What you need to know about the 2020 SCSU elections

Union’s history on transportation, mental health, elections

What you need to know about the 2020 SCSU elections

Content warning: mentions of transphobia.

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) 2020 elections have begun, with voting set to take place from February 11–13. Two slates — VISION UTSC and WENITED — have candidates running for each executive position and are currently vying for student support in the run up to the voting period. The Varsity outlined some potential hot topics for this year’s candidates, and detailed the tumultuous history of SCSU elections.


At a Toronto City Council meeting in October 2019, current SCSU President Chemi Lhamo and Vice-President Student Life Sarah Mohamed advocated for UTSC transit users. They highlighted frequent delays with the TTC’s 905 bus, as well as inadequate bus stops for Durham Region Transit buses. Mohamed is currently running for president on the VISION UTSC slate.

The executive members were in support of an extension of the Eglinton West Light Rail Transit eastward with a stop at UTSC. This addition was not approved in the city’s most recent transit plan, which was confirmed on October 29.

In addition, there is currently no service provided by the university that takes students between UTSG and UTSC, unlike the Mississauga campus, which is connected to UTSG by a shuttle bus.

As UTSC is primarily a commuter campus, the candidates’ plans for regular and accessible transit may be a deciding agenda item. This may be the case especially for the vice-president external elections, as this position handles advocacy and lobbying efforts outside the university.

Mental health

Following the release of the Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health’s final report, U of T is set to redesign its mental health service system. Lhamo emphasized that as a satellite campus UTSC has its own specific nuances when it comes to mental health. There were no campus-specific reformation plans in the final report. 

Vice-President & Provost, Cheryl Regehr, told The Varsity in an earlier interview that though mental health services would be coordinated across one system for three campuses, there would be “local delivery” for each specific campus. These changes to U of T’s mental health services are set to begin on a rolling basis with no specific timeline.

Different strategies to improve mental health services at UTSC were found in numerous candidates’ campaign promises.


At its 2019 elections the SCSU saw a number of controversies. The SCSYou slate’s presidential candidate Anup Atwal was disqualified after posting a “gross representation of the facts” on social media claiming that Shine Bright UTSC’s presidential candidate and current President, Lhamo, hit then SCSYou’s vice-president academic & university affairs candidate Carly Sahagian with a table. Sahagian won her election, and is now running for president on the WENITED slate.

The 2019 elections were also marred with damning screenshots leaked by The Underground, UTSC’s student paper. Atwal was found to have sent transphobic comments about Shine Bright UTSC’s vice-president equity candidate Leon Tsai in a group chat. Atwal noted to The Varsity that “context is super important.” He provided screenshots which showed how he further criticized Tsai for posting about what she saw as the opposition slate’s mishandling of LGBTQ+ issues.

Vice-presidential external candidate and current incumbent, Chaman Bukhari, also had his chat screenshots leaked by The Underground. In a previous article, The Varsity translated his comments concerning a class exam to be “useless” and “the same LGBTQ bullshit.” However, Bukhari defended his comment as being “grossly misinterpreted” and “utterly lacking context,” adding that the comments were made two years prior to the election.

Following the election, the SCSU Board of Directors initially refused to ratify Rayyan Alibux as vice-president operations for writing “I hope this chat is never leaked” in response to the transphobic comments made by other candidates on his slate.

Lhamo also faced criticism in the lead up to her election for her strong stance on Tibetan independence, for which she received widespread harassment on social media.

2018 also saw its share of controversy, when an SCSU board meeting erupted in protest and physical altercations following allegations of collusion to ensure that certain candidates won the election. It was alleged that former SCSU President Sitharsana Srithas worked to ensure that presidential candidates Deena Hassan and Rayyan Alibux did not win. Srithas denied these allegations. As a result, Mahir Zuber, the then-chief returning officer, resigned, citing safety concerns.

Six new capital construction projects in planning stages at UTSC

New residence, Scarborough Medical Academy, Indigenous House in the works

Six new capital construction projects in planning stages at UTSC

The UTSC Campus Council announced plans for new capital construction projects on November 19 to address the need for additional space on campus.

Student residence

A 747-bed student residence will begin bidding for contractor selection in mid-January and is scheduled to be completed by the 2022–2023 academic year.

This project would nearly double UTSC’s capacity of student residences, which accommodated 850 students from 2018–2019.

Since 2013, undergraduate enrollment has increased from 11,701 to 13,694 students.

In an email to The Varsity, UTSC Media Relations spokesperson Don Campbell explained some of the design elements that the new student residence will feature.

