Letter to the Editor: You fell into Goldy’s trap

Re: "The Faith Goldy effect"

Letter to the Editor: You fell into Goldy’s trap

Dear Anastasia,

You fell into her trap. Faith Goldy, a University of Toronto alum and famous white nationalist convinced you through her polite manner of conversation that she should have a place at the debate stage. Faith Goldy is a fringe candidate, the highest degree of extremist, and she is following the trends of other prominent white nationalists in their quests to moderate their image in order to spread their hateful messages.

You had said that because Goldy has been left in the dark that she is getting more attention, and this may be true, but you came to the wrong conclusion. Goldy is getting more attention because she has turned this election into her own personal circus — and the media ate it up. She protested at every debate, using the values that we hold dear against us to make us feel as though she deserved a place on stage. She wants us to feel like she belongs, she desperately craves it, and so she loudly protested against “bias.”

What about other fringe candidates who ran for mayor — one of whom, Kevin Clarke, was kicked out of the Mayoral Forum on Affordable Housing held at OISE — which was also protested by Goldy – despite being a strong advocate for the homeless and poverty in this city. In your argument, why should only the loudest and craziest be allowed in debates, and not all candidates?

Your argument assumes that Goldy would attend a debate in good faith (forgive the lack of a better word). It is a noted white nationalist and alt-right tactic to derail a debate by throwing falsehoods on the debate stage, leaving the serious candidates to clean it up — often forgoing their own time on stage to defend against these lies. The tactic is often called a “Gish Gallop,” the tactic which forces the opponent to defend against a wall of arguments, despite their lack of merit or validity.

Giving her a platform to spew her hatred in order to debate her and try to take her down civilly is a false dream and can only win her more support. There is no “gotcha” moment, she openly admits to her horrid beliefs, it is impossible to “catch” her. All debating her does is give her a message with a wider audience – that is why she wants to debate so bad, she wants to use her dog whistles in front of an audience of millions. She would not debate the issues at hand, instead she would continuously spread false information about the city, or other candidates — one example can be noted from her protestors and their continuous use of the word “communist” to describe John Tory, something I think anyone sane can agree is absolutely not true.

The real reason why Goldy has gained support is because the media thrives on controversy, and they have endlessly covered this campaign and all of its intricacies without thinking of the consequences. The fact that we in the normal sphere of politics think that we need to debate these bigots shows that we truly believe in democratic principles and norms. The fact that she is even being asked about in official polls is a farce –— why should she have any more right to that representation than any of the other candidates who are running for mayor? Her constant coverage because of her fringe views is a tool for revenue and clicks on a website — we are doing this openly, and without regret (until after the fact). These people are not assembling underground, they are assembling at our doorstep with the intention to trick their way into our minds by using the values we hold dear, while in the same breath promising to destroy these very values.

P.S. — speaking of articles you could have written about University of Toronto Alumni and their political careers, Mayor John Tory attended Trinity College, graduating in 1975.

Lucas Granger

UTSU Innis College Director

Editor’s Note (October 23): To clarify, whilst Lucas Granger is on the Board of Directors of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, this letter represents his personal opinion on this matter and not the union’s.

On October 22, let’s change the millennial voter turnout

Young voters are least likely to vote but have the highest stake in our political future

On October 22, let’s change the millennial voter turnout

As millennials have demographically surpassed the baby boomers, young people have the most political power of any other voting bloc for the first time. And according to Elections Canada, their participation is improving. About 57.1 per cent of those eligible to vote aged 18 to 24 took the time to do so for the 2015 general election, up from 38.8 per cent in 2011.

However, compare that to the 78.8 per cent of voters aged 65 to 74 who came out to the polls in 2015, and Canada’s youngest voters appear to be the least interested in engaging in the democratic process. Young people’s interests are effectively underrepresented in the dominant political discourse. This is most clearly reflected in the direction that current provincial policy is taking.

According to the Canadian Millennials Report conducted by Abacus Data, young people are more comfortable with interventionist government action, believing that corporations should pay more taxes and that the government should be more responsible for redistributing wealth. In general, they prioritize spending over balancing the budget in order to alleviate systemic issues like income inequality, and are skeptical of free market fundamentalism.

When asked to choose, 54 per cent suggest that Canada would benefit from a more socialist system. These views are quite inconsistent with the fiscal conservatism touted by the current provincial government.

Perhaps youth voter turnout is relatively low because millennials feel like they have less of a stake in today’s society. Today, people get married, have children, and buy homes much later on in their lives, if they choose to at all.

According to the 2016 Census, millennials aged 20 to 34 are less likely to be homeowners and more likely to still live with their parents, compared to baby boomers in 1981. By comparison, older homeowners and parents may be more concerned with political affairs because of policies that directly affect them, such as property taxes and child care.

Additionally, the transient lifestyles of some millennials may also lead to lower voter turnout, as proof of their current residential address is required to vote. Since people are settling down later on in life, a growing number of people have relatively temporary addresses.

