By Jake MacAndrew, Racy Rafique and Gabriela Silva Ponte
The Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU) is holding its elections for the 2023-24 academic year this week. Voting began on Tuesday, March 21 at 10 a.m. and will last until Friday, March 24 at 5 p.m.
There are 33 total candidates participating in the elections, with 12 students running for five executive positions on the Board of Directors—president, vice president equity, vice president education, vice president operations and vice president student life. There are 21 candidates running for 15 faculty and student representative positions.
Six of the executive candidates are running as part of a slate—either Dream or Team Revolt. The other six students running for executive positions are non-slate candidates.
10 of the faculty and student representative candidates are running as part of one of six slates—Team Revive, Team Ignite, Team Breakthrough, Metropolitan Engineers, Team Empire or Ayub and Brandon. The other 11 candidates are non-slate candidates.
Here’s a look into the executive, faculty and student representative candidates who are not running on a slate for the 2023-24 TMSU elections.
Marina Gerges is running unopposed for re-election as president of the Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU).
The fourth-year biomedical engineering student said it’s not the right time for her to leave her position.
“It’s important for us to just continue building on what we’ve done,” Gerges told The Eyeopener. “Even though it was hard, I think that if I leave and we go backwards, it will just be harder for us to be able to do this again and continue the momentum of a working and functional students’ union.”
Gerges said she wants to address subjects such as mental health and improving communication between the school and its students.
Gerges is the sole candidate running for the position of president, after the TMSU revealed that the other presidential candidates were deemed ineligible by the Chief Returning Officer, Adrian Aziz, as previously reported by The Eye
Since her election last year, Gerges has amended the old Ryerson Students’ Union bylaws, been accused and absolved of workplace racism and harassment and announced a financial mismanagement investigation into the previous year’s TMSU, as previously reported by The Eye.
She also alleges that she was involved in a “set up” by some people involved with the TMSU early into her term as president, as reported by The Eye.
Vice president equity
Aya Bakir is a second-year sociology student running for her second term on the TMSU. Last year, Bakir held the position of Faculty of Arts director and was a member of the TMSU’s Social Justice Committee.
Her campaign is centred around improving trauma-informed counselling on campus for racialized and queer students, adding more prayer space on campus for Muslim students and improving support for international students.
Bakir said there is a disconnect between the union and services at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU). She plans to connect them together in hopes of creating social justice events that are more cohesive.
“I would really like to be proactive in terms of bridging the gap between the two and being an active leader in providing guidance and the sort of direction that such equity services would like to take,” said Bakir to The Eye.
She is also trying to bridge the gap between the university and non-governmental organizations in the community.
Bakir said she is prepared to venture into the new role as she has already taken on many of the vice president equity responsibilities last year.
Bakir said her role in organizing response support for Irainians, in response to the recent conflict, started conversations on the sexual assaults on campus and led fundraising for the earthquake in Syria and Turkey last February.
“I have had the past year to prepare me to better be able to do this job and I would like to take my shot at it,” she said.
Vice president operations
Success Daka is a second-year computer engineering student running for his second term on the TMSU. Last year, Daka was a Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science director but is now running for vice president operations.
He said he is interested in the financial operations of the students’ union and making sure students get what they’re paying for.
“A lot of the students on campus don’t see the students’ union fighting for them,” he said in an interview with The Eye. “So when it’s time for them to actually get involved in what we’re doing, it’s kind of hard for them because they can’t see how it’s actually impacting their lives.”
Daka said he would like to analyze the percentage of students using the TMSU’s programs and events to improve them and “make sure more people use them.”
“To do this we actually need to do the research and consultation with the student body, which I think we didn’t do enough of this year,” he said.
Daka said he is hoping to establish ways to help international students find housing. He is also working toward community outreach between students and academic services.
He added that he wants to continue the discounts the TMSU has in place.
Earlier this year, the students’ union introduced a discount on Adobe Creative Cloud and Grammarly for all students, as previously reported by The Eye.
