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SCSU candidate profiles: Vice-President Equity

Abarna Kamalakumaran (Connect UTSC), Isaiah Murray (MOTIVATE UTSC), Anais Ouedraogo (Independent)
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From left to right: Abarna Kamalakumaran, Anais Ouedraogo, and Isaiah Murray. COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATES
From left to right: Abarna Kamalakumaran, Anais Ouedraogo, and Isaiah Murray. COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATES

Abarna Kamalakumaran (Connect UTSC)

Abarna Kamalakumaran is a fourth-year student majoring in political science and minoring in public law and international development studies. She is running for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s (SCSU) vice-president equity position as part of the Connect UTSC slate.

In past years, Kamalakumaran has served as the external coordinator at the UTSC Women’s and Trans Centre, and she is currently the coordinator for the UTSC’s Racialized Students’ Collective, focusing on anti-Black and anti-Asian racism. Kamalakumaran has also co-founded a non-profit organization called Manidhi, which aims to vocalize the experiences of Thamil women and non-binary individuals. 

As a refugee from Tamil Eelam, Sri Lanka, and someone who has endured discrimination and oppression, Kamalakumaran wants to promote accessibility, build a safer environment, and give back to the UTSC community.

“As the next [vice-president] equity, I hope to help other students and assist them with their needs as a visible ally,” Kamalakumaran said in an interview with The Varsity. Specifically, she plans to collaborate with the UTSC peer support program to support students’ mental health and provide “any necessary resources.”

Should Kamalakumaran be elected, she would implement “closed captioning for all recorded lectures to make online learning more accessible.” Kamalakumaran would also lobby the university to hire more racialized full-time staff and anti-oppression trained and informed professionals.

Lastly, she would introduce a “leadership certificate program to educate folks on equity-related topics.” 

Isaiah Murray (MOTIVATE UTSC)

Isaiah Murray is a fourth-year student double majoring in statistics and psychology. He is running for the SCSU’s vice-president equity position under the MOTIVATE UTSC slate.

Although Murray moved to Canada with the goal of being himself, he says he initially didn’t feel supported. If elected into the SCSU, Murray says he doesn’t want any students to feel the way he did: “I’m really running so that I can advocate for all those students who are in that same position of feeling marginalized in the space where they are supposed to feel accepted, so I just want to create as many safe spaces as [I] can.”

One of his top priorities if elected would be to create a bursary bank where students could access the bursaries and scholarships available to them based on their identities. 

Murray thinks it is especially important to reform UTSC’s curriculum so that “students see themselves reflected [not only] in the stock but also in the content.” Murray added that “there’s so much great work done by members of the LGBTQ+ community [and] by members of different races that can contribute” to materials studied in class.

He also emphasized the importance of ensuring student clubs have access to the vice-president equity as a resource: “I would introduce myself to as many different old identity-based student groups that exist on campus.”

 

Anaïs Ouedraogo (Independent)

Anaïs Ouedraogo is a first-year student in life sciences and economics, and is running to be vice-president equity of the SCSU as an independent. She is currently an administrator for the UTSC Class of 2024 Facebook group and vice-president of UTSC’s Debate Club.

Ouedraogo’s motivation for running came after she “witnessed, firsthand, some of the effects of the pandemic, especially on minority students, which includes international students.” As an international student, Ouedraogo said, “We haven’t really received the support that we would normally receive if in person on campus.”

If elected, Ouedraogo’s top priorities would be to share more resources on the history of Black peoples in Canada, educate faculty about microaggressions, and amplify minoritized students’ voices on campus.

Ouedraogo also feels it is especially important for her campaign to focus on mental health resources for students, including the hiring of racialized nurses and counsellors: “Sometimes, it is hard to speak to people who do not really understand what you’re going through [and] the experiences you’ve been through in order to receive the support you need.”

The voting period for the SCSU elections will be held from March 2–4.