Heffron wishes to make first years experience better and to change up the U of O mental health system for the better
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?
Quinn Heffron: I am a political science student and I will be going into my third-year in the fall. As a passionate student, I would like the opportunity to create change that will meaningfully impact the lives of all students on campus. With my experience in governance bodies in the past, I hope to bring the student voice to the table.
The Fulcrum: Why are you running for a seat on the BOG?
QH: I am running for the Board of Governors because I feel that the university has fallen behind the needs of students in almost every capacity and that there needs to be strong leaders from the student body to present the issues and propose solutions that purposely influence change.
As students, we need to make the changes we want to see. We cannot afford to wait for promised solutions that will never come to fruition. The lives of students are at stake.
As someone who has and continues to manage my mental health, I cannot imagine the struggle of those who can’t properly acquire the help they need to live a healthy and happy life. Students need someone who is not afraid to speak up, and to acquire real progress in achieving change for students at the U of O, I believe I am this person.
The Fulcrum: What previous experience do you think will help you in this role?
QH: In terms of experience, I was the Student Council President for my high school as well as the Vice-Chair and Youth Representative on the Culture, Parks, and Recreation Committee for my hometown of Okotoks, Alta.
Further, I have been a Parliamentary Assistant for an MP in the House of Commons. I believe these experiences give me the knowledge of how to work with institutions and how to properly get policies changed in order to make concrete solutions that actually solve problems.
The Fulcrum: In your own words, what is the role of the student rep on the BOG?
QH: The role of the student rep on the BOG is that of ensuring the voice and perspective of students is taken into consideration on EVERY budgetary and policy decision at the University of Ottawa.
It is to fight for what students deserve and to make sure the money they pay to attend this university is properly managed and spent on the students. Most importantly, it is to properly communicate and consult with the students you represent in order to be able to take the change students actually want to see occur.
The Fulcrum: Can you talk about what your plan is to make campus a better place?
QH: My platform consists of 6 main categories:
1. Improving the quality of mental health services on campus in order to reduce and solve the crisis we have on campus. As a student rep, along with pushing for much more funding, I would introduce a mandated yearly increase in funding to mental health to ensure services are being maintained to meet the needs of students. As well as increased mental health training for CAs in residences to increase awareness and to stop preventable mental health issues for students.
2. Improve the housing situations of students. I would like to see a community-university program to be made in order to facilitate a better way for students to find off-campus housing in such a crowded marketplace. Also, to replace the mattresses in residences every 5 years in order to give students a good sleep and to maintain hygiene.
3. Explore the idea of creating an express system within the school to acquire doctor’s notes in order to reduce the strain on the system for students actually needing to see a doctor. Introduce monthly mental health info sessions to decrease the stigma around mental health and so that students can better self-recognized symptoms and reach out for help
4. To increase the collaboration of university governing bodies to ensure a collective response to contemporary issues, preventative policy for future issues, campus planning, campus inclusivity, student tuition costs, housing costs, and mental health.
5. Improve the quality of the self-serve area in the student cafeteria by providing a multitude of ingredients and cooking materials that are in good condition.
6. To address the concerns of COVID 19 on the university’s operations like housing, the cafeteria, study areas, physical activity centres, and online modes of instruction.
The Fulcrum: Can you talk about what you’ll do to address the U of O’s mental health crisis on the BOG?
QH: To set a mandated yearly increase to mental health services by the university in order to ensure students’ needs are appropriately met.
Increased mental health training for CAs (Community Advisors and Coordinators) in residences in order to stop preventable mental health issues for students.
Increase the quality and quantity of university gymnasiums and extend their hours of operation to better student health and useability.
Lower the maximum amount of exams during a 24-hour period to decrease the academic stress on students.
The Fulcrum: Will you advocate for lowering tuition fees?
QH: In light of COVID 19, I would push for lower tuition as students cannot access all of what we had before as well as it is now up to us to teach ourselves, rather than a prof taking the time in class. The situation is not the same, so why would tuition be!
Fulcrum: Will you push for more accountability and the public release of the report on the Wiliston Mason carding incident?
QH: One of my three pillars for my platform is transparency. I would with no reservations push for the publication of the report. I believe students deserve to know what is happening on their campus and how the university will address the issues found in the report.
The Fulcrum: Finally, Why should students vote for you over the other candidates?
QH: I believe I present solutions to issues that can work in practice and can be agreed upon by students and the university. It is always a balancing act when trying to get what you want while creating impactful change from such a big institution. I have had many experiences where I have had to stand up for what I believe in and not take no for an answer. I understand that I represent more than myself while sitting on the Board of Governors, I hold the weight of every student at the University of Ottawa while influencing change. I hope that the students will place their confidence in me come election time.