Julien Balbontin/THE VARSITY

The University of Mississauga Campus Students’ Union (UTMSU) elections are in full swing. The campaign period began on March 1 with four slates competing for executive positions: UTM Awaken, EnvisionUTM, UTM Focus, and Unite UTM. All four slates have expressed a desire to see change on the campus. Although the slates share an interest in improving transportation, community, and academic assistance, the policies they propose vary significantly. 

The Issues

The Varsity asked each of the slates for their opinions on three issues facing UTM students that they deemed most important.

UTM Awaken identified the shortage of services available for students with mental illnesses as a major issue. “We believe that the students of this campus should have easy and efficient access to… [the] support they need,” the slate said in a statement to The Varsity. UTM Awaken intends to address the problem by working with the Health & Counselling Centre to increase advertisement and promotion of its services and making sure that staff members and volunteers at the UTMSU receive SafeTalk training.

UTM Awaken also spoke about a lack of networking opportunities, for students, saying, “we believe that as a students’ union, we should be working to open doors for job and career opportunities. We plan on tackling this issue by working with our societies to create networking nights for the students. At these events, we would invite students, professors, alum, and professionals from various fields and industries to come and speak about opportunities that they can offer.”

The slate wants to introduce an Indigenous coordinator in partnership with the Indigenous Centre on campus. “[Our] goal is to represent one of the most underrepresented minorities on campus. The Indigenous coordinator will be providing these folks with employment opportunities and more opportunities to network,” the team said. 

The EnvisionUTM slate told The Varsity that there are a number of issues that affect UTM students and that they cannot prioritize one issue over another. “EnvisionUTM has taken a holistic approach in our platform and has created a detailed strategy and a comprehensive plan in order to ensure all student concerns are met,” said Genny Lawen, EnvisionUTM’s presidential candidate. 

“From transit to food, multi-faith space to the release of exam schedules, printing services to credit/no credit limits, we have created realistic and achievable goals that we believe will make a noticeable difference in the lives of UTM Students,” she said. 

UTM Focus highlighted inaccessible tuition fees, lack of mental health services, and the divide between domestic and international students as their top priorities. “Inaccessible tuition fees are a struggle for students,” the slate said in a team statement. If elected, the slate plans to start the first ever UTMSU-funded scholarship and to create a larger bursary budget.   

“With mental health we hope to raise more awareness on campus about it by working with the administration to extend services on campus,” they said. UTM Focus hopes to create affordable healthcare coverage for international students by working with the government and other post-secondary institutions. 

Unite UTM did not respond to The Varsity’s requests for comment.


Jason Selvanayagam is the presidential candidate for UTM Awaken. He faces Lawen from EnvisionUTM, Ridwan Olow from UTM Focus, and Nour Alideeb from Unite UTM. 

“The reason I am running for UTMSU President is because having been a student for five years, I’ve fallen in love with this campus and would love the opportunity to give back and improve the university experience,” he said. 

Lawen is a fourth-year student studying criminology and French. “I am running for President in this year’s elections because I envision an active union that represents the needs of students in all platforms to ensure that students receive the best university experience at UTM,” she said. 

Olow is currently a student governor on Governing Council, U of T’s highest decision-making body. Olow said that he wants to focus on UTM students’ needs and concerns. “Too often goals and platform points are too broad and unattainable in one year. Our goals and interests are doable and very focused,” he said.

Alideeb is the current UTMSU vice president, university affairs & academics. Her platform includes creating a nap room on campus, pushing for ethical divestment, and fighting rising tuition and ancillary fees.

Vice president, internal & services 

For the position of vice president, internal & services, Adil Isaac Abrahim is EnvisionUTM’s candidate. He is a fourth-year environmental management and political science student. “I am running for Vice President Internal and Services this year because I am passionate and want to ensure that UTM students have access to as many services as possible and are able to use them in a way that not only benefits them but also enhances their experience here at UTM,” he said.   

Abrahim is up against UTM Focus’ Hoda Khan, Unite UTM’s Jackie Zhao, and UTM Awaken’s Tamam Khalaf. 

“I care about transparency. I would like to see the union be transparent, after all they are elected by the students, for the students and should be held accountable if needed,” Khan said. 

Zhao is the president of the Chinese Undergraduate Association at UTM. He hopes to establish an emergency food plan fund, implement new locker spaces on campus, and create an international student bursary.   

Khalaf brings experience as the vice president, internal and events coordinator of UTM Middle Eastern Students’ Association and as president of the Association of Palestinian Students. “I believe in the community we have on campus. I am passionate about mental health awareness and bringing the best possible services to students and hopefully as VP Internal, I can help AWAKEN the UTM student population,” said Khalaf.

