Name: Amr ElKhashab
Age: 25 years old
Hometown: I was born in Egypt to an Egyptian father and Turkish mother, but I was raised in Nigeria. I came to Canada for school. I was in a program in Egypt that was in partnership with Cape Breton University, I went for one semester and then transferred to Dalhousie in September 2013.
Program: Public Management / Public Administration
Relevant experience: My experience is in two parts. The first part is with Dalhousie International Students Association (DISA). I have been the President for the past year-and-a-half. The second part, being the president of DISA, I’m also the international students’ representative on the DSU council. This year, I was a member of the Society Review Committee and the External Advocacy Committee.
Why are you running for this position?
As I said, I worked with the Society Review Committee and have been able to understand what the DSU’s role in relation to the operation of societies is. Going back to my experience with DISA, we’ve done something completely different: DISA was operating as a separate entity, but we were completely isolated for all the cultural and international societies on campus. I changed the constitution of DISA. I made the council open for any cultural society on campus to appoint a representative with equal rights and votes with executives. We have opened all the resources of DISA to the societies. We’ve had a lot of active societies this year: we started seven new ones, and we’ve had a cultural night every Friday for this entire year. We showcase a different culture on campus: we bring food, some performances. We usually get around 150 to 170 students. This year, we’ve had more international student galas than any other year in Dalhousie’s history. We have a lot going on with the cultural community: they needed the resources, and we’ve provided them, making sure that all the cultural societies are active and successful at the same time.
I believe that I can do the same thing with the DSU. There are so many resources on campus when it comes to societies, but I feel every society is operating on their own island, and doesn’t know what other societies are up to. That needs to change. We can help societies make a monthly newsletter to be sent to DSU members. We need to sit societies together and make sure that there is no overlap—and if there is overlap, we can work on bringing societies together to make them bigger and more successful. Communication between societies is a big, big thing. The DSU needs to be very active and present with societies, for several reasons. First of all to make societies active, and secondly because we cannot fight tuition recession on our own: we need every single group on campus, we need them in the conversation to figure out how we can actually fight this. We need to not just include the big, faculty societies: we need to include everyone present on all campuses. This can be done, we just need to bring societies together.
I feel there is a huge underrepresentation of STEM students within the DSU. I think these students’ needs are different from any other group on campus, their needs are academic: conferences, publishing papers, access to library resources. I feel that these needs haven’t been addressed. I think the DSU can do a lot better. For example, if you want to go to a conference and you apply to the DSU, you get $100. That wouldn’t cover anything. Dalhousie science students have been doing tremendous work. I know a biology student who got the first place in a presentation somewhere in Boston, and she applied to the DSU for a grant and couldn’t get anything. I feel that STEM students’ needs and wants are not represented – it’s not the DSU is ignoring STEM students. They aren’t aware of their specific needs. I come from a scientific background, I studied medicine before coming here. I see there is a gap between the DSU and this group of students, and I feel this needs to be mended. I believe if they want to publish a paper they should be able to. If they are invited to present the paper they published, they have every right to go there. As much as this is somehow an individual academic experience, they are representing Dalhousie. This needs to be focused on.
How would you communicate with student societies?
First of all, I’m planning to be on every levied society’s council, just to be there to communicate what the DSU is up to, answer any questions on how the DSU can help and to connect societies with similar ideas. Secondly, there has been a lot of remarks that the DSU doesn’t answer emails—there’s going to be someone dedicated to answering emails, there will be a response within 24 hours. The Tiger Society website: that is going to be removed because it costs way too much – close to $15,000 – and there’s so much clutter, it isn’t updated regularly. It’s just too complicated.
Also, the campus booking system. We’ve had so much trouble dealing with three different entities to organize one event. It’s too complicated for us to operate and it was implemented halfway through the semester. It needs to be streamlined: there needs to be one form to fill out, and whatever happens needs to happen behind closed doors, that’s the DSU’s job. If I win, this will be adjusted within the first six to eight weeks, and taken care of before the new students come in September.
What will you do to enhance the student experience of marginalized groups on campus?
We’ve opened the resources of DISA to make sure that everyone is involved, to make sure that all cultures are represented equally at Dalhousie. I will make sure that marginalized students are represented everywhere, I will make sure that the campus is a safe environment for every student. The DSU is a public service organization, this is a place where students come together and not a place meant to divide students. We will make sure that all students are represented and included in everything that the DSU does.
How would you improve this year’s communications with students?
The number one thing is email responses. There is going to be accessible advertising. Everyone on the Studley campus is aware of the DSU and the Student Union Building, and what goes on there. But we have Carleton and Sexton students, and they don’t know what’s going on. I think we need to have screens in places where students hang out that provide them information on what is happening and where.
For example, South House. South House has immense potential to access Sexton’s campus. They can have a representative go there with all they have to offer, and talk to the students about their services. That’s the main problem for the students at Sexton and Carleton: they don’t know what’s happening. I know a student from Sexton who has been a student at Dalhousie for a year and a half now: two weeks ago he came to the SUB and was asking what the Loaded Ladle line was. He’s been here for three semesters and he didn’t know. A service like this needs to be advertised: there is free food on campus! The main barrier is accessible information.
How Twitter-savvy are you?
Not very much. I have a private Twitter account and use it about every six weeks or so.
What do you think of Kaitlynne’s performance this year?
I think her performance has been great. She started the on-campus Sexual Harassment & Violence hotline – and I think she made history. She’s worked really closely with the societies, I think she was more accessible than previous executives in her positon. Also, I truly appreciate her trying to bring presence to societies on Sexton with the Sexton Society Fair. She really has tried. She supported us in DISA, we’ve never had any problems with her accommodating our needs. I think she was a really good VPI.