“It’s being developed as passive house, a design standard that results in ultra-low energy use,” wrote Campbell.

Instructional Centre

Instructional Centre 2 is in the design development phase, and is scheduled to be completed in 2023. According to Campbell, it will house 17 new classrooms and a proposed 500-seat theatre style classroom. “It will also have 300 new study spaces, including group study spaces,” wrote Campbell.

According to Campbell, Instructional Centre 2 is slated to become a hub for student affairs and services on campus, and will house the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, which currently resides in Instructional Centre.

Indigenous House

Indigenous House is also in the design development phase and is expected to be completed by 2022. The architect and building design will be revealed in early 2020.

Its purpose, wrote Campbell, is to “create a space on campus for our Indigenous community. The goal is to bring all communities together to engage in intercultural dialogue and to educate, build awareness and teach Indigenous ways of knowing, histories, and culture.”

Though these projects have all been approved by the Governing Council, other buildings  are still in the planning or pre-planning stage.

These other buildings include the Arts, Culture and Pluralism Centre, which is in the Project Planning and Report Development Stage and is expected to house the Department of English, Department of Arts, Culture and Media, and the Doris McCarthy Gallery, all of which are currently spread out in different buildings across campus.

“The Scarborough Academy of Medicine is in the early stages of planning,” wrote Campbell. “But the goal is to significantly contribute to plans already underway to revitalize health care in Scarborough.

“The facility will help train doctors, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, kinesiologists and life science students, among others.”

SCSU AGM 2019: Controversial motion to limit executive terms voted down

Questions on whether motion would remove president from office, procedural confusion dominate meeting

SCSU AGM 2019: Controversial motion to limit executive terms voted down

The 2019 Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 27 got off to an exciting start with the introduction of two emergency motions. It ended anticlimactically when a room booking issue meant the meeting could not be extended beyond 9:00 pm, thus leaving many items unaddressed.

Members only had time to debate one motion, which proposed preventing executives from serving more than one term — a rule which could have potentially removed current President Chemi Lhamo from her position had it not been voted down. Other motions, including ones that called for solidarity with Hong Kong, implementing online voting, and discussing SCSU pay were all left unaddressed.

Electoral Equity Act

The Electoral Equity Act, which sought to limit the number of terms executives could serve in their undergraduate degree to one, proved to be a controversial motion.

After it was moved, long lines formed behind both microphones, and a member motioned to call the question, which would immediately stop the debate and trigger an automatic vote on the motion.

A member who opposed the call to question, however, was found to be using another individual’s voting card, which had 25 proxy votes. This prompted calls for a revote wherein the opposition still prevailed. The question was not called, and discussion on the act continued.

In the discussion that followed, a member pointed out that the language of the motion, which specifies that it take effect “immediately,” might call into question the legitimacy of Lhamo’s position, since she served as Vice-President Equity in the previous academic year. After another member successfully called the question, the membership voted down the motion.

In an interview after the meeting, the mover of the motion, Annie Sahagian, explained that the intention was not to remove Lhamo from office. Referencing this interpretation of the motion, she said, “I was going to amend that.” However, there was not enough time to do so as the question was called.

The intended aim of the Electoral Equity Act was to encourage “student engagement, involvement and participation within SCSU,” explained Sahagian.

Sahagian is the sister of Carly Sahagian, the current Vice-President Academics and University Affairs. However, both parties say they did not collaborate on the motion, pointing out that this motion would prevent Carly from running for another term as well. Carly, along with Vice-President External Chaman Bukhari, were the only two executives to vote in favour of the motion. Vice-President Operations Ray Alibux abstained from voting, and the remaining three executives, including Lhamo, voted against the motion.

Emergency motion on Hong Kong protests

Shortly after the meeting was called to order and before the discussion on the Electoral Equity Act, Lhamo proposed an emergency motion be added to the end of the agenda. The motion, entitled “Student Solidarity for Hong Kong,” included resolutions to work with U of T to research “harassment within academic institutions of students who speak out against injustices” and to investigate “the pressure on students who are being instructed, manipulated or coerced into taking action by foreign influences.”

Lhamo told The Varsity that the investigation aspect of the motion seeks to protect international Chinese students from pressures by foreign influences, which she claimed the university was hesitant to do. The motion also calls for the SCSU to create a Lennon Wall on campus.

Lhamo also hopes this motion goes beyond the protests in Hong Kong, recalling the threats she faced and continues to receive, many with anti-Tibet sentiments since she is a vocal supporter of Tibetan sovereignty. She noted that she never received a report explaining the threats she faced, despite announcements that police had begun inquiries.