For example, when I was living in residence during my first year at U of T, I assumed that I would not be able to vote in my first election because I did not have any mail to use as my proof of current address. I could have voted in my parent’s ward, where my mail was sent, but that was far away and inconvenient.

I later discovered that if you do not have a permanent residential address, your building administrator can fill out a form called a Certificate of Identity and Residence that will suffice in getting you a ballot, in lieu of mailed documents.  On quite short notice, I was happy to vote in my first ever election after a quick visit to my registrar. Now, the myvote.toronto.ca website makes it simpler to find out what ward you live in, who is running in your ward, and what identification is needed to cast a ballot.

The municipal elections are taking place on October 22, and millennials deserve to have their voices heard and more of a say in the policies shaping our incredible and unique city. An uptick in voter turnout during the last general election shows that young adults are starting to pay more attention to politics.

This may be because stakes are perceived to be higher in today’s political climate. With a culture war quietly raging in the south and populism trickling into Canadian politics, the climate crisis becoming ever more apparent with increasingly intense extreme weather events, and the economy being never too far away from a recession, young people may become more motivated to participate in the democratic process. And so they should be.

We are the ones that will have to deal with the increasingly concerning impacts of climate change, globalization, and neoliberalism. We are the ones that will be affected for decades to come by the short-sighted and unsustainable decisions of antiquated policymakers today. We are the least likely to vote. But the ones that need to vote the most are us.

Madeleine Kelly is a fifth-year Ethics, Society, and Law and Environmental Studies student at New College.

UTMSU executive candidates face off in debate

Election to take place March 7–9

UTMSU executive candidates face off in debate

The campaign period for the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) elections are in full swing, and the executive candidates faced off at UTM’s Blind Duck Pub in a two hour debate on March 1.

There are two slates competing in this year’s election compared to four last year. No incumbents are running for re-election, and two of the candidates are UTMSU associates. The slates, Fresh UTM and UTM First, presented platforms that advocate for international student rights, U-Pass expansion, and healthier food options on campus.

President

Running for President with Fresh UTM is Salma Fakhry, who is Associate to the UTMSU Vice-President University Affairs and Academics. Her platform includes providing accessible education and reviewing UTM’s student centre expansion.

Alex Gignac is UTM First’s presidential candidate. Gignac’s platform advocates for a tier rewards system for club funding, which would see more funding provided to new clubs that participate in more events.

Additionally, he advocated for U-Pass expansion throughout Brampton and Oakville. All UTM students are provided with a U-Pass, which allows for unlimited access to MiWay for a mandatory fee charged to their student accounts.

When asked about the student centre expansion, Fakhry stated that at the last UTMSU Annual General Meeting, students voted ‘yes’ on a student centre expansion.

Fakhry said, “We must consult our student body. We cannot do this alone… We must lobby with the administration to find… an accessible funding model that actually takes pressure off students. We don’t want students to be paying extra money, because this is their right and this is their space.”

Gignac stated that he also advocates for the expansion: “We’re going to have to sit down with the university because the most important thing is that they cover a good chunk of the expenses… There will be no increased tuition for the student centre.”

Vice-President Internal and Services

Vikko Qu from Fresh UTM is running unopposed for Vice-President Internal and Services. His platform focuses on expanding limited accessibility and study space on campus.

Qu proposes making the U-Pass GTA-wide. When asked how he plans to establish a GTA-wide pass, Qu noted that he was involved in the GTA U-Pass conversation last year as Associate to the Vice-President Internal.

“What will happen this year is that first, we’ll consult the students by running surveys, by collecting data, by collecting information. And second, we’ll be talking to our levy groups, clubs and societies, and third, we’ll be running a referendum so that our students can vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’  [on whether] they want a GTA U-Pass,” Qu said. “We’ll present all the information to the government, to Metrolinx, so our students’ demands can be consented.”

Vice-President External

Ali Taha is UTM First’s candidate for Vice-President External. Taha, who currently serves on the UTMSU Board of Directors, stated that his goal as Vice-President External would be to unite the three campuses. He also aims for a diversity of opinions on campus.

Jose Wilson is running for the same position with Fresh UTM. Wilson’s platform is centred on activism for part-time students.

The Vice-President External candidates were questioned at the debate on how they planned to reinstate the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) for international students.

Taha stated that, after some research, he learned OHIP was rescinded for international students in 1994, as the government did not feel it was feasible to implement the program for international students.

He noted that re-instating the program for international students would be very difficult and instead advocated for increased support for international students. “I would like to see more support and services for international students, like international ambassadors to be able to be appointed as [the point of] contact for international students when they get here,” said Taha.

Wilson noted that he is an international student, that he understood how expensive the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) is, and how it lacks coverage.

He said, “I remember a conversation with [Qu] where he mentioned that in order to take a ride in an ambulance, you would have to pay $500, because the ambulance does not take the UHIP coverage… We want to take a look at lobbying MPPs and premiers about re-instating OHIP for international students.”

