment is so supportive and inclusive, and I find it amazing being able to share ideas and troubleshoot real issues. I love seeing the current members advocate for the issues they are passionate about and all the work they put in to change the union, to advocate with the university and to fight for the students who don’t necessarily have voices on these governing bodies.
What would you like to see the DSU do differently?
I would like to see more outreach to students who don’t necessarily know how to access their union. I will work towards keeping incoming students engaged in the union past O-Week and to create more events that students want to see. By taking surveys and allowing students more say in the programming their union sets forward, they will see themselves more heavily reflected in the union and be more convinced that the union is on their side.
Surveys and union representatives are not enough when it comes to student outreach. I will host town halls with residences, societies and various community groups on campus to allows students to share concerns, ideas and goals. Having in-person engagement with the executives will help students feel connected with their union and to feel like their voices are being heard and acted on.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest issue on campus right now?
I need to acknowledge here that I am in an extremely privileged position as an able-bodied, non-marginalized person so I cannot speak on behalf of these students, but I will listen and as VPSL I will advocate for all student voices and empower folks to take their own mics and create their own student life. I believe student wellness is an issue that is applicable to all students and student groups.
Students are experiencing extremely high rates of depression and anxiety, are at risk for suicide, addiction and experience food insecurity and poverty. This list of issues is highly stigmatized, hidden under stereotypes and students are not being adequately supported on our campus.
Health and Wellness services are not able to accommodate the volume of students who need help. Despite the restructuring of these services, students still struggle to get the help they need in a timely manner. As Vice President Student Life, I aim to compensate for the areas the University is lacking.
I will address this on a surface level by creating more wellness programming such as peer support groups, workshops surrounding mental health, survivor support and self-care tips. I will create a wellness caucus to unite all students and societies with a wellness-based mandate, to tap into unused to student potential, engage more students and to ensure resources are used efficiently and effectively.
I will create more opportunities for students and societies to educate themselves on mental health first aid, survivor support, bystander intervention, anti-oppression, active listening among others, to equip students to support their peers. This will empower students to bring these ideas back to their communities, challenging stigma and creating a culture shift on campus.
I will create a foundation of community that so many feel they don’t have. I will connect students to ensure they feel supported and have the tools they need to succeed throughout their career at Dalhousie.
I will bring this programming to Sexton and Carleton campus, working with the Dalhousie Agricultural Student Association to support implementing this programming in Truro. I will provide more programming for graduate students who often go overlooked in these issues despite being at higher risk. I will include international students in this programming, by working with the International Student Centre to make this programming more culturally competent and accessible.
On a campus of almost 20,000 students and 300 societies, no one should be feeling alone. I will create a foundation of community to connect students, eliminate loneliness and improve overall student wellness. By increasing community engagement, improving wellness initiatives and creating more personal and professional development opportunities for students, I will make your student life a lot sweeter.
What are your goals if elected?
My goals are to eliminate loneliness, improve overall student wellness and ensure students leave university with more qualifications and positive experiences than just a degree. I will foster an inclusive environment and create a consent culture on our campus.
I will restructure O-Week by faculty, create more opportunities for student artists to perform at concerts and create a wellness caucus to create and improve on wellness initiatives. I will hire a Sexton Student Life Commissioner, to hold guarantees office hours on Sexton every week. I will appoint a Sexton Entertainment Director, a position that has not been appointed in too long.
I will work with the university to create more networking opportunities for faculties that tend to lack these, such as computer science and arts and social sciences. I will create more workshop opportunities for students to acquire the necessary skills to succeed in their lives outside of the classroom.
My goal is to make your student life a lot sweeter.
Why should students vote for you?
Student’s should vote for me because I have the experience and foresight to identify gaps, to fix what isn’t working, to expand on the current framework to include more students and to ensure student voices are being projected to the right allies. I am empathetic, passionate and driven. I am an open ear to any student who needs to share and an advocate to ensure no one stands alone. I have spent five years working with the union and am ready to take on this executive role.
What have you been watching on Netflix lately?
Umbrella Academy! I honestly only started watching this because I saw Ellen Page on The Tonight Show and was so inspired by her, I wanted to support her by checking out her show. But from the sound track to the interesting character development, 10/10 would recommend. It’s a nice little escape from all the real chaos in the world.