Less than a month after resigning from her position as representative for students with disabilities on the Dalhousie Student Union council, Mary MacDonald announced she was running for DSU president.
The following interview with her has been lightly edited for clarity.
Why did you decide to run for president?
I was a little concerned about some procedures that I saw during the past year. I felt that things were being rushed through and given the stamp of approval very rapidly without consultation with stakeholders, the primary group of which the student body. So I was concerned about that, and I thought I might be able to contribute to better governance of the DSU. I have a business background academically, and many of the things that were of interest to me and my business program were relevant to some of the deficiencies I see at the DSU
What is your academic business background?
I completed a masters program in business administration at Dalhousie. So I focused on stakeholder relationships and corporate social responsibility and I see some of the principles that I studied to be relevant to some of the problems that I’ve identified at the DSU and their method of practice of governance.
What are those problems?
We have the problem of a very low turnout of students who for whatever reasons are disengaged from the electoral process. That is not a positive situation for good governance. And I felt that the DSU should pay closer attention to the fact that there is such low voter turnout amongst students, and that they should be mindful of that. In particular, when you see situations where, in my opinion, motions and resolutions were sort of very rushed through council and where I think broader consultation should have been taken place.
I was somewhat troubled by a special resolution that was passed, I believe it was in October. I realize that feelings were running high about the issues and I’m not disputing that these things took place. But I was mindful of the fact that the content of the resolution was making certain allegations. Just to give you an example, we were being asked as councillors to approve a motion, or a resolution, about facts and allegations that we did not have direct knowledge of. Unless we were directly privy to the information and the allegations that were set forth, it was hearsay for most of us. I was not about to vote in favour of a resolution that for purposes of my information was based on hearsay. So that was problematic to me.
What was the resolution?
The resolution was demanding apologies from various administrators at the university. And I had no direct knowledge of the allegations that were set forth in that resolution. And during the debate on the resolution, I suggested that some of these folks that were being demanded an apology from, I suggested inviting them to council to express their perspective on things, and that was just completely shot down. So that’s one example of problematic things that I thought about, that I observed at council.
What do you think you can bring to the role of president?
Well, I would like to put my best effort into improving relationships with administration, to begin. I would like to consider meaningful ways to engage more students in the electoral process. I would like to find ways to elicit and to encourage consultation with students on matters that affect the student body. And I’d also like to say that I am doing this from a non-partisan perspective. I’m not a member of any political party, and I’m not pushing a political party’s agenda.
You’ve butted heads with other councillors in the past. How do you anticipate working with them?
I don’t foresee any problem. I don’t have any animosity toward them. So I don’t foresee a problem with that.
What is one of your goals if elected president?
I’d like to give equal attention to all marginalized groups. I found in the university’s diversity strategy that they released that there was little if any mention of people with disabilities. So I’d like to make it more equitable.
How do you see yourself advocating for other marginalized people?
Well I certainly can’t speak on their behalf. I would ask for their input and their guidance on issues directly affecting them.