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Individuals who ran in the TMSU election discussed their platforms at a candidate forum

By Anastasia Blosser, Dexter LeRuez & Gabriela Silva Ponte

Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU) candidates attended a democracy forum on March 4, ahead of the annual election.

The Eyeopener held the forum in partnership with the students’ union. The Eye’s business and technology editor, Jake MacAndrew, moderated the event.

Students running in the election had an opportunity to answer questions regarding the requirements of each position and how they would handle challenging situations while in office.

The nomination period for the election took place from Feb. 12 to 16 and the campaigning period spanned over the course of 10 days following that. Voting days took place from March 6 to 8.

Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Here’s what you missed at this year’s candidate forum:


Aleksander Strazisar, Lauren Barch and Nadir Janjua were this election’s presidential candidates. Janjua was not present at the forum.

Opening statements

AS: I am running because I believe, essentially, in this university. I believe in our campus and I believe in our success. Our students are amazing, they’re vibrant and they’re intelligent. They’re engaged and that’s evidenced by the hundreds of well-led student groups we have on campus. I don’t think anywhere else in Ontario, there are so many amazing student groups. I think we consistently outperform Queens University—they’re not better because our student groups are outperforming them. I believe that our students’ union should match this energy and be run by new and passionate students. That’s why I joined a team of students called Students Leading Change. This slate is focused on really engaging students by seeking their input for our annual budget and annual plans. I believe that student societies and student groups should directly come sit in the TMSU offices and help plan out our plans for the entire year. This is exactly what I did when I was vice president finance of the Society of Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities. I sat with every single person who was involved with our society to make our budget and I believe that’s what the TMSU needs to be doing. People don’t need to hear from the TMSU or what the TMSU wants to do, they want the TMSU to support them. And I essentially think that’s what we’re trying to bring to the table. It should be focused on supporting student societies, student groups, the chess club, the debate team, Model UN. It should not be focused on supporting itself. Secondly, I believe in electronic check requisitions. Currently, student groups want support from their students’ union but they’re not getting it. This is because if they want money from the students’ union and the students’ union gives hundreds of 1000s of dollars to student groups every year, it takes months to get reimbursed. From the university perspective, I understand it, they have a large administration. But from our perspective, I don’t think it makes sense. I think students should be getting reimbursed within days, not months as it currently takes. Actually as VP operations, the past few months, I made significant work to this. Implementing this system would involve upgrading our sage accounting software, and implementing something called JIRA to ensure that we’re paperless. So currently, the offices are actually paper offices, like in the 90s. I believe it should be paperless. Generally speaking, we believe in increasing engagement with student groups. Something else that I think we should do is generally having more student engaged businesses and services. So at the moment, the TMSU spends a lot of time on very expensive concerts, things of that nature. I think those are great. I think we should run those and I definitely support those. I think that our students’ union should support students with services like cameras renting, stuff like that. Thanks very much.

LB: The reason I’m running to be the next TMSU president is because I want to contribute more towards the student body in a position where change is actually possible. I believe that I have the experience to run an organization like the TMSU due to my past experiences in managerial positions, such as the Good Food Center but also working at restaurants in other universities. I also have the willingness to seek out outlets to connect more with the student body, to be able to fully understand what their needs are as the year progresses. Being both a student and working on campus jobs, I have had an opportunity to observe and speak to many students about wants that they have within our university. A consistent question that I have been asked is about on-campus jobs. I have loved both of my experiences with jobs on campus and I want to make sure that others have that opportunity by creating more or making it more accessible to find those jobs. I also want to expand TMSU’s current services but also I want to create new ones that students have been asking for. And like I said previously, I really want to enhance our current communication to students by being transparent as an organization and to create more involvement with what students want. Thank you.

Q: The TMSU has been involved with different instances of lawsuits since the last regular election period. How will you prepare yourself to be equipped to handle similar instances should they occur during your tenure?

AS: Although a lot of the lawsuits involving the students’ union, I would argue that one side is more in the wrong than the other in a lot of cases. But, at the end of the day, I think the students’ union, in a way, deserves every single lawsuit it has received. And I’m not saying that because the students’ union is always just the worst. You know, sometimes it’s more of the case that the students’ union even just attracts craziness, it’s not the case that it’s always terrible. But it is the case that people were made to feel in such a deep, passionate way about whatever issue that they’re suing the students’ union over or vice versa, that they couldn’t communicate anymore and had to start a lawsuit. So I think some of the lawsuits that the students’ union is engaged in right now or defending itself from, I don’t think the students’ union should be in those. I think that there should have been better communication beforehand. I think the students’ union should have reached out to people and made things work because they’re wasting their funds suing us, we’re wasting our funds. No one is winning from these environments. So I think that the students need someone who’s going to reach out to people and create a positive environment, positive actions and not get involved in these lawsuits in the first place. So how would I solve it? By not having them in the first place?