“I would hate to see that universities and external entities behave the way they did with me to any other students.”

Procedural hiccups

The night’s agenda saw two emergency motions, several re-arrangements, and an obscure order from Robert’s Rules. These hiccups were cut short at 9:00 pm, despite attempts to extend the meeting to 11:00 pm.

Alibux introduced the second emergency motion of the night, following Lhamo’s Hong Kong motion, which would commit the union to implement online voting. Alibux’s motivation to the chair for this being an emergency was two-fold: the climate crisis and a previous miscommunication within the team that prevented this motion from going onto the agenda.

The chair ruled against him, citing the timeliness required for an emergency motion, at which point Alibux challenged the chair, with the membership voting in his favour to contravene the chair’s ruling and allow the motion onto the agenda.

The agenda’s re-arrangement was crucial in deciding the few motions that the membership would get to debate during the AGM — members raced to add new orders to the motions until the question was called and the agenda for the night was passed. The AGM saw the membership address one member-submitted motion — Sahagian’s — before being brought to an abrupt end by a member calling for the order of the day, requiring the membership to conform to the agenda, which meant that the meeting was over at 9:00 pm. Despite Alibux’s attempt to challenge the chair’s ruling in this matter, the room had only been booked until 9:00 pm, and the meeting could not be extended.

Among the motions that weren’t addressed at the meeting were pay bumps for executives, pay for SCSU board directors to attend meetings, and a motion alleging that the union is undermining its commitments to the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Israel movement — one which cited an Israeli flag in Bukhari’s office as an example of such action from within the union.

Toronto City Council approves transit deal with province, against SCSU wishes

The expansion plan excludes Eglinton East LRT, which would stop at UTSC

Toronto City Council approves transit deal with province, against SCSU wishes

On October 29, Toronto City Council approved a transit deal with the Ontario government, whereby the province will cover the cost, planning, design, and construction of four new subway projects: the Ontario Line, the Yonge Street Subway Extension, the Line 2 East Extension, which will see three stops added to Line 2 deeper into Scarborough, and the Eglinton West light rail transit (LRT).

The deal has been met with student opposition, particularly at the UTSC campus. Not included in the provincial plan is the Eglinton East LRT which would extend the planned Eglinton West LRT eastward and include a stop at UTSC.

SCSU urges city to prioritize Scarborough transit users

At an executive meeting of City Council on October 23, Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) President Chemi Lhamo had asked city councillors to not “approve a plan that leaves the Eglinton East [LRT] out of the map. Unite with the students and transit users in Scarborough.”

Lhamo, as well as SCSU Vice-President, Campus Life, Sarah Mohamed, urged City Council to prioritize the needs of underserved Scarborough transit users, specifically those of UTSC students.

At the October 23 meeting, Lhamo and Mohamed proceeded to explain in greater detail some of the difficulties of using transit to commute to UTSC. Lhamo highlighted in particular her experience with delays of the 905 bus, which stops at UTSC. In addition, Lhamo pointed out that students who take the Durham bus from UTSC, which is not allowed to use TTC routes, are forced to wait on a lawn with no bus stop.

“It’s not safe, there’s no sidewalk,” explained Mohamed.

“We have been promised [the Eglinton East LRT] from year to year but have continuously been sidelined,” Lhamo wrote to The Varsity, adding that the line could cut down the commute of some students by more than 30 minutes.

The City of Toronto’s response

Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, who represents ScarboroughRouge Park where UTSC is located, noted that Scarborough’s most recent rail-based transit update took place in 1985.

Mayor John Tory acknowledged that disagreement exists on the idea of the provincial government paying for additions to Toronto’s subway. However, Tory pointed out that this would free up funding for the city to implement proposals such as the Eglinton East LRT. “As much as you’re critical of some aspects of this deal, [this] would be a step forward to getting the Eglinton [East] LRT built,” said Tory.

Tory’s Executive Director of Communications, Don Peat, clarified in an email to The Varsity that this transit deal would free up $5 billion for the city to put toward keeping existing Toronto transit in good repair and investing in other transit expansion projects, including the Eglinton East LRT.

Climate crisis sparks tension at UTSC federal candidate’s debate

SCSU organizes debate for candidates in the federal riding of Scarborough–Rouge Park

Climate crisis sparks tension at UTSC federal candidate’s debate

Five candidates vying for the MP position for Scarborough–Rouge Park, the riding in which UTSC is located, came together on October 1 to debate before the federal election. Organized by the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), the debate was attended by a mixture of UTSC students and local community members.

