Walied Khogali is only in his second year at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, and has already become one of its most outspoken student leaders.
“My leadership style is proactive,” said the 22-year-old, who was born in Khartoum, Sudan, and lived in Kenya before moving to Toronto. “I’m not afraid to take advantage of the power and influence we have as the student body.” As the Vice President of SAC at UTM, Khogali has become a vociferous advocate for student issues, leading a rally against tuition fees that brought him head-to-head with U of T president David Naylor in the middle of the fanfare of March 2 ribbon-cutting ceremony for UTM’s new Communication Culture and Information Technology (CCIT) building.
Khogali led a protest against rising tuition fees outside the building while the ceremony was taking place inside. They were loud enough to be heard from inside, and when Naylor came out to give the crowd a hearing, Khogali told him that tuition fees were rising at rates unacceptable to students.
According to Khogali, organizing last-minute protests is just what being a student leader is all about.
“The way we can really influence things is by creating noise,” he said. “The objective of the CCIT protest was to focus attention on the fact that students will not be able to afford increased tuition fees.”
With a few emails, Khogali was able to assemble a student crowd of over 70 people outside of the CCIT building in just two hours-apparently with the help of campus police.
“I want to thank campus police for being helpful. Some friendly officers offered information about when we could expect President Naylor to arrive, I think because they appreciated what we were trying to accomplish.”
“Our president should not be adamantly advocating tuition fee increases without calling for increased funding from the province,” argued Khogali.
Khogali and Naylor didn’t see eye to eye.
“He responded with an argument about quality,” said Khogali. Naylor emphasized the fact that U of T prides itself on providing high-quality education. For Khogali, it’s a line of reasoning that is too often made by administrators, and one that students shouldn’t accept.
“We pointed out that McGill University’s medicine program actually tied with U of T as the best in the country last year, and its annual tuition fee for medicine is $3,400 compared to U of T’s at $16,000 per year,” he said.
Even Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion was empathetic to the students’ protest.
“Mayor McCallion told us that she couldn’t afford tuition during her day because she was a child of the Depression, and encouraged us to keep fighting for fee reductions and she commended our efforts,” said Khogali, who also led UTM students to another protest held on the St. George campus last Thursday.
So is this the beginning of a long political career for Khogali?
“Growing up in Sudan and Kenya, I saw a lot of poverty and I can personally attest to everything we can appreciate living in Canada, especially accessible post-secondary education,” said Khogali. “I hope to graduate from UTM leaving behind a stronger sense of activism [with] students.”