Vice president, equity 

Farishta Amanullah is the candidate for vice president, equity with UTM Focus. “[Equity] on campus is important and can be expressed in many ways. Whether through language, dialogue and education, respecting one another and our experiences is one of the keys to a successful educational journey,” she said. 

Unite UTM’s Maleeha Baig, UTM Awaken’s Priyanka Sahajpal, and Envision’s Falhad Mohamoud are also competing for the position.   

Baig wants to combat misogyny and build a culture of consent on campus, as well as lobby for more racialised mental health counselors. She is currently the president of the Muslim Students’ Association and has previously served as president of the local chapter of Amnesty International.

“The reason to why I am running for [vice president, equity] is I am passionate [about] creating a safe and a more accessible space for all of the students,” Sahajpal, who wants introduce an Indigenous coordinator and lobby for all gendered bathrooms. 

“I am running for Vice President Equity because I Envision [sic] a UTM that is inclusive for all individuals, where everyone feels safe to be who they want to be, and a UTM that puts students needs first,” Mohamoud. She currently serves on the UTMSU board of directors and said that she is passionate about ensuring UTM students have a support system on campus that they can feel safe accessing.

Vice president, university affairs & academics 

Unite UTM’s vice president, university affairs & academics candidate is Vanessa Demello. She was an orientation leader in 2014 and 2015 and an executive with The Psychology Association od Undergraduate Students at Erindale. Her priorities are to improve mental health services and reduce associated stigma.   

Ryan Persaud from UTM Awaken, Abdulla Omari from EnvisionUTM, and Menna Elnaka from UTM Focus join Demello in the race. 

“My motivation to run for vp university affairs & academics stems from the fact that my time at UTM could have been better and I want to make changes that will impact students for years to come,” said Persaud. “I really want to implement networking nights for students to get a better idea of what they want to do in their future; in working with societies, faculty, and alum, students will be able to gain valuable insight from beginning to end.” 

“University is an all encompassing experience, and like so many experiences there are good and bad moments; to me, the position of University Affairs and Academics is dedicated to ensuring students know it’s okay to make mistakes in that process,” said Omari. He would work to increase the credit/no credit limit, pursue a grade forgiveness policy, and raise awareness about possible violations of academic policy. 

Elnaka worked as an associate news editor with The Medium for two years. “Affordable tuition education is a right and all students of all backgrounds and experiences deserve to get an education,” she said. 

Vice president, external

Emerson Calcada is running with UTM Awaken “to represent the students as they need to be represented.” 

“The students need to feel that they can change their union and their campus; so for that to be they need to be heard and that is why I am running,“ he said. 

Amanee Nassereddine from EnvisionUTM is majoring in health science and minoring in chemistry and psychology. “My goal in life is to never settle, if one can do better, always set that bar higher. Having this goal in mind, I am running for vice president external to create a great positive change in the lives of all UTM students both on and off campus,” she said.

“[The] point of a students union is to help and assist students with their needs and concerns. Whatever they may be, we are focused on them,” said UTM Focus’ Kamal Ali. 

Marise Hopkins rounds off the Unite UTM slate. She is the UTMSU’s World University Services Chapter (WUSC) coordinator and chair of the WUSC local committee. She hopes to bring heated bus shelters to UTM and to Hart House, and lobby for cheaper and healthier food on campus.

Campaign issues 

At least two of the slates have spoken out against the use of campaigners who are not UTM students. “What we as a slate have spoken out upon is that campaigning by UTM students should be the only people who can decide their student representatives,” said UTM Awaken. “We as a slate want only UTM students to volunteer for slates and represent such people. UTM Awaken therefore only cares to see that UTM students have their opinion heard.”

UTM Focus told The Varsity that they had filed an appeal with the Elections and Referenda Committee (EARC) regarding non-UTM student campaigners assisting slates. “We decided that this was unfair and misrepresentation to the UTM community since it should be only UTM students encouraging UTM how they should be voting,” the slate said. 

Bryan Chelvanaigum, UTMSU elections chief returning officer, said that the EARC had received complaints but that they may not be disclosed prior to the committee’s consideration.

Chelvanaigum said that his ruling on the matter and all other rulings are made public and will be posted on the “wall of transparency” located in the Davis building.

EnvisionUTM said that they were unable to comment or respond to any inquiries regarding EARC.   

Voting will run between March 8 and March 10 at polling stations at UTM.   

Disclosure: Abdulla Omari is a member of the Board of Directors for Varsity Publications Inc.

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