Ethan Camarena is a third-year public administration and political science student at the U of O. Photo: Ethan Camarena/Facebook
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This interview is part of our series of articles profiling the candidates for the University of Ottawa’s Board of Governors undergraduate student representative seat in the upcoming election that will be held from June 2-4. The University will email a ballot to students who are eligible to vote in the election and will announce the results on June 5. All eight candidates were asked the same set of questions for consistency. Answers have been edited for length and clarity. These questions were answered via Facebook.

The Fulcrum: Can you give me, in a couple of sentences, a short description of yourself?

Ethan Camarena: My name is Ethan Camarena and I’m a third-year public administration and political science student. I’m an active volunteer, project advisor to a nonprofit, and construction supervisor currently working on Parliament Hill! 

I truly care about helping others and I want to do everything I can to make students’ experiences better in any way possible, just as former U of O students did for me years ago!

The Fulcrum: Why are you running for a seat on the BOG?

EC: I’m running for the undergraduate student seat on the Board of Governors because I want every student to feel as if the University of Ottawa was built just for them and their needs! To start this process, I want to increase communication, collaboration, and participation between the board and students. For details of my platform and how I’ve already been committing to my words, see my Instagram @voteethan!

The Fulcrum: What previous experience do you think will help you in this role?

EC: From working in construction for six and a half years, three of them as a supervisor, I’ve learned how to accomplish goals within a given time frame (such as a term of two years), how to stand up for what’s right at all times, no matter the expense (as is needed when voting on matters regarding students), and most of all, how to work extremely hard (which is especially  needed for this position if someone truly wants to make a difference).

Having started my own business, and almost a second one, as well as managing a non-profit over several years, I’ve learned how to:

  • Work with others of different backgrounds, which is necessary when being part of a board representing so many parties.
  • Look at any problem and know there’s a possibility of solving it, making it just a matter of not giving up. Problem solving is vital to overcoming student challenges.
  • Dedicate myself completely to my passions, which have always been about helping others. A strong passion for student success is needed for this role.

Having been involved with the university since 2013 in several different aspects, I now have a comprehensive understanding of the university’s services and ideas of student success.

Lastly, having gone through post-secondary school, and life afterwards by working full time, I understand the challenges students can face post-graduation and how a university can best prepare students for their future.

The Fulcrum: In your own words, what is the role of the student rep on the BOG?

EC: The role of the student rep on the BOG is very multifaceted but, to simply understand it, it is someone who works for and with the student body to ensure their shared challenges are overcome together through initiatives or decisions based on students’ best interests.

The Fulcrum: Can you talk about your plans to make campus a better place?

EC: My first step to making the university better for all students involves increasing communication and collaboration between the board and students and making student politics more interesting, thereby increasing voter turnout.

Communication and collaboration is important for all students as, throughout the past two years I’ve been a student, I’ve never been asked or contacted by anyone on the Board about my opinions or ideas regarding issues that affect me. This is a problem because this shows that either the Board or student representatives are not doing everything they can to appropriately represent the student body. As a result, this makes the university less effective and efficient. 

Participation is important because if students don’t vote, only a small portion of the largest body of individuals affected by any decision the BOG makes is the most underrepresented.

These areas could even act as catalysts for underlying problems students face today like mental wellness, environmental sustainability, and more.

As these aspects are being addressed, I will be advocating for a safer university, ensuring everyone can be safe while students study or staff come to work during this pandemic. I will make sure that, whether we can return to campus fully or not this fall term, we still receive the highest degree of education and learning. I will also make sure that mental wellness, environmental sustainability, human rights, and other important issues are being progressed on by working with other students who are passionate about solving our everyday problems!

The Fulcrum: Can you talk about what you’ll do to address the U of O’s mental health crisis on the BOG?

EC: This past year has been one of the most tragic for the U of O community and it cannot happen again. To address this issue, core issues related to mental wellness have to be identified and to do this, a survey must be conducted with the student body. Once the results reveal what these issues are, either improvements to, or the creation of, new services must be implemented. But even before that, we must survey to see which direction may best suit students. 

Collaboration is going to be key if we are to fix this problem. Mental health affects everyone of all ages, but we cannot assume others’ experiences are similar to those of our own university students and community. The only way we can get through this and not let it happen again, is together.

The Fulcrum: Will you advocate for lowering tuition fees?

EC: Yes. However events pan out over the next few months, it is inevitable that as a university, we will not be able to fully deliver all the same experiences to students because of health and safety precautions. This will mean less or no in person lectures, less or no discussion groups, and less or no in person time spent with professors or teaching assistants.

The Fulcrum: Will you push for accountability and the public release of the report on the Wiliston Mason carding incident?

EC: Yes. How Wiliston Mason’s carding was treated, the night he was just trying to enter his own residence, is intolerable. The university needs to act on incidents like this immediately, showing that they stand behind students and that such behaviour by any university personnel or contractors will not go without consequences. No students should ever come onto campus feeling afraid, mistrustful, or attacked by anyone, especially by those who are responsible for our safety.

The Fulcrum: Why should students vote for you?

EC: If, as a student, you’ve ever felt like your voice isn’t being heard or if you’ve ever felt like you’re just a number, I know how you feel. And because of this, I will listen to you, I will work with and for you, and I will fight for you every step along the way because no student at this university should ever feel that way. If you want change, then vote this Board of Governors election because there’s never been a time where your voice has been needed more!