Shila Avissa fights for rights of marginalized student populations
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
Shila Avissa is a Member-at-large of the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) representative committee. In her interview with the Other Press, Avissa talks about her role, the issues important to her, and how she got her start in student politics.
Could you explain for us your role as Member-at-large at the DSU? What duties does this include?
There are currently three Members-at-large, and our mandated role is to assist the Constituency Liaisons (Pride, Women’s, Aboriginal, and Disabilities Representatives) with their events and duties. We are also responsible for making sure all events, campaigns, and tablings done by the DSU go smoothly. I make sure I’m present at our film screenings, free food days, tablings, and [other events] to promote our campaigns and to provide more information for our members regarding the DSU. We’re also responsible for keeping all message boards on both campuses clean and organized.
When did you start being interested in student politics at the DSU?
I got to know the DSU last year when I was working for the Women’s Centre as we did quite a few events collaboratively. Through this opportunity, I got to know the students’ union, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), and student politics better. Let’s just say I was definitely very inspired by their work and the things they believe in. In addition to that, I thought it is extremely important for this college’s student union to have at least one international student representative, especially since the college has such a large international student population. I was also interested in supporting the roles of Constituency Liaisons, to fight for the rights of marginalized students at Douglas College. Because of this, as a queer woman of colour and an international student, I decided to run for the position. I’m so proud to say that this year’s Board of Elected Representatives has two international students and comprises of such a diverse group of folks.
How has working with the DSU affected your life? Have you found it helpful in other aspects of your daily life?
Working here has definitely changed my life. I became more involved politically. I also have become more aware of the struggles that students experience, from skyrocketing tuition fees to systemic and institutionalized oppression. I definitely became more passionate in, together with the DSU, CFS, and post-secondary students all across Canada, to create change. So, yes, this experience has definitely created a positive impact on me.
If you could change one thing at Douglas College, what would it be?
I would like to see Douglas College pay more attention to its Women’s Centre. It can play such a crucial role in providing important services to self-identified female students. There is a large population of women in the college at both campuses, and there is an obvious need for an active and functioning Women’s Centre.
What advice do you have for Douglas students?
Always have an open, inquiring mind, and try to be a humble person.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get involved with the DSU?
We love, love volunteers, so please do come by our office at New West or David Lam if you’d like to find out more about how to get involved!
Over the next several weeks, we will be featuring the various members of the DSU representative committee. If you have any questions you would like to ask, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet @TheOPNews.