Graduate students across the three campuses can vote for their preferred president, vice president, and board of director candidates between March 26 at 9:00 am and March 29 at 11:59 pm, online at

Presidential candidates

Kathy Haddadkar

Mohammadamir G. Moghaddam

Paul Douglas II

VP Internal

Friedemann Krannich

VP External

Jady Liang

VP Academic, Divisions 1 & 2

Ameer Ali

VP Academic, Divisions 3 & 4

Julian Nickel

VP Finance

Farshad Murtada


Mohammadamir G. Moghaddam

Mohammadamir G. Moghadam has been a part of UTGSU since his first year as a PhD candidate at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering. Now in his third year, he currently serves as the UTGSU’s VP academics and funding, divisions three and four for the 2023–2024 academic year.

In an interview with The Varsity, Moghadam said that in his current role, he’s talked to PhD students from different departments to learn about their needs, which helped him inform his current campaign.

If elected, Moghadam plans to advocate for better funding for PhD students. “Graduate students in Ontario and U of T are getting paid around 11 dollars per hour. And that’s well below the poverty line,” said Moghadam.

As UTGSU’s new president, he also wants to open a food bank specifically for graduate students to tackle the issue of food security.

Lastly, Moghadam has identified some buildings in Toronto that the union could use as co-op residences to offer more affordable housing to U of T’s graduate students.

Moghadam believes his connections with students from different disciplines and departments set him apart from past UTGSU presidents. “I try to be as inclusive as possible, and answer to the needs of all students,” he said.

Kathy Haddadkar

Kathy Haddadkar — a student in the second year of a doctorate of musical arts degree at the Faculty of Music — told The Varsity that as UTGSU President, she hopes to expand the UTGSU’s outreach to the UTM and UTSC campuses.

Her experience includes serving as VP academics for the University of Alberta’s Graduate Student Association in the 2021–2022 school year.

Haddadkar pledges to create a “strategic plan” to guide the union’s actions. “If we don’t have that living structure from the beginning… how can we ensure that those from the board of directors and all the way up and down the food chain [are] also well equipped to do what they need to?” she questioned.

To expand outreach to UTM and UTSC, she aims to create a task force responsible for researching the union’s past outreach actions and contacting student groups. She also wants to appoint teams at each campus to run in-person events.

Finally, Haddadkar would like to revamp the union’s website to include personal statements from the executives so that graduate students know who they’re reaching out to. She pledged to review all meeting minutes written during her term to ensure their accuracy.

Paul Douglas II

Paul Douglas II — a first-year masters student studying developmental psychology and education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education — is running for UTGSU president “to make a significant difference for the graduate student experience.”

Douglas II hopes to implement anti-racism training and education programs and create designated safe spaces and support systems for different groups on campus.

To promote equity, Douglas II wants to collect data on anti-Black racism and other equity issues within the graduate student population to properly inform advocacy efforts and policy recommendations. 

Douglas II also wants to improve the UTGSU’s outreach. The candidate said that many graduate students don’t know the union exists or how to get involved. To represent the graduate student community, Douglas II hopes to set up campaigns in different faculties to encourage students to voice their ideas in town hall meetings.

To tackle a lack of funding opportunities, Douglas II pledged to advocate for additional bursaries and lower tuition fees.

Vice-president Internal

Friedemann Krannich

Friedemann Krannich is a second-year PhD student studying mathematics and, as the current interim vice-president (VP) internal, he is running to continue the work he’s already started.

Krannich previously served on the UTGSU’s Board of Directors from September to November 2023. In November, he took on the role of interim VP internal and began reviewing the UTGSU’s bylaws and policies — a task he plans to continue.

Krannich explained that a lot of the articles were written years ago and no longer pertain to students’ current needs. He hopes to prioritize organization within the union, so the UTGSU can “actually deliver something for the students.”

Krannich said that all of the UTGSU’s current policies and bylaws require amendments. One issue he’d like to address is the power of the VP internal. According to him, the VP internal can reject any motion from being placed on a meeting agenda. He said that in the past, those in the VP internal role have misused this ability and he’d like to change this.

To ensure that the union’s internal procedures run smoothly, Krannich hopes to present a revised version of UTGSU bylaws at its annual general meeting in the fall.