The candidates included Bobby Singh from the Conservative Party, Jessica Hamilton from the Green Party, the incumbent candidate Gary Anandasangaree from the Liberal Party, Kingsley Kwok from the New Democratic Party (NDP), and Dilano Sally from the People’s Party of Canada (PPC).

The climate crisis

The Liberal, NDP, and Green Party candidates all indicated that addressing the climate crisis would be their top priority should they win the election, and furthermore that their parties would each approach the issue with a carbon tax.

Liberal candidate Anandasangaree said, “if we fail on climate change [then] nothing else really does matter.” However, he also faced criticism from both the Green and NDP candidates over the Liberal’s $4.5 billion purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Hamilton commented: “[you] had four years to do whatever you wanted with your majority government and you still bought a pipeline.”

Anandasangaree justified the pipeline as a “necessary [evil]… in order [for] the economy [to be] able to sustain itself while we transform into a clean carbon economy.”

Conservative candidate Singh said that the “carbon tax is unfairly penalizing companies locally.” He suggested, rather, that carbon absorption would be a better option to address the climate crisis.

The PPC candidate, Sally, falsely said that “carbon dioxide is not a pollutant… [and] global warming has not increased natural disasters.” According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, at least 97 per cent of publishing scientists agree that the climate crisis is caused by human activities. Carbon dioxide is a pollutant that has concentrated significantly in the atmosphere over the last century due to the burning of fossil fuels, and increased heat waves and stronger hurricanes will result from the climate crisis.

Sally also noted that he does not believe in the climate crisis and cited evidence from an article in Talouselämä, a Finnish magazine, that features World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. Sally’s remarks prompted a strong condemnation from Anandasangaree, who said “your denial is just unacceptable.”

As per the Talouselämä article that Sally referenced, Taalas released a statement on September 12 that expressed that such a reading “is a selective interpretation of my words and my longstanding views…[and] it is highly important that we rein in greenhouse gas emissions.”


The Greens, Conservatives, and the PPC all plan to balance the budget, rather than run a deficit.

NDP candidate Kwok emphasized that with regards to the budget, the NDP “are for fair taxation.” Kwok continued that as part of their New Deal for the People they “just want the super rich to pay a little more” in order to prevent cuts to government programs.

Anandasangaree noted that the Liberals “do believe in running honest deficits.” However, he justified the policy, saying they carry a positive impact because they are investing in people and infrastructure.

When faced with criticism from Singh for the government’s failure to balance the budget, Anandasangaree responded by noting that the Conservative Party has not released a full, costed platform, saying that “I’m willing to defend our record, but at the same time, I do want to see a plan [from the Conservatives] that I can also scrutinize.”

Valley Land Trail opens at UTSC

Accessible trail connects Highland Creek Valley to UTSC

Valley Land Trail opens at UTSC

UTSC is finishing up the final touches on its highly-anticipated Valley Land Trail. Opened to the public on August 29, the 500-metre trail will undergo periodic closures as the last of the work is completed.

The trail slopes at a five per cent grade, 19 metres down into the Highland Creek Valley. It includes a number of safety features that meet design requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

“The motivation behind the project is to make the path more accessible, beautiful and enjoyable for our community,” wrote UTSC Media Relations Officer Don Campbell.

According to fourth-year UTSC student Lubaba Gemma, prior to the opening of the new trail, “It was definitely difficult to find your way around the valley… A lot of the ‘path’ beforehand was uneven and really difficult to manoeuvre around.” Now, Gemma noted, “It’s a lot easier to get around but also, students are actively going to the valley more often.”

Preliminary designs for the trail began in late 2016. Construction started in April 2018 and finished at the end of August 2019 — with the exception of the benches and plant life signage, which will be added throughout September.

As for the potential consequences on the Highland Creek environment, UTSC Professor of Human Geography Andre Sorensen wrote, “There is no doubt that such a construction project does have significant environmental impacts.” However, Sorensen added, “The benefits of the new trail well outweigh the environmental impacts… and [the trail] is likely to reduce other impacts over the longer term.”

The Valley Land Trail was built atop a pre-existing trail which had been severely eroded by human activity over the years. Sorensen explained that “[having] a well-built trail in this location will be likely to mitigate that kind of environmental impact in the longer term.” Additionally, the new trail is “highly likely to greatly reduce foot traffic in other areas of the valley slope,” which, he noted, is an “environmentally sensitive” locale.

Sorensen also pointed out that UTSC has “a number of facilities in the valley,” and therefore “access to the valley is very important for UTSC as a whole.”