Angie Awadallah is a third-year biomedical sciences major who has been on the TMSU for a year as a Faculty of Science director.
Awadallah is running for the vice president operations position for the upcoming year.
“It almost felt like a responsibility to run for this position in particular,” she told The Eye. “It would be a shame to not continue this work. And to not build the organization up to the levels of success that I had in mind when I first ran for Faculty of Science director last year.”
She said the one-year term isn’t enough to fix both past and present issues within the students’ union.
Awadallah said she’s hoping to kickstart bursaries for equity deserving and underrepresented populations as well as hold the students’ union accountable.
She said this year’s team didn’t think there would be so many “hurdles” and “messes” to clean up but that she is proud of their success.
Vice president student life
Ozi Molokwu is running for re-election as the vice president student life. Molokwu is a second-year international student from South Africa and Nigeria.
The second-year arts student was previously director of the Society of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities as well as the African Students’ Association.
Molokwu wants to continue the initiatives she started this year, including the Tiny Desk Concert and special pub nights with diverse DJs.
Molokwu also said she wants to start having more conversations about socio-political issues that impact students on and off campus.
“The first thing would be the increase in security on campus as a response to sexual assault,” she said to The Eye. “And though yes, security does make students feel safer, I personally feel as though there hasn’t been enough conversation on both sides.”
Molokwu said in her candidate profile that she plans to “revitalize our campus groups” through an increase in base and grant funding.
Vice president education
Third-year biomedical sciences student Shireen Kalavi is running for the vice president education position this year. She has previously served as a Faculty of Science director on the Board this year and is also currently a Undergraduate/Law/Chang Student Senator.
Kalavi currently sits as the chair of the TMSU’s Board Conduct Committee and is a member of the TMSU’s By-Law and Policies Committee.
Kalavi told The Eye she will advocate for additional study days between the last day of classes and the beginning of the examination period each semester.
“That will be on top of my agenda—to work on more study periods or extending the reading weeks, whichever way is better for students,” she said.
Kalavi also said she would like to hold more regular town halls and office hours to take into consideration students’ opinions on these ideas.
Kalavi also said to make some changes within Career Boost, TMU’s student undergraduate work program.
“I would want to work to remove the $18 [wage] cap from Career Boost positions,” she said.
She also noted that if elected, she would like to call on the university to provide more career boost job opportunities for international students.
“This year was a year that we made fundamental changes to the TMSU. So next year would be the topics that I would deeply work to help students [with],” she said.
The Creative School director
Gus Cousins is a third-year media production student running for his second term as a faculty director for The Creative School.
In an interview with The Eye he said he plans to work off of what he learned and accomplished last year and improve this year. Cousins hopes to continue to make the bylaw and policy language easy to understand.
He said he also wants to keep his lines of communication open for people in The Creative School to reach out with any questions and concerns.
“From The Creative School if you reach out to me, I have a better chance of figuring out your problem quicker than sending it to the head of the Union, not because the head of the union and execs are not capable of solving problems but because I am the specific person delegated to that faculty,” said Cousins.
Mika Holzberg is a first-year creative industries student running for The Creative School Faculty director.
In an emailed statement to The Eye, Holzberg said she plans to create an environment where students are encouraged to join and organize groups taking into account the commuter student population and making them feel a part of the community.
“After completing my first year of university, I can identify what I appreciate about how the campus functions and what I believe could be improved,” said Holzberg. “I have a lot of ideas, and the student union would be a perfect platform for me to share my vision and execute changes to make the school the best it can be for its students.”
Henil Shah is in second-year creative industries hoping to support student groups with more funding and operational capacity along with organizing networking and career advancement events.
“Having spent two years now studying as an international student in the Creative School, I believe I have come to understand the struggles that many of us in this faculty share,” said Shah in an emailed statement.
“A lack of community, limited funding for student projects, limited actionability of student groups, and a need for greater networking and career opportunities; these are all problems I have discovered, understood, and wish to resolve,” he said.