LB: I feel like lawsuits are always a big issue with the TMSU—like if people have issues, they’re going to file lawsuits. If it’s within the organization, I feel like trying to firstly communicate with the people it’s specifically about and seeing if those lawsuits could be prevented just internally to begin with, so they don’t even happen in the first place. Also having a good team of lawyers to fully understand what the implications are that the lawsuit is about is really important. I think once you understand the full scope, it allows you to better understand the possible solutions in going about the situation. I also think that it’s really important to be transparent about any issues that students might have if the lawsuits are coming from students. So being able to address those accordingly and being open to hearing what the actual issues are and then trying to solve those, again, to prevent lawsuits hopefully, preventing them all together and just finding a solution with the individual as quickly as possible.

Q: Previous presidents have dealt with backlash and complaints from student staff regarding an unhealthy workplace environment. How will you deal with internal complaints and ensure student staff feel safe, supported and respectfully guided?

AS: I absolutely believe that everyone has a right to operate in a positive, friendly environment where they’re adequately taken care of. And I believe that our students’ union today is pretty much that. We have very decent offices, considering it’s a students’ union. I’m trying to buy a coffee machine for people. Whether or not I win, I’m going to get people a coffee machine. I’m trying to get people to be rewarded for their efforts. I love sitting there listening to people, seeing how they’re feeling, engaging. And I really want to engage with the staff and make them feel heard. In such a small office, I think it’s very easy for them to feel heard. If they have a problem, they can always go and ask the management, they can ask a student exec if they want too. Our managers are extremely nice people. We have great people working there. I think anybody who goes to the TMSU’s offices regularly will see that. At the same time, I think there is, in my opinion, a certain weaponization of those complaints. So I don’t want to get too into it. But I think it needs to be dealt with by someone who is not deeply involved in the students’ union and can act impartially and in the favor of students. Because it’s not only always the students you can fault for everything. A lot of the time certain individuals are, in my opinion, acting maliciously. So in conclusion, I think I would be firm but fair, which I think is my policy currently.

LB: I think one of the issues currently with the of the work environment, as people have discussed that being problematic, I think one of the first steps and thoughts that I plan on prioritizing within my first week, if I’m elected, is that I really want to go to people, whether it’s anonymously or in person and see and get their feedback about what they think is currently working within the students’ union versus what they don’t think is working. And then trying to find solutions to be able to fix that environment where it’s more friendly, or whatever it might need to be. I want to bridge those gaps that are currently there. I also think that going and checking in regularly with individuals, especially in the different service centers that we have on different floors, is really important to making sure that there’s like a cohesive group and staff between the different floors. Because again, it’s a student building, there’s three different floors, everybody’s kind of separated, even though majority are on the third floor, we do have our services on different floors. So I think making sure that everybody feels included in the environment and making sure that their voices feel heard is incredibly important in making sure that the relationships in the work environment are great and positive.

Q:  As the president of the TMSU you are the spokesperson of the organization. How will you ensure that you are properly relaying the views and opinions of all of the board of directors?

AS: I think that as spokesperson of the TMSU, a lot can be done. I think currently students don’t fully understand what is going on in the students’ union. There is a consistent lack of transparency. And I want to ensure that we run a weekly Instagram update on what exactly is going on within the students’ union. I think we should have been doing this and I have been trying to do this. So what would that include? We have a lot of services. We have a food bank that students can use, we have a Tax Clinic coming up, we have a student academic advocate, who can literally advocate for students if they’re having a dispute with their professors and the university won’t. I know a lot of people are pessimistic about the students’ union. But there is a real value in having a sort of third party who’s not just always with the university on everything and actually kind of standing up for students. And I think that’s the role the students’ union plays. The problem is the students often don’t hear about what’s actually going on. And I find that it’s often very embroiled in and of itself. And it’s not actually reaching out and engaging with people. So one of the things I really liked is Marina Gerges, the previous president, started something called the street team, which actually goes out and tables in person. So I believe as a spokesperson of the organization, yes, make consistent statements online, a weekly Instagram thing, which I think is very important. That will definitely happen probably in the first week or two. But also to go in person and actually table every week to go reach out to students yourself as the president. It’s very important to be engaged and not just be wrapped up in yourself. I think that’s what students really want. And that’s what I want to provide.