Vice-President Equity

Sagal Osman is running for Vice-President Equity with UTM Fresh. She cites her experience as an executive with the Black Students’ Association as a reason for her involvement. Osman wants to expand safe spaces on campus in addition to combating Islamophobia, sexism, and racism on campus.

UTM First’s Vice-President Equity candidate is Mduduzi Mhlanga, who wants to focus on finances and on-campus affordability.

The Vice-President Equity candidates were asked about how they planned to implement the Sexual Violence Policy at UTM.

Osman stated that she would like to see “an annual review of this policy. We need constant change so that we can keep advocating and keep implementing policies that keep communities spoken for and included.”

She noted that the policy provides support for perpetrators and wants to see the policy edited to make it “survivor-centric.”

“Our human rights need to be advocated for and spoken for, and if we can’t do that then we need to change that right now,” Osman said.

Mhlanga countered by saying he believed it was far more important to “find a solution that works and stick with it.”

“But overall, I believe that UTM is a very safe campus… so I believe that we have made real strides in achieving equality and equity despite sexual orientation, despite ethnic identification, despite your gender,” Mhlanga stated. “I believe that for this policy, it’s far more important to hear student’s opinions and see what they think needs to be changed, and then try to advocate for that change as well, once we again make sure the solution is viable.”

Vice-President University Affairs

and Academics

UTM First candidate Christina Khokar wants students to have a better understanding of tuition fees, along with more information sessions related to tuition. Khokhar advocates for increased opt-out options from fees and levies.

Fresh UTM candidate Maya Tomkiewicz stated that students are often unaware of what is included in student policies. She is advocating for increased visibility of these policies on campus.

When asked what the governing council on campus does, Khokhar stated that UTM operates as a democracy. “I also want to improve this process by having a longer election period so we can get across to more people… right now, our voter turnout is only 35 per cent… I think everyone should have a voice… and I think everyone should recognize the value of these elections,” she said.

Tomkiewicz clarified that the UTM Campus Council is a subsection of the Governing Council: “They make decisions about different issues like academic policies, parking fees, tuition. Unfortunately, there is very little student representation on this council.”

Tomkiewicz then advocated for further representation of students on the council.

Voting takes place from March 7–9 at Davis Building, Instructional Centre, CCT Building, and Deerfield Hall.

UTSU elections’ accountability crisis

Platitudes and politeness in place of substance and pragmatism

UTSU elections’ accountability crisis

A post-mortem analysis of the recent University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) spring elections reveals a series of insights on the evolution of campus politics over the years: most notably, the increasing role politeness and geniality, rather than substance and pragmatism have come to play in campaigning.

The recent history of union elections is checkered with conflicts that have typically hinged on significant and divisive issues; the threat of divisional defederation comes to mind. Much of that discourse was difficult, some of it bordered on ad-hominem attack, but the impassioned debate overwhelmingly had the best interests of students at heart.

That tradition seems to have entirely given up the ghost however, as this campaign season was the most vapid in some time. No one misses histrionics of the past when it comes to debate performances or campaign statements, but something vital was lost with the bathwater as this year’s candidates wasted opportunities to scrutinize one another on specifics.

Few of the candidates were willing to engage with the details of their campaign promises, many chose instead to pay brief lip service to the core mandate while focusing on grandiose ideals.

Providing for medical and dental coverage, consulting with administration on academic life, protecting and promoting equity, and advocating for student issues are important and valued contributions, though they reflect the limit of what the union can realistically achieve. Propositions such as bringing about free tuition province wide, constructing and staffing a 24-hour mental health centre on campus, or bringing international students coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) are not promises, they are platitudes. Airing the notion that projects of this magnitude fall under the UTSU’s purview and potential is not only foolhardy, it’s irresponsible.

Proposals like these reveal some insidious trends in UTSU electioneering: either the candidates include them in their platforms knowing full well that they are unachievable, or they don’t know and haven’t taken the time to look into it. Both are bad.

Unfortunately, the only incisive questioning during the Executive Debate came from the moderators and audience, most of which went unanswered.

The issue is complicated further by an undergirding skepticism and distrust of the provincial government and U of T administration. Often, prospective student leaders hurl vitriol at these bodies in an attempt to scapegoat and draw undeserved attention to the power and purpose of the student movement.

Yet, the administration and government are not necessarily the enemy, and certainly aren’t worth provoking with contemptuous grandstanding. The reality of the situation is that the success of anything the UTSU hopes to achieve in a given year, big or small, is inextricably linked to decisions made by these groups. The provincial government and U of T administration are not intransigent gatekeepers. They are our partners.

Bombastic promises like the ones thrown around during the Executive Debate and throughout the campaign represent little more than diversions, drawing focus away from the big-picture impotence of the union, and in some cases the lack of preparedness of the candidates.

It certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, nor is it one that is unique to student politics, but that is not reason enough to excuse it in our community. There are meaningful and substantial things the UTSU can achieve, but those things tend to take a back seat when candidates are fighting for the lion’s share of support.

