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UTMSU candidate profile: Vice-President Equity

Noha Farawi (Connect UTM)

UTMSU candidate profile: Vice-President Equity

Noha Farawi

Noha Farawi is a third-year criminology specialist student who has volunteered as a food bank coordinator for the UTMSU, where she had the opportunity to speak with many UTM students. Through these conversations she has learned how prevalent food insecurity is on the campus, and she feels that this is not talked about enough.

Farawi’s priorities include relaunching the United for Equity campaign, which looks to challenge discrimination and oppression on campus. She feels that the campaign has lost momentum this year, so she would bring it back and try to make it better. She also hopes to create a sustainability and climate justice action plan that’s specific to the UTM, and to improve the food bank by providing students with more nutritious food. Further, she plans to revamp the campus food garden.

Farawi hopes to spread the message across campus that the Student Centre is a safe space for students, especially for those who may be food insecure or who have experienced discrimination of any kind.

UTMSU candidate profile: President

Mitra Yakubi (Connect UTM)

UTMSU candidate profile: President

Mitra Yakubi

Mitra Yakubi is a fourth-year biology and sociology student running for the position of University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) president with the Connect UTM slate. She has been involved in the union as orientation and volunteer coordinator.

Her campaign points include continuing the “conversations” about affordable education, with an emphasis on how UTM students have different needs than students on other campuses, specifically pointing to the high population of commuters. Yakubi identified a lack of mental health resources for students, and added that her slate is “hoping to develop a peer mental health support program that is meant to diversify those mental health services on our campus.”

She wants to work on a self-assigned sick notes program, so that students can take sick days without having to go to a doctor.

Yakubi said, “The student union is, for me, my second home.” She emphasized that as president, she would want to create opportunities for students to get involved with the union, and create safe spaces for students.

UTMSU candidate profile: Vice-President External

Lily Pan (Connect UTM)

UTMSU candidate profile: Vice-President External

Lily Pan

Lily Pan is a second-year management student running uncontested for the position of vice-president external with the Connect UTM slate. Pan’s previous experiences include being an ambassador at the UTM Student Housing & Residence Life and her role as part of the UTMSU’s WeChat Team.

“As an international student who has studied in multiple countries before, I understand a lot of difficulties students might be facing,” Pan wrote in her candidate statement.

Pan’s goals centred around expanding food services for students on campus, reducing parking fees and expanding parking spaces for commuter students, and negotiating with the administration and government to develop an international student tuition fee cap.

UTMSU candidate profiles: Vice-President Internal

Fahad Dayala (Connect UTM), Med Kane (Independent)

UTMSU candidate profiles: Vice-President Internal

Fahad Dayala

Fahad Dayala is a second-year accounting specialist student. Dayala became involved with the UTMSU in his first year and is running as part of the Connect UTM slate. He has also participated in planning Orientation Week, which involved reaching out to potential sponsors in Mississauga. Through this experience he feels he gained a greater understanding of the issues facing UTM students and of how the UTMSU functions.

In an interview with The Varsity, Dayala said that the UTMSU “is where I decided that this is a great opportunity for me to be there and do something good for the students.” Dayala also participates in campus clubs, such as the Muslim Students’ Association, and at the campus athetic department where he learned more about students’ needs on campus.

Dayala’s priorities include revamping the relationship between campus clubs and the UTMSU, as well as modernizing the club infrastructure, which currently requires many of the records to be kept and written in paper form. To achieve this, he would introduce an online system for clubs to fill out and upload forms. Dayala feels this would make the UTMSU more efficient and allow clubs to focus on engaging with students, rather than dealing with paperwork. He would also try to keep campus groups from being affected by potential budget cuts.

ADITI PUTCHA/THE VARSITY

Med Kane

Med Kane is a first-year UTM student and the only independent candidate in the UTMSU executive elections. On his campaign platform, Kane lists financial independence, UTMSU transparency in hiring, and promoting various on-campus initiatives such as a student’s garden and a student’s academy as his goals. The student’s academy, under Kane’s proposal, would be “a UTMSU sponsored student run academy for undergrad polymaths and scholars who want to explore the frontiers of advanced study in an interdisciplinary context.”

