SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Michael Junior Samakayi is a third-year Political Science student running for Vice-President Equity.

Through his experiences as the current UTSU Woodsworth College Director, former Accessibility Advisor at the Student Success Centre, and founding the U of T American Sign Language Club, Samakayi wrote that his eyes were opened to “the gaps in the system on campus which affects marginalized groups, students with disabilities, and women.”

Samakayi was motivated to run because of his desire to play a more active role in improving the lives of not only current students, but also of generations of students to come.

As a deaf student, Samakayi has witnessed the barriers that students with disabilities face in trying to succeed at this university. He hopes that, by supporting students from marginalized communities, all students will be lifted up in the process.

Samakayi’s platform incorporates a number of different initiatives, including improving mental health services. In order to achieve this, he plans to lobby U of T to review the university-mandated leave of absence policy, which he called a barrier to education.

He also believes that the UTSU has a key role to play in communicating with U of T administrators and various student societies on improving mental health services.

“When we talk about the University of Toronto having an excellent reputation for quality education, that’s not possible if we don’t have the kinds of supports that we need in place to support students’ mental health,” he said through an interpreter.

On the topic of the UTSU’s accessibility, Samakayi hopes to reform the decision-making process for executives. He plans to do this by notifying the student population when the UTSU is about to make “crucial decisions,” so that students can voice their concerns and opinions prior to board meetings.

Samakayi believes that the UTSU has challenges with racism and accessibility, but he does not believe that the UTSU has intended to act in inequitable ways. He sees this as being part of a larger problem of people not realizing that their actions can inadvertently create barriers for others, something that he seeks to combat if elected.

— With files from Josie Kao

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