Building a platform on unreasonable, or in some cases unattainable ideals is irresponsible and part and parcel of the UTSU’s mandate crisis — 9.7 per cent of eligible voters participated in last week’s elections —insofar as students are not willing to engage or endorse leaders without realistic plans.

This bankruptcy of substance is a disappointing turn of events for the UTSU after a year that was shepherded in with high hopes. Brighter UofT ran on a pledge to clean house and initiate a process of responsive and responsible governance — though in recent months the union and especially its returning executives have remained hard to pin on the outstanding question of membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which most will remember was implicitly at the core of their run for office.

When pushed on the topic at the Executive Debate, now president elect, Denike and 1UofT candidate, Madina Siddiqui were expectedly non-committal, offering some variation on the “whatever the students want” response. The students, at least the ones still willing to participate, handed the UTSU a pretty clear indication of their wants last year when Brighter was elected and a CFS affiliated, slow-to-act cycle of incumbencies was brought to an end. As of yet, the implicit promise at the heart of Brighter’s success last year remains unfulfilled.

If the UTSU wants to make itself more relevant on campus, it can start by engaging students in a responsible way during elections with respect to what can be achieved, and how.

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Unite UTM claims all executive positions in landslide victory

Total of four slates in this year's elections

Unite UTM won an overwhelming victory in the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) elections, securing all five executive positions, unofficial results indicate. There were a total of four slates in this year’s elections, and a handful of independent candidates.

Current vice president, university affairs Nour Alideeb is the president-elect and won with 1,717 votes. Ridwan Olow, presidential candidate with UTM Focus, received the second-most votes in the election with 479 votes – roughly a third of those received by Alideeb.

The results for the other executive positions revealed a similar distribution of votes.

Jackie Zhao will fulfil the role of vice president, internal & services and was elected with 1,811 votes. He will be joined by Vanessa Demello, who won her position with 1808 votes.

Marise Hopkins is the vice president, external-elect and received 1,612 votes, and Maleeha Baig will be vice president, equity. Baig won with 1,732 votes.

For each executive election, there were between 51 and 60 spoiled ballots and between 60 and 98 abstentions.

The new executive will take office on May 1, 2016, after the results of the election are ratified.

This story is developing, more to follow.

Hello UofT, One UofT share their goals, experiences

Two executive slates face off in UTSU elections

Hello UofT, One UofT share their goals, experiences

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) spring elections are underway. There are two executive slates: Hello UofT, and One UofT, as well as a few independent candidates, vying for seven positions.

President

University College student Madina Siddiqui is running for president with the One UofT slate. “There are seven executives and each of has a vital role on the UTSU,” said Siddiqui. “I look at the president as the anchor, an individual that will bring the team together and push the team to do the work that it is supposed to be doing for the students.”

Siddiqui serves as the current president of the Afghan Students’ Association. In an interview with The Varsity, Siddiqi listed tackling racism on campus, improving accessibility, and working to build closer relationships between the union and clubs among her campaign priorities.

Siddiqui praised the recently released Ontario budget, which promised free tuition based on the average cost of arts and science tuition in Ontario for students with household incomes of less than $50,000. She would like to see tuition fees eliminated entirely.

“We pay the highest fees in Ontario. To me, I think that it’s straining on students. I myself am a student who has two jobs, a full course load, and I manage an association,” she said. “It is difficult and the thing is that education is so beautiful. Unfortunately my parents didn’t have an education because of the war back home, so my mom always says knowledge is power. To be able to give students the tools that they need to empower the society like to help the community is great and I think that free education is a must.”

Running for president with the Hello UofT slate is Innis College student Jasmine Wong Denike, the current UTSU vice president, external.

“When I came to U of T in my first year, I was terrified,” Denike said. “I came from a place where I didn’t have a lot of friends, I didn’t really know who I was, I didn’t know what I was doing.”

Denike credited her work at the UTSU this past year for changing her perspective on the union’s potential to spark positive change at the university. “I had the chance to do things I wanted to do and see ways that I could try to improve the experience, especially for first-year [and] second-year students so they wouldn’t have the same experience that I had when I showed up my first and second year,” she said.

“Now I am running to be the president of the UTSU which is kind of a big step for me in the sense that I did not see this coming. I want to do it because I am not done yet,” Denike stated.

Like Siddiqui, Denike emphasized the importance of connecting with students. Additionally, she said that she wants to see more progress made on the Student Commons project, lower or frozen caps on tuition fees, as well as efforts to help make students feel safe on campus.

Denike also indicated that she believes that the UTSU’s procedures have made the union inaccessible to some students. “I feel like this year it’s sort of been lost in the jargon of Robert’s Rules of Order in a way, and I want to bring it back down to earth, bring it back to students so they can understand what is going on, they feel like they have a sense of what the board does and after every meeting I want to make sure that students don’t have to read through a 200 page board package to find out one motion,” she said.

Vice president, internal & services

Mathias Memmel, current co-president of the Faculty of Music’s Undergraduate Association and director for the Faculty of Music on the UTSU’s current Board of Directors, is running with Hello UofT for vice president, internal & services. 

