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UTMSU candidate profiles: Vice-President Equity

Laiba Khan (Independent), Ryan Tomlinson (Build Back Better), Maryam Yousefipournigjeh (Independent)
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Laiba Khan, Ryan Tomlinson, and Maryam Yousefipournigjeh. COURTESY OF CANDIDATES
Laiba Khan, Ryan Tomlinson, and Maryam Yousefipournigjeh. COURTESY OF CANDIDATES

Laiba Khan (Independent)

Laiba Khan, a second-year student completing a double major in law & criminology and sociology and a minor in political science, is running for the vice-president equity position in the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU). Khan has been on the UTMSU Board of Directors for two years.

Khan has led a conference on gender equity to teach high school students why it is important. She has also organized a protest against domestic violence, a workshop on environmental sustainability, and a clothing drive for homeless shelters. 

If elected, she plans to provide more diversity and equity counselling. “[At] UTM, we have a lot of students who come from all different backgrounds, and sometimes they are not provided the right counselling. So it’s time to do diversity and equity counselling to help them with their mental health despite their backgrounds,” said Khan in an interview with The Varsity.

She also plans to make bursaries and financial support more accessible for students. “I believe that no one should be held back on their education due to their financial situation, especially under such unprecedented circumstances like [the COVID-19 pandemic].” Since she has served on the UTMSU’s bursary committee, she noted that she has experience in understanding how bursaries work. 

Ryan Tomlinson (Build Back Better)

Ryan Tomlinson, a third-year student specializing in sociology and minoring in political science, is running for vice-president equity on the Build Back Better slate. He has served as an executive on the Black Students’ Association and Caribbean Connections at UTM, and was elected to the UTM Campus Affairs Committee. 

In an interview with The Varsity, Tomlinson discussed how when he first came to UTM, he did not find a large sense of community or spaces for Black students on campus, so he wants to create “more of those spaces not just for Black students, but also for other groups of students on campus who feel like they may not have a safe space.”

If elected, Tomlinson plans to revamp and expand the United for Equity Campaign to create more safe spaces for students who have experienced oppression or racism on campus, “which will allow them to have their voices validated and heard.”

He also plans to provide opportunities — from podcasts to town halls — for teaching the community about the oppression students face both on and off campus. 

He also plans to expand bursaries and grants at the UTMSU, highlighting the need for more niche resources that support all student needs.

Maryam Yousefipournigjeh (Independent)

Maryam Yousefipournigjeh, a third-year student doing a major in health science and minors in psychology and biomedical communications, is running for vice-president equity as an independent candidate. She is the co-president and founder of the Social Justice Club and has been involved in UTM Global Brigades as a fundraising director and volunteer. 

If elected, Yousefipournigjeh plans to create a program that will support women students in pursuing leadership positions. “We have a lot of clubs specific to women… but I want to work toward actually making a program to lead women to those resources,” she said in an interview with The Varsity

She also plans to improve accessibility and resources for student mental health. She discussed how in her first years on campus, she was not informed about mental health resources and often found them through word of mouth. She wants to make a safe space for students to be able to come and “know they’re going to get help.”

Yousefipournigjeh also plans to increase the grants and bursaries at the UTMSU, as well as work to overcome some of the barriers that students face in reaching out for both on- and off-campus financial support. “I just want to ensure every student gets the help that they’re looking for.”

The voting period for UTMSU elections will run from March 16–18.