LB: I believe that having organization skills and documentation is very important. So if I get elected, I fully plan on making sure that what we’re doing in the students’ union and as an executive team is documented very well. So that when we do call Board of Directors (BoD) meetings, we can really show them what we’ve been accomplishing and then future plans of what we are going to be doing. I think that is really important, because then we can give them updates about our projects that we are working on and then also get their feedback towards what they think for the student body would be applicable or irrelevant to the planning process. Because the BoD is very much supposed to be the spokespeople for the student body, rather than us being more of like the day-to-day tasks, I think it’s incredibly important to get their point of view on a lot of things that we’re doing, so that they can inform their surrounding students to get people excited for for items. And then just making it more consistent within transparency of what the students’ union is doing and including them in that. So whether that be having follow up emails or calling more Board meetings, I think those would be really good steps in creating a better voice for the Board versus the executive team.

Q: Since 2019, there has been a rise in distrust towards the TMSU and in recent years the students’ union has been working on rebuilding trust amongst students. How do you plan to continue building this relationship?

AS: I think the trust of the students’ union is very low. I think no one that goes into the students’ union, even those running for positions, thinks that it’s a great place that they really want to be in, that’s really engaged, that’s really providing a lot of value. They often think it’s all drama, there’s only bad things posted online. It’s a really, really negative environment. I think I want to focus a lot on positivity, bringing things forward, connecting students more. I actually think, honestly, that the previous president she did a really, really, really great job with that. I think that previously, the students’ union felt like it was controlled by a certain group of people. And now it kind of feels like, at least to me, that other people can actually go and join in. I was never involved with the students’ union and then I just ran off of being in the Society of Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities, and then boom, I got in. So I think that there is actually a fair amount of trust restored. I actually held a meeting with a number of student society presidents, student groups, to come and hear their input. And a lot of them were saying, “Hey, you know, maybe we shouldn’t be here.” But I was able to come and actively communicate with them. And I know the previous team did the same. So I think it’s really about actually reaching out to people and representing students, not representing some small interest group. So honestly, I think we’re headed on the right path, whoever becomes president. And I think that we can continue to do that, because we actually have financial controls now. So it can’t get worse than how it was before, I think it’s a positive future.

LB: So one thing that I really want to do if I’m elected president is I really want to connect with people throughout the university itself. So that is connecting with different communities in it. So that could be faculties, student societies, even student groups themselves, even though they’re already part of us. I really want to try to connect the entire university to rebuild that trust that we’ve lost. And that also includes being more transparent in what we offer. I want to be able to have those connections so that when students come to us, we can easily direct them to the proper resources. Because right now I feel like there might be a slight disconnect within the community itself of Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) and with the TMSU to fully be able to support our students in the correct resources. We can offer great resources as the TMSU itself but I feel like the university has so many things to offer and bridging those relationships with the different societies, the faculties, professors even. I think that’s a really exciting next step in order to make that trust better. So that could include having forums with them, going personally and having conversations with them, having specific group chats where they can bring concerns to us awe can address them directly. I think that those connections can really help us as a students’ union but honestly, as a university as a whole.

Q: 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, or if you’re joining online please write it down anywhere you can.

AS: About $110 on the main fee.

LB: Approximately $150 per semester.

The correct answer to this question was $117.52 per year.

Closing statements

AS: So, in conclusion, I hope that anybody who sees this can see that my team is a really, really great team with a lot of people who are really excited about helping students. I kind of just want to highlight something that I think a lot of students can appreciate. We are very, very extracurricularly involved. I myself was involved with the weightlifting team, I went to some chess events, debate team, I’ve met with a lot of Model UN people, every student society, the business students’ society, the arts students’ society. I’ve been really involved with them. I was chapter head of an investment club at this university. We went out and we won prizes for our university to put our finance courses in good name. I’ve met with a lot of just people from all across. Toastmasters is another great example. We are really, really connected to the students. And we are very faculty diverse, different areas diverse. Before we ran, we did not know each other and we came together and we really, really just liked each other. I want to just be really, really positive and tell students that we are kind of a fresh face. I know some of us have been in since November. But to be honest with Christmas, that’s really not a long time. And we have a lot we want to get done and we’d like you to to get us in. 

