The UTM Student Centre. JACQUELINE ZIMMERMAN/THE VARSITY

After defeating two other shortlisted candidates, Akshan Bansal has been selected as the vice-president, campus life, of the University of Toronto Student’s Union (UTSU). He was appointed during an emergency meeting of the UTSU’s Board of Directors that occurred on May 8.

All three candidates were required to give a presentation, discuss their respective proposals for a hypothetical week of events, and answer questions. Bansal emerged as the winner after an in-camera conversation and a vote by secret ballot.

The new vice-president, campus life, was scheduled for selection at the first meeting of the newly elected Board of Directors on April 28; however, the board voted narrowly in favour of tabling the hiring.

Changes to the hiring process 

At the April 28 meeting, several board members expressed concerns about the make-up of the hiring committee. One of their chief objections was the fact that the committee was comprised primarily of outgoing UTSU executives.

This controversy led to an in-camera discussion that lasted nearly an hour and a half. As a result of these concerns, University College director Daman Singh put forward a motion to table the hiring of the vice-president, campus life, which passed 14 votes to 13.

The hiring committee included Yolen Bollo-Kamara, outgoing UTSU president; Cameron Wathey, outgoing UTSU vice-president, internal & services; Najiba Ali Sardar, outgoing vice-president, equity; Zijian Yang, outgoing vice-president, campus life; and Sandra Hudson, then-executive director. Ben Coleman, UTSU president, was the only member of the new UTSU executive to sit on the committee.

By the end of the April 28 meeting, the board had also approved a motion mandating that the hiring committee review the applications collected before submitting at least three candidates to the board for consideration.

Ryan Gomes, vice-president, internal and services, and Vere-Marie Khan, vice-president, university affairs, were later added to the committee.

Coleman says that, in addition to hiring committee changes, other measures were taken that helped address the concerns of everyone on the board of directors. “We drafted new interview questions, included a anonymous proposal component to the final presentation and invited directors from UTM to observe the interviews.”

These changes to the hiring process are not permanent, though Coleman hopes they are kept for next year. “It’ll really improve the process,” he says, adding “ we want to make a conscious effort to address everyone’s points-of-view to get the whole board working together.”

Looking ahead

Coleman expressed enthusiasm for Bansal’s term. “I’m excited to see what he’ll do for students,” says Coleman. “He’s very eager, met with all the staff to ensure that he can get to work despite starting a week late, and gets along very well with our orientation team.”

Bansal is in his fourth year, majoring in neuroscience and psychology at the St. George campus. He has previously worked as an associate to the vice-president, campus life, as well as being president of the South Asian Alliance, a club that promotes South Asian culture.

One of his plans is to hold “alternative events” that don’t rely on serving alcohol, as a way for the UTSU to “make all of its members feel acknowledged, included and welcomed.”

“I realize that I am one of the first points of contact for students here at the UTSU and it is vital for me to focus on sustainability and equity so that ALL [sic] students needs are catered to,” he says.

Bansal says he will make “a concentrated effort to connect with over 50,000 students that the UTSU represents to create one united and engaged student front.”

Correction (May 21, 2015, 10:36 am): A previous version of this article stated that Grayce Slobodian was initially a member of the Hiring Committee and omitted Yolen Bollo-Kamara’s membership of the same. In fact, Slobodian was not a member of the Hiring Committee, whereas Bollo-Kamara was. The Varsity regrets the errors.

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