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Amina El Himri is a second-year communications student. Photo: Amina El Himri/Provided

El Himri is looking to become the union’s first student services commissioner

This interview is part of our series of articles profiling the executive candidates in the upcoming general elections for the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) that will be held from March 25-27. El Himri is running unopposed. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

The Fulcrum: Tell us a bit about yourself, including your year and program at the U of O.

Amina El Himri: I’m an international student and I’m in my second year of communications. I’m doing a double specialty in organizational communications and digital design and I’ve been part of Campus Vibez uOttawa for a little over a year now as the event coordinator.

The Fulcrum: What previous experience makes you well-suited to be the UOSU’s first student services commissioner?

AEH: I have always been part of clubs ever since I got here in first year. When I came to university I lived in res, so I was my floor representative, so I know exactly how to talk to students, how to come up with solutions for different problems, and I know the feeling of having one’s reputation on the line. 

I’ve been a social representative with the residence students’ association, so there was a lot of event planning and there was also a lot of event running. I was the representative of my floor, so we had weekly meetings trying to discuss different problems and how to approach them, and we made progress, during my year at least.

During the summer, I worked on campus; one of the things I am proud to say I addressed was the fact that residence closed to international students during the summer but now they no longer do. I don’t take full credit for it, but while I was working with the university, I mentioned it multiple times to tell them “hey, that makes international students feel left out.” With my position and being me, I had to represent that minority, which is the international students, because they’re just like other students.

The Fulcrum: Why are you running to be student services commissioner?

AEH: When I was a part of Campus Vibez uOttawa, we used to be a club, and we worked so hard to become a service and then we worked so hard to keep the club system alive this year, especially in the transition from the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa to the UOSU. It really inspired me to feel like we can actually make a change with all the services.

The Fulcrum: The student services commissioner is new this year for the UOSU. In your eyes, what do you see the student services commissioner doing, and why is it an important position to have?

AEH: It’s an important position to have because it is a lot of work. There are many services on campus, and the student services commissioner has to first establish the rules of the services, and to make them more accessible, which is why I root for making them more accessible for students because a lot of students don’t know that the services exist. The student services commissioner must make sure that the services are run in the right way, but also have the visibility that they need —  enough for other students to notice them.

The Fulcrum: What projects or goals do you hope to accomplish if elected to be the UOSU’s student services commissioner?

AEH: I would like to, one, let all the services use their own social media and Instagram accounts because I know right now they don’t run their own social media accounts, apart from a few Facebook pages, but Instagram is a main platform. I want to actually have revised rules of every service and actually know what they do, that way I can promote it and work with the student life commissioner to invite all the students and actually be able to tell them “here, this is exactly what we offer”. 

We could also have a services fair, a monthly fair, just because students can never get enough of the services that we offer them so sometimes it’s better to go to the student instead of waiting for them to come to us. But also to promote mental health. To me, it would be encouraging collaborations amongst services, and brainstorming ideas and events that have the same purpose, which is making mental health on campus so much better, because as we’ve seen this past year, we have lost so many students. It has been super tragic. But it all comes down to the university not being able to do enough, so the first place we should go to are the services students are already paying for, and not really getting the best out of the money they’re paying. So we would be encouraging the right collaborations between services and brainstorming the right ideas to create events that promote mental health.

The Fulcrum: What areas of weakness do you see in the UOSU that you would like to improve on next year?

AEH: I do know that there is a lot of lack of communication. I know this year, then again, it has been a big transition, because now we have a president and we have a few new positions. But also UOSU hasn’t worked on its reputation yet. I know they took advantage of that transition, but they still haven’t communicated with the students yet to tell them “this is what’s different than the SFUO.” So far —  and I would know because with my job at Campus Vibez — we’ve spoken to a lot of clubs, and every single one of them still thinks that UOSU is still the same as SFUO, so I feel like with UOSU we need to gain students’ trust, and also show them what’s different, and what makes UOSU different than SFUO.

The Fulcrum: How do you plan on approaching services and programs aimed at recognized student clubs?

AEH: The UOSU already made a great approach, not to be biased, but even if I wasn’t part of Campus Vibez I would know. One of the biggest changes that UOSU made, which is something that I’m very proud of, is allowing Campus Vibez to be a service and establishing a new club system. That way, the approval of the clubs is only a click away — it’s all online. There is only one form that’s online. Campus Vibez is already doing a lot in terms of that. They are a service here on campus and they’re doing a lot in terms of that, so my role would just be encouraging them, and giving them all the resources that they need, that way they can take care of that. Since we already have a service that’s taking care of this, it only makes sense to just provide them with the resources, that way they keep doing their job.

The Fulcrum: How do you plan on approaching the management of the UOSU’s service centres?

AEH: So basically my first approach would be dividing all the services together, instead of having them all competing. It’s going to be a long process but as I said, communication is key, so I would be talking to the services, knowing what they do and establishing the rules, and then asking them what their issues are. It would just be me listening to them because I have to listen to these services to see what they need to be functioning. So I will sit with the services, listen to them, address the issues, and then do my best to solve them. And of course, it would be with their help that we can come up with a solution that works for everyone, but it has to be me sitting with services first and actually talking to them because I need to listen to these services instead of just reading the constitution, which doesn’t really tell me much about the reality of the situation.

The Fulcrum: Why should students vote for you?

AEH: I’m a student just like any other student. As much as this position is of power, I don’t see it like that. It’s a responsibility, and that means students trust me. So I think students should vote for me because I have lived through a service. I know the reality, I know what it’s like not having services that are very accessible, and they should vote for me because I would always do my best, and I would always listen to them before I make any decisions. And it’s because I’m working for them. I am there for them.