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UTGSU candidate profiles: Academics and Funding Commissioner Divisions 3 & 4

Danielle Karakas, Jesse Velay-Vitow
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COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATES
COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATES

Danielle Karakas

Danielle Karakas, a second-year master’s student in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, is the current civics and environment commissioner.

If elected, Karakas plans to continue advocating for the U of T emergency food bank and to officialize its partnership with the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU). “My goal is to… get them more funding, as well as [to] continue to work and acknowledge the systemic issues that cause grad students to be food insecure,” she said in an interview with The Varsity

Another priority for Karakas is continuing to advocate for affordable student housing at U of T. “Why is rent increasing at U of T but decreasing everywhere else?” she asked. 

Karakas strongly supports an initiative started by the current academics and funding commissioner divisions 3 & 4, which posits to increase basic funding packages across the School of Graduate Studies. 

Karakas added that if elected, she will be available to help students navigate difficult supervisory relationships. “As a science student, I acknowledge [that] peer supervisory relationships can often be problematic,” she said. “I’m there to help.” 

Jesse Velay-Vitow

Jesse Velay-Vitow is a third-year physics PhD student and has served on the Policy and Operations Committee. He has been involved in physics student associations at the graduate and undergraduate levels. He lost an executive race last year, after which he and one other candidate filed an unsuccessful appeal to challenge the results, alleging defamation.

In an interview with The Varsity, Velay-Vitow said that his priority is to offer graduate students the option to opt out of the UTGSU. “Over 90 per cent of the potential voters are not voting,” he said, adding that many students have “expressed frustration with the way the UTGSU is operating.”

“People have a right to express that they’re not satisfied with the institution that they’re a part of,” Velay-Vitow said. “I think that that question has not been asked [of] graduate students in a very long time.”

According to Velay-Vitow, an opt-out model would allow students to build alternative student unions that might better cover the wide range of graduate student needs.  

“I’m using my candidacy to offer [graduate students] an option to say ‘I’m displeased’ and I’d like to be able to communicate that to the UTGSU,” Velay-Vitow said.