The campaign period for the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) elections began on March 19. Three of the seven executive positions on Canada’s second largest students’ union are uncontested.
Anne Boucher and Michelle Mabira are running for president. Boucher, the current Vice-President External of the UTSU, leads the Compass slate. Mabira, an independent, was the President of the African Students’ Association last year and describes herself more as a student activist than a student politician.
Of Compass’ seven executive candidates, two are current UTSU executives, one is a member of the Board of Directors, two are current or former UTSU staff members, and two have no prior UTSU experience. The other slate, 🅱️oundless, has two executive candidates: one is a former UTSU staff member, and the other has no prior UTSU experience. Another independent candidate is also running for an executive position.
The union’s members — full-time undergraduates at UTSG and UTM, as well as graduate students in the Toronto School of Theology — will vote for 13 directors representing the university’s colleges, eight representing the professional faculties, and six representing academic programs within the Faculty of Arts & Science. Another five professional faculty seats, a seat representing the Faculty of Music, and three seats from New College will be determined by internal elections in these constituencies’ student associations.
The elections will be held concurrently with a fee increase referendum to establish a mandatory, non-refundable U-Pass, which would give students unlimited, semester-long use of the TTC. The fee would be $280 per session — $70 per month — pending TTC board approval on March 20.
The issues at play
The UTSU and University of Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) are in the midst of renegotiating their Associate Membership Agreement, which binds the unions’ governance and fee remittance structure. These negotiations could either see the status quo continue or the two unions separate completely. Both Boucher and Mabira believe the unions should remain in the agreement, though Boucher wants to alter it to give the UTMSU more autonomy for advocacy work.
This year, the UTSU took a firm stance on its membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), a nationwide students’ union to which the UTSU membership paid $818,131 in the 2016–2017 fiscal year. The union’s current executive wants to leave. Next year could be formative in moving toward defederation, especially if students elect Compass, a slate whose leadership supports leaving the CFS. Mabira, the independent presidential candidate, is in support of a referendum on the union’s membership and would support a democratic decision made by students.
The Student Commons, a student-run centre set to open in September, will require smart budgeting and financial management. Compass’ VP Internal candidate, Tyler Biswurm, said he would prioritize student jobs; 🅱️oundless’ VP Internal candidate, Alyy Patel, said she also wants student jobs at the centre and would try to get a bar in the building and use the profits to fund scholarships for students with financial need. The union has been labouring over the Student Commons for years, and deciding the first VP Internal to oversee its finances is an important decision for students.
Students also have a meaningful decision to make in deciding the next VP Campus Life. Compass’ Yolanda Alfaro said she would revamp orientation and restructure clubs funding to remove the focus on the union’s priorities. Independent Spencer Robertson said he would not change orientation and would take a fiscally conservative but flexible approach to funding clubs.
Compass’ candidate for VP Professional Faculties, Yasmine El Sanyoura, is from the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. This position, created in 2015, has not yet been held by a non-Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering student. 🅱️oundless’ candidate, Gallop Jia Le Fan, is an engineering student. Fan pledges to make the UTSU more respected in professional faculties. El Sanyoura promises to undertake a mental health audit for students in professional faculties to improve services.
Compass’ candidates for VP University Affairs, External, and Equity — Joshua Grondin, Yuli Liu, and Ammara Wasim — are uncontested. They have collectively committed to advocacy work related to academic rights, mental health, international student tuition, and services for minority and marginalized students.
Voting will take place online from March 26–28 at utsu.simplyvoting.com.