When asked about his goals for the position, he expressed his desire to improve the undergraduate health and dental plan. Next year, the plan will cover up to $100 in psychological care for the first time, a development that Memmel suggested he would like to take further. “We should be able to raise that and cover the full cost,” he said.

Memmel went on to say that he would like to implement a more transparent budgeting process and to establish “a sharing economy of materials” between clubs and student societies, in order to maximize resources.

Carina Zhang, an international student at New College, is the One UofT vice president, internal & services candidate. Zhang credits her appeal as a candidate to her past experiences as a representative for the New College Council (NCC) and the New College Student Council (NCSC), as well as her time spent on the academic appeals board and the Arts & Science Council. 

When asked about the issues she aims to tackle as a prospective member of the UTSU executive, she said that she would like to increase the number of scholarships and internships available to international students: “I’d like to ask the Centre for International Experience to co-operate with us because they are kind of the core centre for international students.” 

Zhang would also like to see a greater sense of community and enhanced communication between U of T’s three campuses. She said, “The campus itself, those buildings are not the things that keep the students here. It’s more like the perspective, the culture, the respect, everything, the environment to engage people, to unite them, to become one U of T. So that’s our goal… Our team name explains it all,” Zhang said.

Vice president, university affairs

Shawn Williams is a Victoria College student running for vice president, university affairs with Hello UofT. Williams has been involved with various Facebook groups for newly-accepted U of T students. According to Williams, in 2014, “I wasn’t running a Facebook group but I was still really active and I was basically the person who was helping new students, just using that as a mechanism to help them with student loans, course selection, program enrolment, all those sorts of things,” she said.

Williams set up a group for the class of 2019 and then again for the class of 2020, which the UTSU officially endorsed at a Board of Directors meeting in October.

Williams wants to hold informal groups similar to commissions but geared towardsdifferent demographics, a move that she believes will facilitate greater student community engagement. She said, “I want to have things sort of like commissions, which are for specific groups of students. Various groups have different concerns. You might have kids in certain programs who are concerned about fees in their programs in particular — those sorts of things.”

Williams expressed concern about accessibility and mental wellness in terms of the support services currently available to students, which she believes to be inadequate. She proposes working with the administration to improve policies surrounding test absences and expanding services that make recorded lectures available online.

“Students often have to juggle their own health with schoolwork and we just don’t really have good mechanisms in place to allow people to do that effectively,” she said.

One UofT’s vice president, university affairs candidate was unavailable for comment. At press time, the slate stated that they had a candidate confirmed for the position, but that they were unavailable.

Andy Edem, current associate to the vice president, campus life, is running as an independent for the office of vice president, university affairs. The Varsity did not approach Edem for comment.

Vice president, external

Andre Fast, an Innis College student, is One Uof T’s candidate for vice president external. Echoing Siddiqui, Fast intimated his desire to see the union fight for free tuition in Ontario in the future. “In Ontario, we pay more for tuition than in any other province. I think it is important that university be accessible to everyone.”

“I think overall [the budget] is positive because it provides more funding for low income students. There are some negative things,” said Fast. “It is not free tuition, despite how they framed it. They say it is $6,200 for people whose parents make less than $50,000. We know that is not actually the average tuition. Statistics Canada says it is closer to $7,900,” Fast commented, referencing the recently released 2016 provincial budget.

Victoria College student Lucinda Qu is Hello’s candidate for vice president, external.

Qu wants to see the barriers to involvement that face marginalized students demolished, and focus on issues such as affordable education and access to food at all hours. Qu’s broader platform involves “lobbying external organizations and governments, a lot of talking to student groups and admin on campus.”

Qu hopes to level the playing field for students by working to make post-secondary education more affordable.

Qu said that achieving these goals would involve “a lot of talking to student groups and admin[istration] on campus. Whether it be top-down or whether it be in more of a grassroots fashion through the establishing and funding of groups that can start new initiatives here, I’m interested in exploring every option possible to tackle the issues that speak to students most.”

Vice president, equity

“University, I feel, is a time where students actually end up spending more time here on campus than they do at home. We want that to be some place where people feel comfortable, feel like they belong… like they’re part of a larger community… like they’re safe, feel like they are with their family basically,” said Malkeet Sandhu, One UofT’s candidate for the equity seat. She currently serves as co-president of the Sikh association.

Sandhu identified the prevalence of racism on campus, accessibility concerns for students with disabilities, and divestment from private firms complicit in the operation of for-profit prisons in the United States as her chief concerns.

“I want the student body to know that I care about them. I am here for them. I want to engage in a conversation with you and know what it is you guys need and want and I want to work towards helping you get there,” Sandhu said

Farah Noori, a UTM student and Hello UofT candidate for vice president, equity, attributes her potential to her past experience with the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), specifically with the women’s coalition, and her current position as a UTM director at the UTSU.

“I’m going to try and work on every issue I can just because I want to be fair,” Noori said. “But at the same time, I want to ensure every cause is spoken for.”