Engineering & Architectural Science director
Zil Pavdighada is a first-year computer science student who said as a woman in STEM, she will look to empower women in their professional journeys, which are often filled with self-doubt.
“I’m committed to working with others to create a more just and equitable society where marginalized groups have an equal opportunity to thrive and where we can showcase knowledge from our unique experiences,” her candidate profile reads.
She said she is motivated to use TMSU finances to improve resources and services vital to student success. Improved study spaces and coherent education along with providing accessible mental health and wellbeing programs are on her agenda.
Nehal Singh is a third-year biology student hoping to create an environment where students’ are valued and compensated for their time spent at school.
“I aim to create an environment where most science faculty students feel encouraged to join programs and activities rather than making them think it wastes time,” said Singh’s candidate profile.
Singh said they have not included a photo of themselves for the campaign in hopes everyone will get to know them in real life rather than a distant image.
International student director
Hussain Salim Kakajiwala
Hussain Salim Kakajiwala is a third-year global management studies student looking to run for international director.
According to his candidate profile, he he is an international student from Bangladesh.
“TMU has been extremely welcoming and accommodating to me in all aspects,” said Salim Kakajiwala. “Being an international representative for TMSU would enable me to support and empower the international demographic of students further.
Salim Kakajiwala said COVID-19 made student engagement and support vital for international students. He is hoping to highlight issues and obstacles for these students to minimize them through support, initiatives and opportunities.
Olivia Okoro is a second-year electrical engineering student from Nigeria, running for re-election as international student director.
“My main goals for the year are open conversations on fees, international student experience and better access to health care and resources,” said Okoro in an interview with The Eye.
“Sometimes when decisions are being made for the school, international students aren’t really considered or are put to the side while they also make a huge part of the student body,” she said. “I feel like they should be included in every single choice made for the students of the school and for the community.”
Okoro said she feels proud of the work she accomplished as part of the TMSU last year, including running several events and giving out menstrual kits to students.
“I feel like we did accomplish a lot and I feel like there’s always room for improvement,” she said.
Wahab Farooq is a second-year economics and finance student running for the international student director position.
Farooq came to Canada last January after completing his first semester online from Pakistan due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his candidate profile states.
“As an international student myself, I understand the unique challenges and experiences that come with studying abroad, and I am passionate about advocating for the needs and rights of international students at our university,” he said in the profile.
Farooq said he hopes to ensure that international students have a voice in decision-making processes and receive the support they need to succeed academically, socially and culturally.
He said in his profile that he would focus on “[regulating] International students’ fees, introducing more emergency bursaries and better management of international enrolment to student support ratio.”
Ted Rogers School of Management director
Palonee Shah is a second-year business management student who plans to provide more academic resources and host fun, interactive events to meet “like minded” business students.
“With me on the team, I will make sure to listen to all of your concerns and try my absolute best to fix them. I will make sure you guys have a great year ahead,” said Shah in a candidate profile. “I would like to provide more academic resources, so we can do better in our classes, and higher the chances of co-op”.
Additionally, Shah plans on creating a room where Ted Rogers School of Management students can “chill, study, enjoy.”
Lincoln Alexander School of Law director
Jordan Haworth (acclaimed)
Jordan Haworth is a second-year law student who was previously a reporter for Postmedia and has bylines in publications including the National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette and the Toronto Sun.
According to his candidate profile, Haworth’s goals include “expanding resources and funding for all clubs and organizations at the law school; developing keystone programs for extracurricular enrichment; building and renewing relationships with student members and the union; creating the most value and accountability for union members; and establishing a concrete voice for Lincoln Alexander students within the union.”
Fatima Sheikh (acclaimed)
Fatima Sheikh is a Lincoln Alexander School of Law student hoping to provide a positive student experience at TMU.
She said in her candidate profile that she hopes to advocate for students by working with the Lincoln Alexander Law Students’ Society to better address the concerns of law students.