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UTSU candidate profiles: Vice-President Public & University Affairs

Victoria Liu, Harvi Karatha, Sruthy Balakumar
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Victoria Liu

Victoria Liu, a second-year student majoring in international relations and minoring in philosophy and history, is running for vice-president public and university affairs of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU).

She decided to run after serving as a social science director for the UTSU where she contributed to initiatives like the Peer-Support Program and the expansion of the Student Aid program. In an interview with The Varsity, Liu said she hopes to bring the leadership and organization skills from that experience to this role. “I wanted to do more at the UTSU, and that’s why I decided to run,” she said. 

Lui’s slogan “CAMP-US” is an acronym for the issues she wants to address. ‘C’ stands for COVID-19 policies,’ such as advocating for lower tuition, affordable housing, health on campus, and OSAP. With ‘A,’ she addresses ‘anti-sexual assault,’ including more support for survivors, additional counselors, and a crisis line, as well as a more preventive strategy. ‘M’ stands for ‘mental health’ and expanding resources such as the Peer Support Network. Finally, ‘P’ stands for ‘professional opportunities’ because she hopes to expand business partnerships for students and invest in more youth employment program funding. 

Harvi Karatha

Harvi Karatha, a first year student in engineering science, is also running for vice-president public and university affairs. Karatha has worked as finance lead for Engineers Without Borders.

In an interview with The Varsity, Karatha said, “The main reason I’m running, to be honest, is because of my platform.” Karatha outlined four main pillars for her campaign. First, supporting survivors; second, mental health; third, student representation; and fourth, affordability. 

In terms of supporting survivors, Karatha would advocate for accountability from the university and for reforming the Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre. Karatha plans to implement an anonymous form on the centre, survivor-centric support, and an increase in funding for groups like the PEARS Project. 

Karatha would address mental health by advocating for academic reform. “I realized that a lot of the mental health burdens the students currently face stem from their academic pressure,” said Karatha. She would push for more credit/no credit options, academic forgiveness policies, and more leniency generally. She would work to amend the University Mandated Leave of Absence policy. 

Karatha would continue to support the Same Degree, Same Fee program to address tuition affordability, and push for additional scholarships. She also hopes to get students more involved in speaking to their representatives. 

Sruthy Balakumar

Sruthy Balakumar is the final candidate running for vice-president, public and university affairs.

According to their candidate statement, they view the position as being a “liaison” between the university and the provincial government to provide more financial stability to students. If elected, they will make sure more funds are allocated toward helping both domestic and international students, especially in the form of scholarships and grants. 

“I believe that students deserve these grants, especially due to the increasing prices of all other aspects of our lives,” Balakumar concluded. 

Balakumar did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.

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.