UTSC’s student newspaper The Underground hosted a debate on February 1 for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) executive candidates. The presidential candidates discussed their platforms and students’ needs, and the debate grew heated over accusations of a lack of qualifications, and debate over a “Free Palestine” sign at the Student Centre.
“Come up with your own ideas for once in your life”
The presidential candidates answered questions about what they thought of the opposition, the most pressing needs of UTSC students, and what oppositional platform point they would like to incorporate into their own.
Independent candidate John John said that the opposition promises a lot of things but “they’re not going to do anything for you.”
John said that he does not have a platform and that he does not want to know what the students’ problems are. “I’m really here because I want to start a movement on campus… Come up with your own ideas for once in your life.”
SCSYou’s Anup Atwal said that the student union needs “fresh faces and fresh ideas.”
Atwal also commented that John was outlining the main problem with the SCSU, but “it seems that John doesn’t actually want to do things. It’s more [to] just make the noise.”
Atwal believes that financial security and academics are the most pressing needs of UTSC students. “If you don’t have financial security, you don’t eat, you don’t socialize as much… that affects your mental health and ability to perform… in the classroom.”
For Shine Bright UTSC’s Chemi Lhamo, UTSC students need diverse representation the most. She provided the example of courses in which the teachers do not represent the community being taught.
When asked about an oppositional platform point that she wants to incorporate into her own, Lhamo said, “I can spill you a little bit of tea. There is a lot of alignment in between [Shine Bright UTSC’s and SCSYou’s] campaign points. Perhaps because some of our campaign points were leaked prior to us knowing, because of certain implantations?”
The audience both booed and clapped in response to her statement.
“My opponent is utterly unqualified for the position”
The candidates for Vice-President Academics & University Affairs were asked about what would be their biggest worry if their opponent wins.
Shine Bright UTSC’s Raymond Dang said that his biggest worry was that if SCSYou’s Carly Sahagian wins, “no action will happen.”
Dang said, “Number one, my opponent is utterly unqualified for the position,” to which the audience interrupted Dang with murmurs and grumbles.
Dang continued, “It is my political opinion, that it is utterly unqualified —”
The audience started to boo and grumble louder. Somebody in the audience said, “Don’t be rude!”
Dang, referring to Sahagian’s two years of registrarial experience, said that the registrar’s office is still the same. “And additionally, we have known that [having] no DSA [Departmental Students’ Association] experience within Academics & University Affairs is actually harmful for the position.”
Sahagian was given a chance to respond, during which she said that her Student Recruitment Assistant position at the registrar’s office did not give her any power over student services. She mentioned her other qualifications, including being a secretary for the Women’s and Gender Studies Association and serving the Campus Affairs Committee.
“I’m representing every department, not only Political Science,” said Sahagian.
Dang is currently the SCSU’s Director of Political Science. He has also worked with the Political Science Students’ Association at UTSC.
“Free Palestine” signage
The Vice-President Equity candidates were asked whether the “Free Palestine” sign at UTSC’s Student Centre creates a hostile environment for Jewish students.
Shine Bright UTSC’s Leon Tsai said that she does not think that the sign is antisemitic or anti-Jewish. She mentioned that the union supported Palestine and also Holocaust Education Week “to make sure that it’s not one or the other.”
“We need to have all these discussions… to make sure everyone is heard,” she said.
SCSYou’s Tebat Khadhem said that the problem with the banners is that they are “single-sided on one political issue… [so] the other side will feel marginalized.”
“Our slate will make the option of putting up a poster equitable for all student clubs… as long as they are within the limits of the Charter of Rights,” Khadhem said.
Voting for the SCSU 2019 Spring Elections will take place February 5–7 at the Bladen Wing Tim Hortons, Instructional Centre Atrium, and Student Centre.