“That’s my number one platform point… by combatting, challenging the different -phobias and -isms… I want to reach out to the different colleges, professional faculties, and clubs and people from UTM, because UTM students are also represented by the UTSU,” said Noori.

Her primary goals include fostering a greater sense of community to allow for greater discussion of issues concerning students, improving campus security resources, food accessibility, the inclusion of student rights on course syllabi, and the implementation of gender neutral pronouns with registrars on campus.

Noori emphasized the importance of dialogue and education in addressing equity issues. “Individuals have different opinions on things, I want them to, in a respectful way obviously, talk about those opinions and have a discussion. So I don’t want to just shut them out cause I feel if you do that then you’re not really solving the issue itself or you’re not really getting anywhere… having those intellectual discussions, you’ll get somewhere. If you don’t get to an agreement, you’ll get to some sort of understanding,” she said.

Vice president, campus life

Shahin Imtiaz is running with Hello UofT. Her previous experience includes being an associate to the vice president, university affairs at the UTSU, serving on the executive at The Spectatorial, a speculative journal at U of T, and time with The Varsity as an associate science editor.

If elected, Imtiaz wants to address what she calls the “inaccessibility that comes in the form of decentralized information.” She proposes replacing the current paperwork-based process by which club funding is acquired with a campus life app and website that “puts all of the campus life needs in one place.” She also mentioned focusing on higher collaboration with clubs, more inclusivity, better clubs training ,and prioritizing fixing the current systems in place, especially with clubs funding.

Lera Nwineh, the One UofT candidate, is currently an executive on the Nigerian Students’ Association (NSA) and a member of the international students’ committee at University College.

“I want to accomplish things in three different aspects: clubs, students, and events,” he said. Nwineh aims to increase transparency and ease in the club funding process, a goal that he believes will “triple the effect of campus life in general.” He also aims to focus on bettering UTSU events by making them more accessible, with a special priority on the UTSU concert during frosh week, essentially ensuring a positive first experience for first-year students.

Alessia Rodríguez, the current vice president, campus life, is running for the position again as an independent. From June 2015, she served as an associate to the vice president, campus life and was then appointed to the role by the Board of Directors in December following the impeachment of her predecessor, Akshan Bansal.

“I want to personalize my relationship with clubs and provide them with the resources they need,” Rodríguez said. “I plan to continue facilitating the integration and collaboration between clubs and other groups, as well as to break the distance between students and the UTSU.”

Her other goals are to increase club funding by $10,000 across the board, facilitate collaboration between clubs and service groups through various networking opportunities, and expand and create new events with direct input from students and colleges.

Rodríguez said that she is grateful to have been appointed by the board this past year but cited direct democratic selection, rather than slate affiliation, as her reason for seeking the office again as an independent.

Vice president, professional faculties

Engineering student Ryan Gomes is the vice president, professional faculties candidate for the Hello UofT slate. Gomes is the current UTSU vice president, internal & services and is a member at large of the Engineering Society’s Board of Directors.

“I know how the UTSU works — on a very fine level, both in terms of financial level in terms of policy and in terms of various other things,” Gomes said. “Especially considering that this is the first time this position is being elected, you want someone who knows their way around the UTSU so they can take action quickly because again these are issues that the professional faculties have been facing for years.”

“One of the reasons I’m running and why I want to take up this position is because I think that, historically, the UTSU has ignored the professional faculties,” Gomes said. “I would want to develop a faculty-specific strategy for each of the specific faculties, sit down with them, ask them what their issues are, and how the UTSU can better help them and support them. I think in large part most professional faculty students don’t even know that they are a part of the UTSU, especially because many of these faculties are separated not just in terms of being a separate faculty, but also by distance.”

Gomes would also like to focus on promoting collaboration between faculties in a similar way to the collaboration that exists between different arts & science colleges. Additionally, Gomes would like to establish a commission for professional faculty students. “Commissions are key elements to the vice president’s portfolio in terms of engaging students, and I think that in creating a professional faculties commission we can better engage [those] students,” he said.

Gomes spoke enthusiastically about his interest in engaging in direct advocacy if elected to have professional faculty students’ incorporated into future changes to Ontario’s provincial education funding model. The recent promise of free tuition is based on the average tuition for an arts & science student, whereas professional faculty students have higher average tuition fees. “I think that’s an issue that the UTSU should be taking on,” Gomes said, adding that the caps on tuition fee increases are expiring next year. “The government has never explained why there’s a higher cap for professional faculty students… and now these caps are expiring, and I’m sure U of T is going to want to increase them or let them expire and not have new caps so they can increase tuition by how much ever they want.”

Running with the One UofT slate is kinesiology & physical education student, Charlotte Mengxi Shen. Shen has held executive positions with the University of Toronto Chinese Student and Scholar Association, the UT Chinese magazine, and founded a fitness club.

Shen has proposed monthly meetings with major student associations to address their needs and wants to make exam deferrals easier for professional faculty students.