For the union’s financial well-being, Kane hopes to seek grants from the federal, provincial, and municipal governments for events and increased club funding — this would also include cutting of “nonessential UTMSU costs.” Kane also wrote in his candidate statement that he will “refuse to advocate for the hiring of candidates of associates and staff who do not commit to transparency and openness in engaging with students,” and hopes to offer greater media access to the union by offering biweekly meetings.

The Varsity has reached out to Kane for comment.

UTMSU candidate profile: Vice-President University Affairs

Anushka Sokhi (Connect UTM)

UTMSU candidate profile: Vice-President University Affairs

Anushka Sokhi

Anushka Sokhi is running uncontested for the position of vice-president university affairs in the UTMSU elections.

Among Sokhi’s priorities is advocating for mandatory mental health training, such as SafeTALK, for frontline university workers. Sokhi is driven to do this by her experiences interacting with distressed students while working in the admissions office.

In addition, Sokhi would like to see through the implementation of a system of self-assigned sick notes, similar to that of McMaster University, where students have the option of marking themselves absent without a doctor’s note once a semester for assignments worth less than 25 per cent.

U of T developing COVID-19 working group, defers specifics to faculties, campuses

No central policy for university response to the virus

U of T developing COVID-19 working group, defers specifics to faculties, campuses

U of T administration is currently working on plans in response to COVID-19. Though the virus has not been declared a pandemic, U of T’s current pandemic communicable disease plan and response contains no specifics on how the university will respond, instead deferring to administration at the time of an outbreak. The university also has a crisis framework in place that may be enacted in the case of a severe outbreak.

The current outbreak is a newly identified strain of the existing family of viruses under the name coronavirus, which originates in animals and typically causes respiratory illness in humans.

Currently, U of T’s plan for responding to pandemic communicable diseases states, “Specific information about a communicable disease will be provided at the time of a pandemic,” with the addition that it will provide information from city and provincial health services at the time of an outbreak.

According to a university spokesperson, U of T has established a group of senior administrators to coordinate the university’s response to the COVID-19, in accordance with this policy.

Plans for COVID-19 will be developed within faculties and campuses, meaning that there will not be one plan for the university as a whole, wrote the spokesperson in an email to The Varsity.

The group includes leaders who responded to the 2003 outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, which is another strain of coronavirus. The SARS virus killed 44 people in Toronto and infected 375 in 2003. The city as a whole was unprepared for the virus, especially since it initially appeared to be similar to the common cold. Students at the time were pulled from placements in medical facilities, and those at risk of getting infected were quarantined. As of publication time, there are 60 cases in Canada, with 29 in Ontario.

U of T also has a crisis framework that can be used in case of a severe outbreak. In this case, a crisis is defined as “an unpredictable and serious incident that involves novel circumstances, as well as a significant impact on University operations and actual harm to persons,” and prioritizes safety and continuity of programs.

Toronto Public Health is currently monitoring 13 positive cases of COVID-19 in the city. It notes that anyone who travelled from Iran, or the Hubei province in China within the last two weeks, or who has been in close contact with anyone found to be positive for COVID-19, should self-isolate.

UTGSU candidate profiles: University Governance Commissioner

Ayah Abdeldayem, Aaliya Hakak, Chaim Katz, Lwanga Musisi

UTGSU candidate profiles: University Governance Commissioner

Ayah Abdeldayem

Ayah Abdeldayem is a third-year PhD student at UTM studying chemistry who became interested in governance and policy through her work at UTM’s Association of Graduate Students. Abdeldayem hopes to bring issues facing graduate students at U of T’s satellite campuses to the forefront while also pushing for policies for all graduate students at the governance level. This would include efforts to increase access to mental health and professional development resources.

While she thinks the UTGSU has been moving “in the right direction” regarding transparency and representation,  Abdeldayem wants to ensure that “all graduate student programs should have a representative at the union level and are able to voice their concerns.”

Aaliya Hakak

Aaliya Hakak is a first-year master’s student in Civil Engineering.

Hakak identified her advocacy priorities as affordable living accommodation and decreasing wait times for mental health support at U of T. As the liaison between the UTGSU and the university’s Governing Council, she would lobby the council to try and get more mental health resources on campus. “I’d be putting forward requests and appeals for more resources or for decreasing the waiting time,” said Hakak.

