By Anastasia Blosser, Dexter LeRuez and Gabriela Silva Ponte
Disclaimer: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
The Eyeopener hosted a candidate forum in partnership with the Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU) on Nov. 16 for the fall byelection.
The forum was scheduled to run from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Zoom but ended nearly two hours early. Only two of the 13 candidates invited attended the event.
Presidential candidates Success Daka and Jordan Haworth participated in the forum and were each asked five questions. They also gave a three-minute opening statement and a two-minute closing statement, as per the forum regulations.
The forum was moderated by The Eye‘s business and technology editor, Jake MacAndrew.
The fall byelection’s campaign period took place from Nov. 14 to 22. The voting period began on Nov. 20 and continued until Nov. 22.
A summer interim Board of Directors was announced at the end of April and served from May 1 to Nov. 3. Interviews for the roles were conducted between April 20 and 28, as previously reported by The Eye.
According to section 4.17 of the TMSU’s bylaws, a byelection must be held in September if a vacancy takes place during May, June or July.
“Until the vacancy is filled, the Executive Committee may designate an interim Director to fill the vacant office subject to board approval,” the bylaw reads.
Here’s what you missed at this year’s TMSU candidate forum:
Daka: The basis of what I’m running on essentially is to bring forward a union where students feel like they’re actually being represented, that they can see the things that the union does for them and [that] their concerns will be heard. I have previously been a part of the TMSU as director for the Faculty of Engineering and that was one of the reasons why I ran. We [will work] as executives [for approximately] six months and so what I wanted to do was break down things that are possible [in that time period]. We can do grants, we can do proper advocacy and ask the student body what they want.
Haworth: I used my experience as a journalist covering breaking news and investigating alleged abuse, including both financial and institutional, to advocate for people here in Toronto as a law student. I used my experience as a federal public servant and established the law school’s first dedicated community service club where me and my classmates fed, clothed and provided resources to almost a thousand people in our first year. I love [Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU)] because there are so many amazing people who come here with amazing ideas and inspire others with their amazing stories. I hope you will see that I’m truly dedicated to making TMU a better place.
MacAndrew: Being an executive at the TMSU can entail many unpredictable occurrences, for example the several recent open lawsuits as well as dealing with public backlash. How will you navigate such situations should they occur and ensure your professionalism is not jeopardized?
Haworth: I have been in many different situations where I need to think on the fly while acting professionally. As a news reporter, this was almost every day. I was assigned multiple different stories that I didn’t know the night before, and I had to sort out how to best professionally cover them and serve our viewers. If I’m elected president, I know that I can maintain my professionalism while continuing the work to keep the TMSU accountable, as the previous administration has done. I know how to balance being a good advocate while also keeping a strong head on my shoulders and I’ll be able to advocate for students for accountability.
Daka: I would be using my previous experience in conflict resolution to navigate situations that I wouldn’t normally encounter, as well as seeking professional opinions. The TMSU definitely has channels through which, as an executive, you can go through and ensure that you’re doing what is expected of you at a particular time, and I will be making sure that I use that to the best of my ability to make sure I navigate whatever situation is thrown at me during my time at the TMSU.
MacAndrew: Previous presidents have dealt with complaints from student staff regarding an unhealthy work environment. How do you plan on creating a healthy environment for all people at the union?
Daka: So I would like to come into the TMSU and make sure that everyone feels like they have an [opportunity] to voice their concerns, especially staff that had been there for multiple years and maybe new recruits they need to feel welcome and like they can actually bring their concerns to me as the leader of the organization. As president, I’ll be doing everything I possibly can to ensure that no one feels like they’re going through something unfair or unjust. That’s gonna have to coincide with the procedures and making sure that the work environment is safe and secure because that also improves productivity as well. People don’t tend to do their best work in an environment where you don’t feel safe.
Haworth: I plan to address some of these allegations through my first two commitments…accountability and communication. [If true], I would like to formally condemn any allegations of misconduct or abuse in the workplace. I think we all deserve to work in a place that’s supportive and an environment where we consider our peers to be as close to friends as possible. Under accountability, I would like to continue the work from the previous executive [by] reviewing bylaws and the structure in place. I would like to review policies surrounding the disclosure of certain things such as management’s work hours, salaries and review the complaints procedure. In addition to this, I’ll also have an open-door policy for all members and staff to come to me with any complaints or issues and I’ll do my best to address them. I would like to improve communication with students through advertising and marketing with specific information that helps them understand how their union is working, including in terms of chemistry among team members.
MacAndrew: Within recent years the TMSU has been working on rebuilding trust amongst students, how do you plan to continue building this relationship?
Haworth: I would like to actually work on releasing a preliminary budget so that students would have the chance to review it with a lot of time and maybe give their own feedback on what they think about it. And this will be far ahead of the official proposed budget, when members are asked to pass it. This gives them the time to understand it. In addition to that, I would like to release and implement more resources to help members understand what their money is being used for. Additionally, what I would like to do is release a report on the usage of some of our services, such as a Good Food Centre, which I think during the current food crisis is integral to the community. As well as the equity centres and the Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support so we can understand what is going right with them and how we can better support them. I would also like to commit to improving voter turnout by 10 to 15 per cent for the 2024-25 term. And I would implement open surveys to solicit feedback from students to better understand how we can serve them.
Daka: In terms of rebuilding trust on the financial aspect, I would like to have a posted budget as well as include resources where students can understand what exactly the framework of providing the budget is for, so they understand why we’re putting specific amounts of money to certain things. I believe that when you do things that the students can actually see, that impacts their lives, they feel like the students’ union is working for them. So, for student groups, allocating more funds to their initiatives, allocating money into what they’re trying to achieve so that you are working for the students. We need to give more to students in terms of maybe even discounts or anything. And of course, we have to do surveys as well. [Students] would feel like the [students’] union is working for them and that’s what I plan to do.
MacAndrew: As the president of the TMSU you are the spokesperson of the organization. How do you ensure that you are properly relaying the views and opinions of all of the board of directors?
Daka: As a spokesperson, I have to ensure what I’m saying is the general opinion of the board. This will entail me soliciting the opinion of the board. If there is a statement that is particularly controversial, we might have to have a word on the board for subjective agreement on what exactly we’re saying. The main thing is making sure that I’m not just saying things that are based on my own opinion, but are based on the opinion of the general consensus of the board.
Haworth: What I would like to do goes under my second or third commitments, which is communication and student life. When I was a federal public servant, I worked for both National Defence and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in their public affairs department. What I was responsible for was understanding the issues that the public was bringing to us and relaying that back to my bosses and the higher ups so they can make policy changes to better serve everyone. As the president of the TMSU, this would work in reverse, where the board of directors are looking to better understand the public and relay those instructions to us. I think throughout my professional career, I’ve certainly accumulated the skills to be able to do that and to receive [input] while remaining professional and working with the board of directors to express my concerns. In terms of concrete steps that I would like to take, I would have an open survey and an open-door policy for students to receive feedback. As well, I would like to create a full network for campus group leaders to come together to express their opinion as well. I would also like to have regular meetings with our services and our groups to understand their needs, and how we can better support them.
MacAndrew: Each semester, undergraduate students pay a TMU student union charge in their tuition. How much is this fee? You’ve each been given a piece of paper, please write it down there.
Haworth: I’m not sure what the exact amount is off the top of my head, but after reviewing my own account this past semester, I think it was $126.
Daka: I’m also not sure the exact value, but I believe it is somewhere around $49.50.
MacAndrew: Thank you. You were both close. It is $58.76 per semester or around $117 per year.