Sarah Rana, a fourth-year student in contemporary Asian studies, is a candidate for vice-president, equity of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU). Her past experience with equity concerns centres on addressing anti-Asian hate and Islamophobia.
Rana was the social advocacy subcommittee chair of the Hart House Debating Club for over three years, during which she organized events addressing equity concerns at U of T. She has experience advocating for Asian and Uyghur rights and has also founded a social justice-focused club. Her academic research also addresses minority persecution, stereotypes, racism, and hate crimes.
In an interview with The Varsity, Rana criticized the bureaucracy in student governance, saying that the current system hinders students from bringing forward equity concerns. She noted a lack of formal mechanisms for voicing concerns within the UTSU and plans to implement them.
Rana also expressed commitment to enhancing support for sexual violence survivors. She mentioned that, although many survivors have spoken out about their experiences, she sees a lack of support for survivors at the university. She plans to address this through partnerships with advocacy groups such as the Dandelion Initiative.
Jerico Raguindin, a third-year student double majoring in public policy and sociology, is also running for vice-president, equity.
Though Raguindin has no direct experience with the UTSU, he has worked in student governance as president of the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC). His first year was spent on VUSAC’s sustainability commission, and he went on to become sustainability co-chair in his second year. He has also worked with the UTSU through a variety of mental health initiatives he has participated in with student groups outside of VUSAC.
In an interview with The Varsity, Raguindin said that if elected, his priorities would include continuing to pressure the university on fossil fuel divestment; making sure that it sets out standards for making buildings accessible; and reviewing the report that it plans to release on its sexual violence, to find its gaps and continue lobbying for them to be filled. He would follow through with a similar procedure concerning the university’s mental health policies.
Lastly, Raguindin said that he would take greater advantage of collaboration between the union and college governance structures like VUSAC.
Jessie Wu, a second-year humanities student, is another candidate for vice-president, equity. She has been involved with the UTSU, first as events chair of the First Year Council and later as humanities director. Outside of the UTSU, Wu serves as the communications coordinator for the Trinity College chapter of the World University Service of Canada, where she helps refugee students transition into university.
Wu’s platform is based on three principles: accountability, centrality, and training. In an interview with The Varsity, Wu pledged to advocate for a better approach to gender-based violence, calling on the university to institute preventative measures. She also intends to work with survivors to improve the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre.
The second prong of Wu’s campaign is centring student voices, which she views as important for transitioning to in-person school for students who have never physically attended classes. As vice-president equity, Wu hopes to provide resources and host events to foster a “feeling of community between all U of T students.”
Finally, Wu pledged to focus on training, suggesting equity training for clubs and mandatory equity training for orientation leaders. “The people who are part of orientation… set the tone,” said Wu.
Muskan Nagra, a third-year student who is double majoring in history and French and minoring in women and gender studies, is also running for the position. She previously served as the first-year representative of the University College Literary & Athletic Society, as well as the co-director of World University Service of Canada at University College (UC). She is currently a UTSU board director representing UC.
In an email to The Varsity, Nagra explained the decision to run for an executive position. She wrote that, while directors are able to hold executives accountable, they have limited power to implement policies. Being the vice-president equity would allow her to bring more meaningful changes to the university and students.
Nagra described her platform as “action focused,” characterized by multiple advocacies. She is committed to advocating for lower tuition costs for international students and reducing the TTC’s student monthly pass fee. In terms of mental health resources, she promised to work on expanding mental health services by increasing counsellors and thus reducing appointment waiting time.
Nagra also emphasized that she would like to work with students throughout the year to actively adjust the platform in a way reflective of students’ input. She mentioned that she would like to be a friend-like executive who supports students to the fullest extent. “I would like to be your friend. When you come to a friend with an issue, they support you as much as possible,” wrote Nagra.
Ying J Chow
Ying J Chow is also running for vice-president, equity.
Chow did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.
Abidur Rahman, a third-year student at U of T in molecular genetics, is the final candidate for vice-president, equity.
Rahman has worked as a mentorship and student life coordinator for Trinity College, experiences which they believe make them an exemplary candidate for the job.
Rahman hopes to implement concrete equity measures if elected. In an email to The Varsity, Rahman laid out a four-part plan, including reducing financial barriers; increasing cultural awareness; reforming accessibility services; and “empowering” commuters, mature students, and those with caregiving responsibilities.
Among their goals are the expansion of the Student Refugee program, more workshops during anti-oppression week, more targeted scholarships, and alternatives to Top Hat marking. Their plans also include “an easier intake process and less burden of proof on students” to address mental health.
“I am persistent about making practical reforms on all aspects of equity,” Rahman wrote.
The voting period for the UTSU elections is from March 23–27. The candidates debate is scheduled for Tuesday, March 22 at 6:00 pm.