She wants the UTGSU to engage in more publicity about itself to try and get more students involved in union activities. She also wants to increase the representation of master’s students such as herself in the UTGSU. “Once [master’s students] have a representative, they have a point of contact.”

She also wants to diversify the representation of students from different programs in the UTGSU. “We need to take students from all departments, all areas.”

“If this communication is exercised properly, any goal could be achieved.”

Chaim Katz

Chaim Katz is a third-year PhD candidate at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering who believes that the UTGSU should spend more time discussing issues that students are concerned about, such as graduate funding and finding housing in downtown Toronto.

In his nine years at U of T, Katz said that he has gained enough connections with administration to succeed in the role, should he be elected.

“It takes being active and engaged and being willing to stand for what you believe in to really represent student interests,” explained Katz.

At the UTGSU Annual General Meeting, Katz moved a motion that opposed the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Committee, and wished to generalize the committee to support the movement based on “objective criteria.” Katz said that the intention of the motion was to make “all students feel welcome and wanted in the university,” however the motion was left unaddressed at the meeting.

Lwanga Musisi

Lwanga Musisi, a third-year PhD candidate at the Department of Social Justice Education, is running as an incumbent. One of Musisi’s main campaign goals is maintaining student union autonomy to “limit the influence of the university on student democracy.” In addition, Musisi hopes to create policies that provide greater funding for graduate students, increase the representation of minorities in policy making, and improve student access to mental health services.

As far as the UTGSU’s accomplishments this year, Musisi believes the union has done well on keeping the student body updated on core issues, such as health and dental plans, and “maintaining relevant caucuses that support diversity, equity and inclusion.”

UTGSU candidate profiles: Civics and Environment Commissioner

Josslyn Gabriel-Harper, Danielle Karakas, Changye Yang

UTGSU candidate profiles: Civics and Environment Commissioner

Josslyn Gabriel-Harper

Josslyn Gabriel-Harper is one of three candidates running for civics and environment commissioner of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU).

In her online candidate statement, Gabriel-Harper reflected, “How we engage on campus has a direct relationship to our involvement out in the world.”

“Action is a necessity, and as the civic and environment commissioner I would be honoured to work with students and other executive members to see our union through a lens of social justice and action.”

The Varsity has reached out to Gabriel-Harper for comment.

Danielle Karakas

Danielle Karakas is a first-year master’s student studying laboratory medicine and pathobiology.

She claims that she has spent about 2,000 hours volunteering, and has been the chair of several clubs during her undergraduate studies at Queen’s University. Further, she told The Varsity that she has implemented initiatives in her graduate program, which demonstrates both her hands-on experience and administrative capabilities in implementing changes.

As civics and environment commissioner, Karakas would invest in sustainability and research how the UTGSU can fight the climate crisis. She highlights the potential of surveys and data collection to find where there is waste on campus, and using this information to find the best way of reducing single-use plastic use as one example. As a researcher, Karakas feels she is uniquely well-suited for this work.

Karakas would also look to implement monthly volunteer opportunities for graduate students, such as neighbourhood cleanups or volunteering at local food banks. Further, she would allocate funds specifically for students or student groups in graduate studies who want to carry out environmental initiatives, and would fight for reduced TTC fares for students. Karakas welcomes input from the student body on these issues.

Chengye Yang

Chengye Yang is a first year master’s student in physiology running for civics and environment commissioner. She did her undergraduate degree at U of T, and previously served as a New College director for the University of Toronto Students’ Union and a representative for the Cell  and Systems Biology Student Union.

If elected, she would undertake more consultations with students to learn how the UTGSU can provide better mental health support services. She would also hold events to educate students about mental health as well as events where students could relax.

“My main goal is to bring students together.”

Consultations with students would also be part of Yang’s sustainability plan, and she would be interested in working on an incentive for students who bring their own containers to campus. She noted that the UTGSU can work on accessibility. “The UTGSU office itself is not accessible,” said Yang. “That basically represents the organization.”

Editor’s Note (March 9, 4:00pm): This article was updated with a corrected spelling of a candidate’s name.