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Keith de Silvia-Legault (left) is a third-year political science student at the U of O. Photo: Keith de Silvia-Legault/Provided

de Silvia-Legault aims to improve mental health services at the U of O while fighting to lower tuition.

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. 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 introduce yourself in a couple of sentences?

Keith de Silvia-Legault: I’ll be going into my third year of political science in September. I’d say my biggest passion at the moment is shining light and trying to solve the mental health crisis at the University of Ottawa.

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

KdSL: My main reason (for running) is like many other students, I was horrified at the fact that six suicides occurred at the U of O during the 2019-2020 school year. As someone who faces mental health issues myself, I, unfortunately, wasn’t surprised, because it is generally a struggle to find the proper resources at the U of O, and it needs to improve. 

My major fear is that with the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that classes will, at least, partially be going online in the fall semester, the mental health crisis worsens. So I decided to run for the BOG to improve the U of O’s mental health services from an institutional standpoint. 

This is why throughout my campaign I’ve been trying to share my story, and I’m trying to encourage others to share their experiences trying to find help within the U of O’s resources. 

I am myself bipolar, and I’ve been trying my very best to be very open about that with the hope that other people who are in my situation aren’t afraid to come forward with their stories, because frankly my experience trying to find help within the U of O’s resources has left me feeling absolutely futile, and I don’t want anyone else to have that feeling of futility.

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

KdSL:  When it comes to experience, in high school, I was on multiple youth councils with local MP and MPP’s. In University, I haven’t been too involved in student government. 

However, where I do have plenty of experience in is dealing with the current mental health services, and dealing with the feeling of frustration that comes with wait times of multiple months. I feel like my drive to fix these frustrations will help make the U of O go from one of the worst schools in terms of mental health services to one of the best.

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

KdSL: I’d say the student rep on the BOG represents the undergraduate student body’s interests to the administration essentially. The rep has the responsibility to voice students’ opinions when it comes to every decision being made by the U of O. I’d make sure that if I won, my voting would be based off what the student body wants, and I’d make sure to be in constant communication with student leaders and have an open line of communication with all student associations.

The Fulcrum: Can you talk about how your plan will make campus a better place?

KdSL: My platform has three main points for improving campus, and campus life as a whole.

  1. Improving the mental health services by making existing services more accessible and having a campus-wide campaign to raise awareness for existing services. As well as advocating for the hiring of more psychiatrists and counsellors while also extending the hours of the mental health clinic (and regular clinic) to help reduce wait times.
  2. In the situation that classes are fully online in the fall semester advocating for a restructuration of tuition prices, with the overall goal of temporarily decreasing tuition prices for however long students are limited to online learning.
  3. And finally, advocating for a cleaner campus as in more frequent bathroom and garbage maintenance. Also if the campus is at least partially open during the pandemic, ensuring that all surfaces on campus are frequently and thoroughly cleaned.

The Fulcrum: Will you advocate for lowering tuition fees?

KdSL: When it comes to the current COVID-19 pandemic, students shouldn’t be expected to pay full price for online education.

I will advocate for an overall lowering of tuition fees, once we are out of the woods from the COVID-19 crisis, but that will be a much harder fish to fry.

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

KdSL: I definitely will be advocating for better sensitivity training when it comes to our protection services. Not only has there been the Wiliston Mason carding incident, but there have been multiple cuffing incidents towards students with mental health issues as well. I’d definitely push for the release of that report.

The Fulcrum: Finally, Why should students vote for you over the other candidates?

KdSL: If elected, I will push hard to improve the situation of mental health on campus. I personally believe that the mental health of students should be held above or at least on par with academics. My goal is to limit as much as possible the number of students who feel lost when looking for help within the U of O’s resources.