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16th of July 2018


On Becoming Involved in Student Politics with Shif Gadamsetti - The Good Men Project

Shif Gadamsetti is the Former President of the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University, Support Staff for the Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, Former Chair of the Board of the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations and a Member of its Alumni Council. Here we look into her life, work, and views based on an interview in Canadian Atheist.

When the line of questioning with Gadamsetti began, the focus was the background in order to gauge where she was coming from. She was raised by two traditional Christian parents who were involved in the church life while she was growing up. that would mean the entire family would attend the Sunday sermons, being involved with the youth group and outreach, as well as the teaching of Sunday School linked with the worship team of the church.

Gadamsetti described, “My family immigrated to Canada from India in 2001, and settled in Calgary almost immediately. There was a certain gap in terms of finding cultural community to bridge with once we had moved. We only had one extended family in the city, and our primary social network was through the church, which did not have a significantly diverse cultural congregation at the time.”

I wanted to probe deeper, plumb the depths more, to see the ways in which this life path lead into leadership as a young woman. Gadamsetti explained how she was involved in leadership throughout youth. In that, the opportunities from within the Christian community and church provided the chance to explore leadership roles and expand horizons in said stations.

With traditionalist and immigrant parents, Gadamsetti recalled the ways her parents remained restrictive with her. However, this community became a place in which to integrate with Canadian culture while maintaining the religious roots of the family. Religious roots, to many people, retain the sense of community and history from generations ago.

Now, she works as a nurse. Gadamsetti explained, “I work with an interdisciplinary team – we always have at least one other nurse, an anesthesiologist, a surgeon, and other physicians, who either assist or residents that participate in our surgical cases. My responsibilities include a pre-operative assessment, including looking for any potential risks that could compromise the surgery – these range from substance use, underlying health conditions, something as simple as the patient ingesting food or drink prior to the surgery (which could complicate their intubation and present a choking hazard if they were to vomit), etc.”

With these particular cases, Gadamsetti “circulates” (the nurse who is not sterile) and then assists the surgeon and scrub nurse. The hep can come in the form of opening tools, sterility maintenance, and the documentation and monitoring work needed during the cases.

“If I am scrubbing in on the case, my primary role is to assist the surgeon with their procedure, which can range from anticipating their needs, positioning, preparing tools such as sutures or drills to be used, and tracking any of the materials used to ensure that we maintain the integrity of the procedure and don’t accidentally leave something in a patient, for example,” she said.

As well, Gadamsetti works for women’s rights through the Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse organization as a support staff. She relayed always having an interest in learning about and supporting the reduction in gender-based barriers and violence. She notes the sexual violence is a nuanced issue with the ongoing issues of the perpetuation of miseducation about it, the other mental health and relationship concerns surrounding it, and so on.

Gadamsetti stated, “There is so much that broader communities don’t understand, it is often considered a taboo topic, communities feel unequipped to have conversations that wholly support the victim, and the work is difficult – not everyone is cut out to handle such matters, which I do not fault them for. There’s a very difficult way to gauge my responsibilities – a ‘good’ day includes having a collaborative team, a client that feels supported, autonomous, and well managed for both the social and administrative work that goes into processing a case, but its never really a good day because my clients have been victims of sexual assault.”

Her hope is to become involved in the wider issues associated with the prevention of sexual violence and support for survivors including the pathways to solutions through policy development and education.

“I’ve learned so much and challenged many assumptions, despite how much work I’ve put into understanding the issue, and I’m very grateful to have the opportunity,” Gadamsetti opined in reflection.

Then she also held the position of the president of the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU). The term is over. However, she spoke to the benefits in the infinite possibilities and potentialities provided by the role. In that, it was an honor to be elected, lead, and serve the best interests of the students.

She garnered experience in management and leadership, and other domains, in addition to building strong connections with other leaders in the postsecondary sector. She sees these networks as lasting a lifetime. Gadamsetti spoke to a shared vision and work ethic for the achievement of internal and external advocacy.

Then as the conversation shifted to its end, the focus went into the concerns of women on postsecondary campuses throughout the nation as well as means by which to solve them.

“I wouldn’t want to generalize – but perhaps, the ones that most students face are common across women as well – financial precarity, employment, etc. I would, however, point out that the common issues amongst students are exacerbated by gender-based barriers – sexualized violence can sometimes be a prevalent issue amongst women on campus for a variety of reasons – lack of education around consent in an environment where young people are discovering and establishing boundaries,” Gadamsetti said, “lack of institutional policy and supports available to help those who experience it, a lack of consent culture, perpetuation of toxic behaviours that develop into patterns that are harder to address when they become systemic or cultural.”

She also noted the other issues women face in their professional work with the risk to life and livelihood. Associated with this, the various marginalizations happening to women due to their race, sexuality, and so on. Then the continued barriers based solely on gender in the employment line, which show in the employment trends.

She opined the long-term nature of the solutions to these problems. Gadamsetti noted that some of these issues come to the root of the common perceptions of women as less qualified, and being unequal and even subservient to men and others. Then the ways this can influence the various discrimination and violence against women.

She continued, “I believe that institutions need to become bolder and take hard-line stances on the matter, while demonstrating their commitment to resolving these issues with comprehensive policies that support all students’ safety, regardless of how these opportunities might seem risky to the institution’s reputation.”

With regards to the sexual violence on campuses, Gadamsetti reflected on the largest problem being the inability of most of the leadership to admit, target, and work to solve the issues of sexualized violence faced far more often by women than men. In particular, this may be a problem because some in leadership, Gadamsetti noted, would need to admit to being part of the problem. Then there would need to be a massive overhaul of institutions to tackle the problem of sexual violence against women.

“Culture is important – when a zero tolerance stance without allowing loopholes or technicalities to exist is implemented, those perpetuating violence might think twice, and evaluate their own behavior before choosing to victimize someone in that way. At the same time, being transparent about problems and choosing to address issues by prioritizing victims over the institution as a whole would complement the approach well,” Gadamsetti stated.

Gadamsetti seeing the power of community to deal with the real problems facing us; she knows one of the better means by which to deal with large-scale problems in the postsecondary community, broadly speaking, would include a community effort. With a community, the institutions can be pressured to change, to adapt, to the prescient concerns of the community regarding women in particular and concerned men in general.

Then, of course, the conversation shifted to a senior high school or first-year woman student in postsecondary education who may want to become involved in the student political world as well as the potential responsibilities they should bear in mind that they will most certainly be taking on board in student politics.

Gadamsetti immediately directed attention to a student’s own students’ association. That the best place to learn more would be as student transitions into university, meets new people, and begins to find a place comfortable for them. Then a student can learn to familiarize themselves with the arena of student politics.

“Student association spaces have always provided me with great insight into what students care about, need, celebrate, and champion. I started getting involved with my faculty club, and branched out to others that suited my interests. You might not be interested in running for a position as a student executive after it’s all said and done, but I guarantee you that it will enrich and support your university experience like no other,” Gadamsetti concluded.

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