“For example, in engineering if you defer [a first-year course]… you have to take an extra year even if you have a valid doctor’s note or a death certificate of someone else,” Shen said. “If you defer one exam, a four-year program turns into a five-year program. Also, [for professional faculties] education is very expensive, and I think this policy is a waste of money and a waste of time. I think we can do better than that.”

Shen also wants to create more study, studio, and design space for professional faculty students.

The UTSU executive debate will take place this Wednesday, March 16 at 5:30 pm in the William Doo Auditorium. Voting will take place between March 22 and 24.

Disclosure: Shahin Imtiaz is a former associate science editor for The Varsity

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Correction (March 14th, 2016): An earlier version of this article misspelled Lera Nwineh.

This article has been updated to include further information on the candidates for vice president, campus life and a photograph of Alessia Rodríguez. 

Four executive slates compete in hotly contested UTMSU election

Election grievances filed over external campaigners

Four executive slates compete in hotly contested UTMSU election

The University of Mississauga Campus Students’ Union (UTMSU) elections are in full swing. The campaign period began on March 1 with four slates competing for executive positions: UTM Awaken, EnvisionUTM, UTM Focus, and Unite UTM. All four slates have expressed a desire to see change on the campus. Although the slates share an interest in improving transportation, community, and academic assistance, the policies they propose vary significantly. 

The Issues

The Varsity asked each of the slates for their opinions on three issues facing UTM students that they deemed most important.

UTM Awaken identified the shortage of services available for students with mental illnesses as a major issue. “We believe that the students of this campus should have easy and efficient access to… [the] support they need,” the slate said in a statement to The Varsity. UTM Awaken intends to address the problem by working with the Health & Counselling Centre to increase advertisement and promotion of its services and making sure that staff members and volunteers at the UTMSU receive SafeTalk training.

UTM Awaken also spoke about a lack of networking opportunities, for students, saying, “we believe that as a students’ union, we should be working to open doors for job and career opportunities. We plan on tackling this issue by working with our societies to create networking nights for the students. At these events, we would invite students, professors, alum, and professionals from various fields and industries to come and speak about opportunities that they can offer.”

The slate wants to introduce an Indigenous coordinator in partnership with the Indigenous Centre on campus. “[Our] goal is to represent one of the most underrepresented minorities on campus. The Indigenous coordinator will be providing these folks with employment opportunities and more opportunities to network,” the team said. 

The EnvisionUTM slate told The Varsity that there are a number of issues that affect UTM students and that they cannot prioritize one issue over another. “EnvisionUTM has taken a holistic approach in our platform and has created a detailed strategy and a comprehensive plan in order to ensure all student concerns are met,” said Genny Lawen, EnvisionUTM’s presidential candidate. 

“From transit to food, multi-faith space to the release of exam schedules, printing services to credit/no credit limits, we have created realistic and achievable goals that we believe will make a noticeable difference in the lives of UTM Students,” she said. 

UTM Focus highlighted inaccessible tuition fees, lack of mental health services, and the divide between domestic and international students as their top priorities. “Inaccessible tuition fees are a struggle for students,” the slate said in a team statement. If elected, the slate plans to start the first ever UTMSU-funded scholarship and to create a larger bursary budget.   

“With mental health we hope to raise more awareness on campus about it by working with the administration to extend services on campus,” they said. UTM Focus hopes to create affordable healthcare coverage for international students by working with the government and other post-secondary institutions. 

Unite UTM did not respond to The Varsity’s requests for comment.

President 

Jason Selvanayagam is the presidential candidate for UTM Awaken. He faces Lawen from EnvisionUTM, Ridwan Olow from UTM Focus, and Nour Alideeb from Unite UTM. 

“The reason I am running for UTMSU President is because having been a student for five years, I’ve fallen in love with this campus and would love the opportunity to give back and improve the university experience,” he said. 

Lawen is a fourth-year student studying criminology and French. “I am running for President in this year’s elections because I envision an active union that represents the needs of students in all platforms to ensure that students receive the best university experience at UTM,” she said. 

Olow is currently a student governor on Governing Council, U of T’s highest decision-making body. Olow said that he wants to focus on UTM students’ needs and concerns. “Too often goals and platform points are too broad and unattainable in one year. Our goals and interests are doable and very focused,” he said.

Alideeb is the current UTMSU vice president, university affairs & academics. Her platform includes creating a nap room on campus, pushing for ethical divestment, and fighting rising tuition and ancillary fees.

Vice president, internal & services 

For the position of vice president, internal & services, Adil Isaac Abrahim is EnvisionUTM’s candidate. He is a fourth-year environmental management and political science student. “I am running for Vice President Internal and Services this year because I am passionate and want to ensure that UTM students have access to as many services as possible and are able to use them in a way that not only benefits them but also enhances their experience here at UTM,” he said.   

Abrahim is up against UTM Focus’ Hoda Khan, Unite UTM’s Jackie Zhao, and UTM Awaken’s Tamam Khalaf. 

“I care about transparency. I would like to see the union be transparent, after all they are elected by the students, for the students and should be held accountable if needed,” Khan said. 

