Name: Jad Sinno
Hometown: Halifax, immigrated with family in 2004. Before that grew up in Kuwait City, but is of Lebanese origin
Program: Combined honours in neuroscience and statistics with a minor in philosophy
Relevant experience: First and foremost, I’ve served on student societies for three years of my undergraduate degree. I currently serve on the DSU executive as well, and I also worked alongside the current VPAE John Hutton over the summer. I serve on the external advocacy committee that John also chairs, so I think I’ve been fairly well exposed to how the VP Academic runs usually within the DSU.
Why are you running for this position?
I’m running for this position because I think that there is potential for the DSU to better it relations with its students and advocate more effectively on behalf of students. I think that given the nature of the experience I have, John has set it up very well in the past year to allow the next VP Academic & External to strive forward. I’m running, hopefully, in order to address some of the key issues that students are having, but more importantly in order to equip students with the ability to advocate on their own behalves as well, which I also find very important.
What do you want to continue that John has already started?
I would like to specialize both the academic and external committees which he split last year and figure out how that’ll work into the Senate caucus. So, increasing the student representation (work) that he has done is great. I think that the university in general has started to look at the recommendations in the BAC report, and I think so much of it has yet to be addressed. I think the university might be dropping the ball on that end, and something that John started to do but never followed through would be holding the university accountable for the recommendations that they put up because ultimately these reports are just recommendations and the university doesn’t actually have to follow through with them. If we want to achieve a safer campus, a better environment and just an overall better institution, we as students need to make sure the university does that.
How could the DSU engage more students in its advocacy efforts?
I think the DSU has traditionally done a sort of open door policy and they’ve tried to make this policy more accessible to students. I think it’s still a fundamentally flawed logic. So, for example, some of the executive have gone to Sexton campus and held office hours. I think this is still problematic on some level because what’s happening is you’re not reaching out to the Sexton students, you simply open your door for people to come and reach out to you and I think here is the difference. If elected, I would make at least the A&E group be more proactive. We would go and engage with students and we would go to their meetings and see what issues they are facing and then offer our resources. I think the DSU has dropped the ball on some key issues, for example in the past year the library budget crisis became so large and so overwhelming that the DSU didn’t engage with it until it became so large that they simply released a statement. I think that’s problematic, so better student engagement means a proactive union.
What advocacy efforts from this year do you believe were most effective?
The most effective for sure was increasing student representation on Senate. It was such a long shot, it was something people didn’t think was going to happen, and then having achieved that is absolutely a tremendous effort. Now that we’ve tripled our representation of students on Senate we can really start to advocate for issues that students are facing and we have greater representation across all faculties.
Do you believe the DSU should join any external advocacy groups? What one(s)?
It’s a case-by-case basis. I think that the Dalhousie Student Union ought to advocate on behalf of all students and our students may or may not be divided on some cases, so it would be incorrect for the Student Union to join an advocacy group unless we had some sort of consensus or unanimous agreement across our students. In that case, if the union isn’t able to join an external advocacy group, I think the DSU is more than capable to facilitate our students joining those groups. I think whether or not we have a subset of students or student societies that might want to be a part of an external advocacy group or be able to work with, the Union is more than capable to liaise between the two of them. I think it might be fundamentally problematic for the Union to join an advocacy group that perhaps the students don’t agree with. As an institution that’s representing 20,000 students, our actions ought to be accountable to all 20,000 students.
What is your reaction to recent proposals that tuition in some faculties will be raised more than 18% over three years?
I think this is absurd. I’ve proposed different actions in order to raise awareness. I think the external advocacy group this year has really, really tried to reach out to the university and our efforts are currently in place. If they don’t work, if the budget does passes for this year, it’s on the next VP A&E to work alongside the government to try and remediate these issues. I think if we aren’t successful, we really ought to continue that push, whether it is to work with the university to lobby the government or vice versa. I think on some level the students need to speak up and there’s a few ways to do that.
What do you think of John’s performance this year?
I think they’ve been great, I think John’s been really effective in his job. With any individual who only has one year to do something, you’re limited by whoever came before you. They obviously had different plans in mind and different projects they were working on. I think when John got into office, he tried his best to be able to set the Union on track to achieve some really good things and I think he’s been really effective having hosted multiple panels, multiple conferences. He’s also been very efficient in increasing student representation as we know, and his efforts in tuition have consistently been effective. I think most importantly, the work he’s done for the elections this season have been really good.