Candidate profile: Eshana Bhangu, president

AMS VP Academic & University Affairs (VPAUA) Eshana Bhangu is running for president on a wide-ranging platform centred on fighting for student interests.

When asked to list her top three priorities, Bhangu listed five. These included advocating for affordable housing and education; centring social justice and equity in AMS operations; increasing mental health and harm reduction services; creating a culture of accountability; and supporting international students.

On equity, Bhangu said she would tackle the extractive nature of consultations with marginalized students by addressing the “manifestation” and root causes of inequities.

She also said she would like to increase the AMS’s mental health coverage to $1,250.

Accountability was a common theme in Bhangu’s interview with The Ubyssey.

She said she wants to conduct a “no-limits governance review” — which would be separate from a governance review that incumbent President Cole Evans is undertaking.

Another thing Bhangu said she hopes to achieve is greater internal accountability within the AMS.

“I think that students shouldn't have to bear the burden to hold the society accountable. They should always have the ability to do that at all time … But it shouldn't be on students to ensure that you know that the execs are being held accountable.”

Specifically, she would require financial reports to include both the expected and actual amount of money spent, along with an explanation of any potential gaps between the two.

In terms of external accountability, Bhangu said she would make herself available to hear student feedback.

“Whether it's to just get feedback, to have a conversation [or] to have difficult conversations.

"This is definitely something I'm very passionate about. I'm running on it and I will deliver.”

Bhangu doesn’t see herself as an AMS insider despite serving as VPAUA this past year. She said that her path towards leadership within the student society was untraditional.

“I was an elected student senator. And then I went on to take on an established AMS insider staff member in what was the only contested [race last year],” she said.

“I think that after coming in from the outside, I’ve actually been able to see the disconnect with [the AMS’s] issues with accountability.”

She also acknowledged that her platform is ambitious, but that she has a track record of getting things done, like providing KN95 masks for students.

When asked why she was running, Bhangu spoke about representation — “I am the first female vice-president to put their name forward for president in six years” — and wanting to bring back “student-centric” ways of advocating across the AMS.

“I'm a very transparent advocate. And I want all of the AMS, all of the executives to be like that … When I look at everyone else who is running, I am hands down the only candidate who can bring about this change.”

Bhangu is running against fellow AMS exec VP External Saad Shoaib, first-time candidates Wesley Choi, Sydney Harakal and Tate Kaufman and joke candidates The Pan and Remy the Rat.

This article has been updated to reflect that Bhangu is looking to increase mental health coverage to $1,250, not $1,500.

Follow us at @UbysseyNews on Twitter and follow our election coverage starting February 28. This article is part of our 2022 AMS elections coverage.