Vice-President External

Jady Liang

Jady Liang — a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Physiology — has served as the union’s interim VP external this year and is running for the same position to finish the work she’s started.

The Board of Directors appointed Liang to the role last November after the previous VP external left the role. “We have worked very hard to get to where we are right now; we feel like we need another year to completely revamp programming,” she told The Varsity.

Liang has already implemented therapy dog programs inspired by her own therapy-dog pooch, pub nights for socialization, and a campaign to highlight graduate student accomplishments on social media.

In the long term, she hopes to continue advocating to address the affordability issues graduate students face. She mentioned having lobbied MPP Jessica Bell to increase graduate student funding as part of a lobby week run by the Canadian Federation of Students — a national organization representing students from more than 60 student unions.

Her experience outside of the UTGSU includes serving as chair of St. Michael’s Hospital Research Student Association and the Toronto Chapter president of the non-profit organization Science to Business Network.

VP Academic, Divisions 1 & 2

Ameer Ali

Ameer Ali — a third-year masters student in human resources at the Centre for Industrial Relations and a director on the UTGSU board — wants to continue getting more people actively engaged in and informed about the union’s work.

“We do now have a functional board, a functional executive, as of January, and we’d like to continue that momentum and leave the university in a better place,” he told The Varsity. He also wants to implement programs for subsidized transportation for academic workers, housing affordability, and food availability by researching options like community fridges and working with groups like the U of T Food Coalition. Ali also wants to combat hate, work to create an inclusive environment, and review UTGSU bylaws to ensure they are equitably worded.

Ali said being a mature part-time masters’ student gives him a perspective he believes isn’t often represented in the union’s executive team.

On the academic side, he says his experience in the recruitment industry and working as a Teaching Assistant (TA) has taught him to work with students on employment and teaching opportunities. He wants to offer emergency relief funding and advocate for the university to create more summer TA opportunities.

Editor’s Note: Henry Ssali — the other candidate running for VP academic, divisions 1&2 — did not respond to The Varsity‘s request for an interview.

VP Academic, Division 3 & 4

Julian Nickel

Julian Nickel — a current UTGSU director in the second year of his physics PhD — primarily wants to address inadequate graduate funding. Nickel has served as a steward, member of the Bargaining Support Committee, and member mobilizer in the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 3902 Unit 1 — which represents U of T student educators. He told The Varsity that he became involved in the UTGSU so he could advocate for increased base funding for graduate students.

The UTGSU’s 2023 annual general meeting passed a motion that Nickel had submitted to form a committee to advocate for increasing graduate student funding. He would like to create a petition across the three campuses calling for increased dialogue between department heads, deans, administrators, and government officials.

Nickel attributed much of the union’s dysfunction to a lack of engagement, which he hopes to help address with collective organizing. He explains that “the best way to fix that problem is for people to think that the union can do something for them.”

Additionally, Nickel would like to set up a peer support system that students can turn to for help and advice if they experience issues with their supervisor, from disputes over the direction of their research to sexual harassment. “We protect each other,” he said.

VP Finance

Farshad Murtada

Farshad Murtada, a second-year PhD student in biomedical engineering, is running to be the UTGSU’s VP finance. “I think what I do in my day-to-day is so microscopic, so being able to zoom out and have more people interaction and at least make an impact in the graduate community — I think [running for VP is] the best way I can do it,” he said in an interview with The Varsity.

He’s been interested in student government since high school. Previously, he worked in economics policy and funding advocacy with the Ontario Medical Association. In this role, he broke down budgets and pay structures, and he points to this as an experience that prepared him for the VP role.

Murtada’s campaign focuses on two pillars: financial transparency and effective spending. To increase transparency, he wants to provide more spaces for UTGSU members to learn about the budget, keep the union’s website updated, create student forums to discuss the budget, and potentially send out financial updates in the union’s newsletter.

He hopes to put more of the union’s funds that aren’t funding vital programs like health insurance toward student issues like food, housing, and transportation subsidies, and wants to ensure that the events the UTGSU funds are useful to students. He wants to measure this by implementing student feedback systems, similar to the ones he used in undergrad as the VP outreach at the Western University Biology Undergraduate Society.