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UTGSU candidate profiles: Civics and Environment Commissioner

Josslyn Gabriel-Harper, Danielle Karakas, Changye Yang
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From left to right: ADITI PUTCHA/THE VARSITYDanielle Karakas (DINA DONG/THE VARSITY)Changye Yang (DINA DONG/THE VARSITY)
From left to right: ADITI PUTCHA/THE VARSITYDanielle Karakas (DINA DONG/THE VARSITY)Changye Yang (DINA DONG/THE VARSITY)

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.