KSU Election 2022: External VP Candidate Overviews

Two people are running for external vice-president: Anna Carsley-Jones and Natalia Tola.

The external vice-president runs campaigns for the union around issues such as tuition hikes, and represents the KSU in the Canadian Federation of Students. Candidates are listed by order of first name.

Editor’s note: due to an error, we have to confirm the pronouns and program of both candidates. We apologize to the reader and both candidates for the inconvenience.

Anna Carsley-Jones

Q: What experiences equipped you for this position?

A: I’m currently a resident representative [on the residence council]… We haven’t had a lot of meetings but I applied for that position because I really wanted to be someone that people can come to, and someone who can advocate on behalf of the people I’m living around. I’ve had lots of different volunteer experiences with different groups around Ottawa, which is where I’m from, just working in grassroots community environments, working on learning how to improve communities and make communities more equitable.

Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue for students on campus, and what do you plan to do to fix it?

A: I think an issue that has really stood out in general but especially this year, is a lack of mental health support at King’s. I think a lot of students are struggling with mental illness. Our age group, in general, is just experiencing a mental health crisis because we live within what I believe is an unsustainable society as a whole system.

A lot of people are suffering and don’t feel supported and I think I’ve heard for many people in my first year at King’s, and many other students [from] different years, that although there are a few great staff at King’s who are there and who really care about students, overall the support that students have for mental health issues isn’t enough.

What I’m planning to do about that is to enter into dialogue with the support staff that we currently have, like the sexual health and safety officer, the equity officer and the students support advisor, Ashley Nixon, who’s the assistant dean of residence, and Katie Merwin, [dean of students] and figure out how using the feedback and criticisms that I’ve gotten from students, how I can work with staff to actually implement different programs, different workshops, different full-time staff positions of people that will be there constantly to support students.

Q: What is one thing you have done at King’s to improve the lives of students?

A: As a first-year, I haven’t had much opportunity to be in any real positions of support to students, but given my first few months here, I really have tried to seek out the different resources that are currently available at King’s and Dalhousie and [I am] trying to really share those resources with my fellow students.

Making sure my friends know where to go to have counselling; walking my friends to the different offices in the building where, for example, the sexual health and safety officer works. So I think, within my limited position of power as a first-year, I’ve just tried to make sure that everyone knows where they can go and that students are aware that they aren’t alone, and that they can reach out for help, even though our systems are flawed, that they do exist.

Q: So what do you feel is like the best way to bring the voices of marginalized students to the union? What would you do to help connect with students and get them the support they need?

A: I think the best way is to just listen to them… I think they just haven’t been made to feel as comfortable and confident within an academic setting as students who aren’t marginalized by society in those ways, and so they haven’t been in positions of power within council and within the student union. Their voices haven’t been listened to. I myself, as a disabled student, and a mentally ill student … think that I would be able to bring some of those perspectives to the union and also make sure that myself and other members of the union are asking questions that need to be asked about our school.

How can our school be more anti-racist? How can we decolonize King’s? How can we make it more trauma-informed and adaptable learning environments for students who have historically and presently been kind of othered by academic institutions?”

Natalia Tola

Q: What experiences equipped you for this position?

A: The reason why I became a journalist was to tell the stories of people and to just explain how they’re much more than stories. In my case, that means talking about the stories of communities that I’ve been part of like BIPOC communities, and just show how there’s so much to learn and so much we can work on as a collective in order to create an inclusive community.

So for example, I’ve had an equity officer internship at King’s. It was a very big thing my first year. I’m also the King’s international student ambassador. So I have a lot of experience dealing with big crowds and knowing how to address the difficult questions about university.

I’m also part of the activist group for illegal migrants called No One Is Illegal Halifax. I am also a [Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group] board member, which is this coalition partner with King’s. I’ve also been an Angels’ Roost junior don. So I think that I’ve been connected with those activist communities, which is essential. I’ve also really been connected with students as a junior don. King’s was really my first home [in] Canada. I really care about this community. I really, really believe that having voices of minorities could really make a change to the community and just truly show how important it is to learn from people with this.

Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue for students on campus, and what do you plan to do to fix it?

A: One of the problems right now is that it’s very easy to just think about student issues and assume they’re all the same, or that they’re all experienced the same way. For instance, something that’s really a priority for me is improving mental and sexual health resources on campus. I think that it’s really important to keep specializing them and to keep improving them to be able to suit the experiences [of] more students rather than the university just treating them like a number, but rather that their individual nature is being considered. I really want to stress consideration of queer, non-binary and trans individuals.

I really want to make sure that students know that there’s actually not one issue but many and that they will be treated separately and they will be considered individually. I want to make sure that I bring unheard voices forward. One of the most exciting parts about external VP is working [with] a bigger board of student organizations around the province.

I want to make sure that I will be able to bring individual plans and individual voices because they actually form part of larger trends. I want to improve existing resources for mental and sexual health on campus.

I want to work on self-defense workshops. Something I’m really stressing in my campaign is anti-racism. I’m really running for our presentation politics. I think those are all a focus of my campaign to specialize and expand and to truly make every student feel like King’s is their home, and they will be heard as though they were family.

Q: What is one thing you have done at King’s to improve the lives of students?

A: I think something that I’ve been able to greatly contribute to as a student don is [to] truly help students during the pandemic, and just kind of help them to combat this feeling of extreme isolation that we had back in 2020 and 2021. I think that just being present, that was truly what was most important to me, to have these individual connections where I made sure that students’ problems as freshmen were being heard.

I think that [I had] all forms of connections as a student don with students like me [where] English wasn’t [their] first language. I think that was really wonderful. That made me want to run for political positions. I think that everything that I’ve been able to participate in is kind of an intersection of politics, especially when it comes to international students. 

Right now, there’s a committee with King’s executives and some KSU members, to talk about the differential fee for international students. I was invited to participate as an international student representative… and to tell them about how, as an international student, my experience is different and to help them to use these anecdotal experiences to create internationalization points. I’ve liked it so much that I’m even considering going into social work, because I think there’s just so much to be done.”

Q:  So what do you feel is like the best way to bring the voices of marginalized students to the union? What would you do to help connect with students and get them the support they need?

A: Something that I really want to work on is to create more communication channels. I think there’s something really wonderful about King’s that I always stress as an international ambassador, it’s that in King’s there is truly support wherever you look. You have student dorms, you have peer support, you have resources at Dalhousie, you have online platforms to help you to connect with professionals for mental health.

I think that often, these resources are just so much at first, so overwhelm[ing] that you really want to make sure that it’s more centralized and more clear, and that students are just certain about where to find things that are specific to them. It has to go beyond being a banner in the bathroom. I think that students should be as aware of these resources as they are of the places on campus…the cafeteria, the library. I think that would make the biggest difference.

So we really want to make sure that as my role as external VP, I appear as accessible as possible, that I appear as approachable as possible and other channels of communication where someone in residence can speak to me and they don’t have to wait a week in my inbox.

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