GSA candidates campaign for a second mandate

Four out of five of this year’s candidates in the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) election are running for re-election, and all are uncontested. Eric Hitsman, Jenna Amirault, Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Jay Ramasubramanyam, and Taylor Howarth make up this year’s single slate: Grads United.

Eric Hitsman, running for the role of GSA president, is the current vice-president (operations). He said he feels his current role has prepared him to take on more responsibility.   

“This role is not necessarily to take over . . . it’s about working with your team, your people,” he said.

This year, Hitsman said he wants to focus on keeping students involved, promoting safe spaces for students and creating opportunities for Indigenous representation. He added he hopes to find solutions to the challenges brought by rising tuition fees.

Hitsman also said he wants to lobby for the establishment of a committee in Parliament to represent post-secondary students.

“As a team, we can work to fight against the injustices that senior administration is imposing on students,” Hitsman said. 

Jenna Amirault, the current vice-president (external), is also running for re-election. This year, she said she hopes to show solidarity with the Canadian Union for Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4600, following the recent negotiations with the university. Amirault said she also hopes to see more student representation on the Board of Governors 

“Student input is not always taken into account,” she said, and added she wants to work with other groups on campus that have faced repression and mediate issues that faced controversy, such as the Sexual Violence Policy.

Amirault said she also hopes to work with other Ontario graduates to negotiate with Green Shield, the health and dental insurance company that provides the GSA’s health plan coverage, in order to lower health plan fees

Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, the GSA’s current president, is running for the role of vice-president (operations). Her campaign is based on several goals, including establishing Indigenous and racialized students’ committees and creating a sexual assault outreach position.

“These students still feel uncomfortable getting involved,” she said. “This would be a great opportunity for these students to organize amongst themselves and have a voice on campus.”

In order to increase graduate representation on campus, Owusu-Akyeeah said she wants to build a councillor binder that includes information and basic instructions on how to bring a motion and debate.

“We want to start by encouraging students to seek out the GSA as a resource,” she said.

Jay Ramasubramanyam is running for vice-president (academic). As an international student, his campaign focuses on making safe spaces for those with similar experiences.

“I know what international students face, especially international grad students,” he said. Ramasubramanyam also noted that his own life, as well as that of many other students, has been impacted in the recent political movements originating from the United States.

“I want to have some sort of a conversation to try to mitigate the consequences that these right-wing values will have,” he said.  

Ramasubramanyam said he thinks it’s important to hear about the underlying issues that graduate students face, and wants to bridge that gap. He added he hopes to offer more support for graduate student parents and increase the number of library journals.

Taylor Howarth, the current vice-president (finance), is hoping to maintain this position in the coming year. She said she wants to promote more grants and awards for students, like the GSA’s recently created childcare grant.

Howarth added she also wants to further improve graduate mental health services and Mike’s Place, Carleton’s graduate student-run pub.

“There is so much that we do . . . but there is so much more that we can do,” Howarth said.

Graduate students can vote for the new GSA executive on March 21-23 at polling stations around campus. Graduate students will also be voting in a referendum to raise the cost of their health plan by $20.

– Photo of Eric Hitsman by Irene Galea