The results of the 2013 Governing Council elections were announced Tuesday, with a total of 29 victors — both elected and acclaimed — to take up positions as governors on next year’s council.
The most contested category was for representatives for full-time undergraduate Arts & Science students, whose two seats were sought by 19 candidates. Trinity College student Aidan Fishman was re-elected resoundingly with 1,008 votes, more than twice that of Adrian De Leon from University of Toronto Scarborough, who won the second seat with 477 votes.
The Governing Council is the university’s highest-ranking and most influential body, with a membership of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members. The council approves major decisions in such areas as the university’s academics, finances, and student life.
The vote, held online from February 11-22, was the culmination of a campaign period that saw candidates visiting lecture halls, sending emails through list-servs, and touring dining halls to rally support for their cause.
The closest race was lost by an incumbent, Chirag Variawa, whose campaign for his former position as governor for graduate students in Physical and Life Sciences was felled by a single vote. Alexandra Harris, a student in Nursing Science, won over six other candidates for the seat.
Over his previous two terms as governor, Variawa has sat on numerous sub-committees and led several high-profile projects. Variawa was the driving force behind the Blackboard Mobile App, a mobile-friendly version of the Blackboard Portal that is now available to all smartphones.
“I’ve made a measureable difference in the largest university in Canada for two consecutive terms, and have demonstrated my commitment to a realistic progressive vision in increasingly diverse and now more-accessible environments,” said Variawa.
In a departure interview with The Varsity, Variawa also discussed ongoing projects, including the construction of an integrated calendar system akin to Apple’s iCal for rosi. Variawa says the system would provide a calendar that would sync itself to smartphones, eliminating any potential confusion with general course information such as changing room numbers
or lecture time.
According to re-elected governor Aidan Fishman, the work of outgoing governors like Variawa can be continued. Fishman says the structure of the council itself encourages effective information flow between outgoing and incoming governors: “Institutionally, there’s definitely knowledge flow … [For example,] there’s the Office of the Governing Council, which employs various secretaries and systems to keep track of what the council is doing. So even if hypothetically the entire council changed from one year to the next, they’d have a record of everything that went on.”
In interviews with The Varsity, many of the incoming and outgoing student governors voiced common concerns and priorities, including an emphasis on transparency in Governing Council affairs, and the need for more students to become involved in campus life and activities.
“It’s so sad when you look at the actual numbers [of voters for Council], like it’s a fraction of the total body,” said Alexandra Harris. “I think a lot of U of T students just aren’t engaged [in university affairs] at the level that they need to be.”
Although they are in agreement about some basic points like transparency and student engagement, some of the newly-elected governors have priorities of their own. Harris said one of her primary concerns is opportunities available to international students. The University of Toronto Act, 1971 still forbids anyone who is not a Canadian citizen from seeking office on Governing Council. Fishman’s key issues include abolishing the breadth requirements for Arts & Science undergraduate students.
Other winners were unavailable for comment as of The Varsity’s press time.
The elections were confirmed at Friday’s Governing Council meeting.