Zhao is the president of the Chinese Undergraduate Association at UTM. He hopes to establish an emergency food plan fund, implement new locker spaces on campus, and create an international student bursary.   

Khalaf brings experience as the vice president, internal and events coordinator of UTM Middle Eastern Students’ Association and as president of the Association of Palestinian Students. “I believe in the community we have on campus. I am passionate about mental health awareness and bringing the best possible services to students and hopefully as VP Internal, I can help AWAKEN the UTM student population,” said Khalaf.

Vice president, equity 

Farishta Amanullah is the candidate for vice president, equity with UTM Focus. “[Equity] on campus is important and can be expressed in many ways. Whether through language, dialogue and education, respecting one another and our experiences is one of the keys to a successful educational journey,” she said. 

Unite UTM’s Maleeha Baig, UTM Awaken’s Priyanka Sahajpal, and Envision’s Falhad Mohamoud are also competing for the position.   

Baig wants to combat misogyny and build a culture of consent on campus, as well as lobby for more racialised mental health counselors. She is currently the president of the Muslim Students’ Association and has previously served as president of the local chapter of Amnesty International.

“The reason to why I am running for [vice president, equity] is I am passionate [about] creating a safe and a more accessible space for all of the students,” Sahajpal, who wants introduce an Indigenous coordinator and lobby for all gendered bathrooms. 

“I am running for Vice President Equity because I Envision [sic] a UTM that is inclusive for all individuals, where everyone feels safe to be who they want to be, and a UTM that puts students needs first,” Mohamoud. She currently serves on the UTMSU board of directors and said that she is passionate about ensuring UTM students have a support system on campus that they can feel safe accessing.

Vice president, university affairs & academics 

Unite UTM’s vice president, university affairs & academics candidate is Vanessa Demello. She was an orientation leader in 2014 and 2015 and an executive with The Psychology Association od Undergraduate Students at Erindale. Her priorities are to improve mental health services and reduce associated stigma.   

Ryan Persaud from UTM Awaken, Abdulla Omari from EnvisionUTM, and Menna Elnaka from UTM Focus join Demello in the race. 

“My motivation to run for vp university affairs & academics stems from the fact that my time at UTM could have been better and I want to make changes that will impact students for years to come,” said Persaud. “I really want to implement networking nights for students to get a better idea of what they want to do in their future; in working with societies, faculty, and alum, students will be able to gain valuable insight from beginning to end.” 

“University is an all encompassing experience, and like so many experiences there are good and bad moments; to me, the position of University Affairs and Academics is dedicated to ensuring students know it’s okay to make mistakes in that process,” said Omari. He would work to increase the credit/no credit limit, pursue a grade forgiveness policy, and raise awareness about possible violations of academic policy. 

Elnaka worked as an associate news editor with The Medium for two years. “Affordable tuition education is a right and all students of all backgrounds and experiences deserve to get an education,” she said. 

Vice president, external

Emerson Calcada is running with UTM Awaken “to represent the students as they need to be represented.” 

“The students need to feel that they can change their union and their campus; so for that to be they need to be heard and that is why I am running,“ he said. 

Amanee Nassereddine from EnvisionUTM is majoring in health science and minoring in chemistry and psychology. “My goal in life is to never settle, if one can do better, always set that bar higher. Having this goal in mind, I am running for vice president external to create a great positive change in the lives of all UTM students both on and off campus,” she said.

“[The] point of a students union is to help and assist students with their needs and concerns. Whatever they may be, we are focused on them,” said UTM Focus’ Kamal Ali. 

Marise Hopkins rounds off the Unite UTM slate. She is the UTMSU’s World University Services Chapter (WUSC) coordinator and chair of the WUSC local committee. She hopes to bring heated bus shelters to UTM and to Hart House, and lobby for cheaper and healthier food on campus.

Campaign issues 

At least two of the slates have spoken out against the use of campaigners who are not UTM students. “What we as a slate have spoken out upon is that campaigning by UTM students should be the only people who can decide their student representatives,” said UTM Awaken. “We as a slate want only UTM students to volunteer for slates and represent such people. UTM Awaken therefore only cares to see that UTM students have their opinion heard.”

UTM Focus told The Varsity that they had filed an appeal with the Elections and Referenda Committee (EARC) regarding non-UTM student campaigners assisting slates. “We decided that this was unfair and misrepresentation to the UTM community since it should be only UTM students encouraging UTM how they should be voting,” the slate said. 

Bryan Chelvanaigum, UTMSU elections chief returning officer, said that the EARC had received complaints but that they may not be disclosed prior to the committee’s consideration.

Chelvanaigum said that his ruling on the matter and all other rulings are made public and will be posted on the “wall of transparency” located in the Davis building.

EnvisionUTM said that they were unable to comment or respond to any inquiries regarding EARC.   

Voting will run between March 8 and March 10 at polling stations at UTM.   

Disclosure: Abdulla Omari is a member of the Board of Directors for Varsity Publications Inc.