Community member Tom Gretton was hiking the Highland Creek Trail when he decided to try the Valley Land Trail. Gretton told The Varsity that “the trees have to grow a bit and the vegetation has to come back, but it’s a very enjoyable walk up and down into the valley.”

Guide to the UTSC campus

Where to eat, study, and hang out

Guide to the UTSC campus

UTSC has lots of amazing places on and around campus to check out when you’re not in class. Here is a look at some of my favourite spots to visit for food, to study, and for entertainment.

Food options

To start off my day, I normally head to the Meeting Place to get my morning calories and caffeine servings from Starbucks. A White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino and a cheese danish help get me through most early mornings. Gathering Grounds, a recently opened café in UTSC’s newest building, Highland Hall, also has some great options for breakfast and lunch.

For a healthy lunch option, I’ll sometimes stop by Fit for Life in the Student Centre for a sandwich or veggie wrap. If I’m feeling a bit more indulgent, I’ll go to Rex’s Den in the basement of the Student Centre for a classic poutine, or to Nasir’s Gourmet Hot Dogs, which is just outside of the Student Centre. Just note that most food places on campus close early, so be sure to grab a bite earlier during the day!

Study spaces

My go-to study spot on campus is the UTSC library, which has a lot of places to study — from the computers and group study rooms on the first floor to the quiet study areas and silent study rooms on the second floor. 

There are even more study spaces scattered across campus. The most recent additions are located in Highland Hall, which was designed with lots of common areas and study nooks. Since its construction, the building has been furnished with desks and lounge furniture for students to sit, study, and hang out.


After I’m finished with my classes and studying, I like to spend time with friends by trying out different activities on campus and around Scarborough.

I like to integrate exercise into my day by working out at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. This extensive sports centre has various classes and sports that you can sign up for, like yoga, swimming, and indoor soccer. If you’re more of a nature person, taking a walk through The Valley behind the Marketplace in the Humanities Wing, or in the nearby Morningside Park, is a great alternative to stay active. Both have incredible views of Highland Creek and the surrounding forest, especially in the fall.

I also love going to the Scarborough Town Centre to end the day with a night of shopping, dining, and movie-watching at the Cineplex theatre. You can get there directly by the UTSC bus stop, which makes for an easy trip.

TTCriders comes to UTSC, talks about province’s plan to “steal” subways

Ontario government believes it “can build subway lines faster”

TTCriders comes to UTSC, talks about province’s plan to “steal” subways

On the frigid morning of March 11, Moya Beall handed out flyers to students at UTSC’s bus loop. She spoke on behalf of TTCriders, a grassroots advocacy group of TTC users, about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s subway plan.

“We’re here at U of T talking with students because public transport, especially rapid transit, is so important,” said Beall in an interview with The Varsity. “Students here really depend on public transit. I’ve talked to people who commute from as far away as Mississauga, and a lot of people here don’t have cars, so they’re utterly dependent on public transit.”

Ford wants the responsibility of the TTC’s subway infrastructure to be transferred from the city to the province, in a plan referred to as “uploading” the transit system. However, the premier also wants the City of Toronto to remain responsible for buses and streetcars.

“If the Ford government is successful uploading… the subway system, then Toronto loses control over where it plans and constructs,” said Beall.

Beall said that there will be a “huge delay” in Toronto getting an improved transit system. If the city and province keep negotiating over small details, people will be “waiting years” until new lines are established.

Response from provincial government

Bob Nichols, Senior Media Liaison Officer of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), told The Varsity that the MTO believes the “province can build subway lines faster” and that they have been discussing with city officials the best way to go about the upload.

Nichols noted that uploading the TTC will provide benefits to public transit riders and residents. Some of these benefits are faster delivery of priority regional transit projects, better implementation of key policy initiatives that promote an efficient regional transit network, and more funding for current and new transit projects.

“In moving forward with the upload, we will turn priorities into projects, and deliver an expanded, modern, and integrated transit network of which we can all be proud,” he continued.

Beall was also worried about the increased fares that Toronto would face if Ford’s plan pushes through. She said that Metrolinx, the provincial government agency that manages road and public transport in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is considering charging fares by distance instead of keeping the two-hour fares that let commuters transfer between buses, subways, and streetcars in a span of two hours.

“That would really penalize people in Scarborough, because we’re so far out… if you want to get downtown. It could cost a lot of money,” said Beall.

TTCriders suggested that Ford fund the TTC instead of “stealing” it. According to TTCriders, Ford’s plan will result in “less say for residents” and will lead to privatization and the consequences that come with it.