This past semester saw two University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) executives step down from their posts. They were replaced by Adrian Huntelar, formerly one of the union’s General Equity Directors, and Ammara Wasim, Vice-President Communications of the Muslim Students’ Association.
The Varsity sat down with both new executives to discuss their new positions and their future plans.
Unelected student politicians
In an op-ed that appeared last December 3 on The Varsity’s website, Huntelar, who is serving as Vice-President University Affairs, wrote that he understood that some students may have some concerns over the fact that he did not go through the democratic process of election. “I’m a political science major, so I know very well that appointed leaders rarely have the time or the mandate to get anything meaningful done,” he explained at the time.
Huntelar further addressed this concern in the interview. “I think the best way to address those students’ concerns is just to make myself as open as possible, listen to as many students as possible, to be in as many open forums as possible for students to raise their concerns with the UTSU.”
Wasim, the new Vice-President Campus Life, took the same view, but she maintained that it was less about their qualifications and more about the necessity of having someone fill their roles during the academic year. “As a student,” she said, “I would want someone to be in my position rather than having the position being vacant for three months.”
Huntelar described the past two months as being “very informative,” detailing the learning curve he was initially met with. “I’m learning about just how many different aspects of university policy and governance actually influence students’ day-to-day life,” he said, noting that many factors like textbooks or accessibility accommodations fall under his portfolio.
Wasim highlighted the help the other executives and full-time staff have provided throughout her transition into the role. “They’ve been really nice and really supportive and helpful with everything,” she said. She also thanked her predecessor, Stuart Norton, for meeting with her and helping her out.
Both Huntelar and Wasim understood the limited amount of time left in their posts, but they underlined their commitment to make improvements on campus. “There isn’t a lot of time left, three months isn’t a lot of time to do a lot. I think it’s better to just focus on what really needs to get done and enhance what’s there,” said Wasim.
Student life and advocacy projects
Huntelar also spoke about food security, one of his top priorities. He said that the UTSU is working on multiple projects to raise awareness within the university and provide related services. “We’re working to create an online grocery store, so that students can purchase their groceries online on utsu.ca and have them shipped to the office,” he said.
The online grocery store concept will involve working with FoodReach, an organization that connects community agencies, like the UTSU, with wholesalers who provide foodstuffs.
“It offers a benefit to students who are pressured for time and money,” he said. “The main group that this supports is those who live off-campus without access to a dining hall, but also who are responsible for essentially making their own food.”
Wasim will first be focusing on the UTSU’s Winter Week of Welcome. In an earlier interview with The Varsity, UTSU President Mathias Memmel mentioned that one of the reasons why the hiring process was sped up was due to the need to have someone in the post by this week.
Wasim noted, “[Norton] had the plan in place already, I’m marketing and promoting mainly, and I’m attending all the events and running them on the day itself. I’m taking care of the smaller details, logistically.”
She also highlighted her intention to concentrate on the Campus Life Commission, which she chairs as part of her portfolio, and looking through requests for clubs funding. “I have to try to expand upon the Campus Life Commission in a way where it doesn’t necessarily have to be sitting down to a meeting,” she said, adding that she wishes to make meetings less “boring.”
With the UTSU elections coming up in March, Huntelar declined to comment on his intentions to run for a position or not, while Wasim mentioned being undecided at present. “I would tell you if I knew myself,” she said. “Right now, I have to figure out my course load that’s already hectic.”