Maryssa Barras is a master’s student in archaeology running for External Commissioner.
Barras is also the incumbent UTGSU Executive-at-Large and recently took on the duties of Internal Commissioner late last year after the office was vacated by the General Council.
Much of Barras’ platform for External Commissioner centres around forging relationships between student levy groups amid the Ford government’s sweeping changes to postsecondary education funding.
“I think that currently, given the political climate and what’s going on with the student services, the main campaign that I would be pushing forward would be to reverse or stop the Ford cuts,” said Barras. She also wants to advocate for mental health initiatives by addressing factors that affect students’ mental health, such as finances.
On the topic of tuition reduction, Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) cuts, and levy opt-outs, Barras said that such changes ultimately disadvantage marginalized groups on campus that would otherwise not be able to access postsecondary education.
“Under the [OSAP] scheme put out by the previous government, there was an increase across the board in students from minorities and underprivileged groups accessing funds.”
Barras also pointed to the exclusion of international students from the tuition cut. “International students don’t have that 10 per cent cut so they’re likely to take on the financial burden.”
University officials have told The Varsity that they are not planning to increase international student tuition more than previously decided for the coming academic year.
When asked about the UTGSU’s relationship with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), Barras acknowledged that while other students may have antagonistic feelings toward the CFS as a whole, the UTGSU ultimately pays to use CFS resources.
The CFS is a national organization representing student unions across Canada. In 2016, the UTGSU lost a lawsuit against the CFS after the former attempted to hold a referendum to defederate. Full-time graduate students currently pay $8.37 per session and part-time students pay $4.19 per session to the CFS.
“I understand that the University Toronto’s Graduate Students’ Union is not a pro-CFS environment… But I also recognize that we pay them money to have access to the resources,” Barras said.
“So long as we are part of the CFS, we should utilize the resources that they give us access to because otherwise it’s just money down the drain.”