Content warning: this article contains mentions of sexual assault.

The uncontested candidate for the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) vice-president public and university affairs (VP PUA) position for the 2021 elections, Micah Kalisch, is officially rescinding their candidacy. UTSU President Muntaka Ahmed and Chief Returning Officer Spencer Robertson confirmed to The Varsity that Kalisch has officially submitted their withdrawal. 

The VP PUA position, with its term beginning on May 1, will now have to be filled after the regular spring 2021 elections. A by-election is one option to fill the role, and Ahmed wrote to The Varsity that the executive is looking into options that comply with the UTSU’s bylaws and will be consulting incoming executives.

The vacancy speaks to a broader challenge in recent years of UTSU elections, which have been marked by a lack of participation. This year, while the UTSU has taken pre-election efforts to facilitate access, the elections for three of the five other executive positions — president, vice-president operations, and vice-president equity — only have one candidate running. 

There will be a UTSU elections forum featuring the eight candidates who are still running for five executive positions on March 16 at 6:00 pm. The Varsity will be moderating the event. 

Kalisch’s rationale 

In a statement to The Varsity, Kalisch explained their reasons for dropping out of the race after “weeks of deliberation.”

They wrote that, “Unfortunately, as I am a part of many grassroots initiatives and leadership roles, I have come to the realization that I, as a candidate, will be unable to attend to the position while continuously working on leadership movements in my many other roles.” 

“The VPPUA position requires a candidate that can devote a significant amount of time to the role to ensure the students it represents are well represented and listened to.” 

They want to focus on advocacy for sexual assault survivors at universities, writing that through their advocacy work, “the appalling state of the universities [sic] handling of sexual assault allegations and survivor rights has become extremely clear.” 

Kalisch wrote that they hope to work with the next UTSU executives to further develop a new initiative they formed this year — a peer mentor initiative for survivors of sexual assault called Prevention, Empowerment, Advocacy, Response for Survivors.

The Varsity’s previous reporting

The Varsity previously published a breaking news story on March 11 on Kalisch’s intended departure, of which they had informed The Varsity in explaining why they could not accept an invitation to a now-cancelled elections forum. However, in Kalisch’s perspective, this initial comment was not meant to be taken as an official one meant for publication. 

In their statement, Kalisch cited this initial Varsity reporting as a hindrance to continuing their campaign because it “undermined [their] credibility to run.”

The UTSU voting period is from March 17–21.

Editor’s note (March 16): This article has been updated to include further details on a potential by-election, with comment from Ahmed.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, you can call:

Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 (Toll Free), 1-866-863-7868 (TTY), and 416-863-0511 (Toronto)

Support Services for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse at 1-866-887-0015

Toronto Rape Crisis Centre: Multicultural Women Against Rape at 416-597-8808

Good2Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454

Gerstein Crisis Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200

U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030

Sexual Violence and Prevention Centre at: (416) 978-2266 and [email protected]

UTSG: Gerstein Science Information Centre (Gerstein Library), Suite B139

UTM: Davis Building, Room 3094

UTSC: Environmental Science & Chemistry Building, EV141.