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UTGSU candidate profiles: Finance Commissioner

Ali Reza Monfared, June Li, and Sevgi Arslan
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Sevgi Arslan, June Li, and Ali Reza Monfared. COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATES
Sevgi Arslan, June Li, and Ali Reza Monfared. COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATES

Sevgi Arslan 

Sevgi Arslan is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Department of Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), and also practises mental health and substance use disorder-based social work. Arslan aims to use “capital as a tool for change” and advocate for “a strong democratic governing culture.” 

Arslan intends to focus on financial support for students, including further investment in conference funding, bursaries for marginalized graduate students, and COVID-19 relief funds. 

“I have always been passionate about student engagement in governance,” Arslan wrote in her candidate statement.

Arslan touts experiences as general secretary and vice-president academics of the Political Science Student Association, treasurer of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group, and a sponsorship coordinator for the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies at OISE — a position in which Arslan claims to have increased funding from both internal and external sponsors. 

Arslan did not respond to The Varsity’s request for an interview.

June Li

June Li is a fifth-year PhD student in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology. If elected, Li hopes to audit the current budget so that more funds can be allocated toward supporting student groups and providing scholarships.

This past year, as the academics and funding commissioner divisions 3 & 4, Li was a part of a basic funding initiative that she plans to continue pursuing as finance commissioner. Li and her team have noticed a discrepancy in funding between departments, with some students more at risk.

To alleviate this burden, Li will engage collaboratively with departments and students to audit and renegotiate the funding packages. She noted that the average funding package at U of T is lower than that of other universities.

“This kind of data-driven advocacy… has actually worked really well in the [Temerty] Faculty of Medicine,” Li said. “They actually raised our basic funding package by 10 per cent.”

Li would also push for the implementation of the Healthy Lab Initiative so labs would need to meet a set of standards to be recognized by the university. Moreover, she would renegotiate the health and dental plan so that it provides students with more mental health support. 

Over the past few years, Li has worked with organizations such as the St. Michael’s Hospital Research Student Association and the University Consulting Group U of T chapter. She hopes to use her experience in funding and finances as finance commissioner.

Ali Reza Monfared

Ali Reza Monfared is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at U of T.

If elected, Monfared will provide more support to students, especially financially, and aims to listen to and lift student voices. Monfared does not have experience in student government but feels that he uniquely understands the struggles that students are dealing with, including physical and mental health and financial concerns. 

“We need to prepare a context in which the students’ concern is well listened [to],” said Monfared in an interview with The Varsity

In general, Monfared said students need more financial assistance in emergency situations. He provided COVID-19 as a good example of this, as he says that students — particularly international students — were not supported as much as they should have been.