LB: I just want to thank everybody for tuning in, obviously. And I just want to say how passionate I am about the students’ union and helping students out. So if you vote for myself and my slate, Students In Action, we will do everything in our power to make sure that students are heard, that the TMSU is transparent and that you actually get what you’re wanting as students from the TMSU. So keep us in mind this week when voting happens. And if you have any questions, follow us on Instagram, TikTok at @students.inaction24. We’ll also be on campus this week. We’ll be updating our Instagram stories a lot. So if you have any questions, come find us in person and come interact with us. We’d be very happy to answer any questions that you have about our platform, and how we plan on running the students’ union if we all get elected. So thank you very much.

Vice president operations

Vice president operations candidates Ariana Zuniga and Zonash Khalid participated in the forum while third candidate Muhammad Awais was absent. 

Opening statements

AZ: I believe that my experience with the TMSU this term as the current faculty director for Engineering & Architecture has made me a great candidate for the position. I have worked closely alongside with a lot of the current executives, especially with the vice president operations because I’m on the student grants committee, where I helped with reimbursements. I saw how inefficient it is and I hope to make reimbursements a triumph in the future. Being an engineer, I also am a part of design teams. I’ve seen firsthand how underfunded they are and I hope to be able to increase funding for all student groups to allow them to work on these projects, whether it’s for your career or just personal interest. 

ZK: I’m part of a student-run slate with prior experience working not only on campus but also with the TMSU. This has led to taking a leap of faith and running in this election to revive the trust that the TMU community once held in the TMSU. I believe in my extensive experience and knowledge in operations management, strategic planning and leadership. I’m serving as the executive director of finance and corporate relations in the Faculty of Community Service. I am confident in my ability to drive our student union to success, where the needs of our students will be our first priority. I have a proven track record of delivering results and driving cost savings while maintaining a high level of quality and student satisfaction. Furthermore, as vice president operations, I’m hoping to foster a culture of accountability to drive our efforts towards continuous improvement and most importantly, providing equity, hospitality, care and transparency to all students at TMU. Ensuring fairness amongst all students. It is imperative in my perspective, that we students look out for one another. I’m interested in working towards financial transparency, creating a positive and productive work environment that empowers our employees and advocating for students when it comes to things like tuition fees or food insecurity.

Q: The vice president operations is in charge of the student grants committee and finance committee, among other responsibilities that must be fulfilled for the success of the organization and students’ success. What makes you qualified to handle these tasks?

AZ: I am on the student grants’ committee, so I feel like I already have a lot of experience in doing this work. I was also working closely with the vice president operations and just talking with him about how things run, trying to understand those duties. 

ZK: I worked as part time staff in the TMSU and closely with the executive directors and vice president of operations. I feel like I have learned tricks here and there on how these committees operate. Since I have been the vice president of finance in the faculty of committee service, which is the second largest faculty at TMU. With my strong interpersonal and communication skills, I would effectively try to collaborate with different teams that are already part of the TMSU. When it comes to grants, you get requests from many students across different faculties so I’d try to build more stakeholders and relationships.

Q: At the October BoD meeting, it was announced that CopyRITE is operating at a loss. What are the steps that you would take to evaluate revenue generating services and how would you address the situation if they are not operating profitably?

AZ: If it’s operating at a loss, I’d say we should evaluate as to why that is. Maybe changing services, getting rid of ones that aren’t so common anymore and upgrading the services to ones that will bring more students in is what students need right now. Also, evaluating the staff and seeing if we still need the same amount we had at the beginning of the school year. In general, to oversee the budgets related to this, I’d suggest hiring a full time parent controller to oversee implementing new policies and monitor how the money is being spent. 

ZK: I would say we have to start with implementing new policies, not only for CopyRITE but also all the other services that are being provided within TMSU, because even the services that are priorities like student grants and the Good Food Centre lack staff members. My first step would be to hire more part-time staff that have experience and expertise in this field, because students are looking for those kinds of job opportunities. I’m going to try to come up with ways where we can make CopyRITE even more affordable for students. 

Q: The TMSU’s audited financial statements have not been approved since 2020 due to a lack of quorum at general meetings. Additionally, it is the responsibility of vice president operations to create the operating budget for the TMSU. How do you plan on including TMU members in the creation of the TMSU operating budget for the upcoming year?

AZ: I think the TMSU should hold more conferences or more events that interest students. Perhaps we could find a way to share the budget with them to give them more information about what is going on. 

ZK: Transparency and accountability is a big thing. The first thing that I would want to implement is a budget that is shared with the student body so they can see where the money is actually going. In regard to the Semi-Annual General Meeting and the Annual General Meeting, it’s usually held on days where students might be busy or are not on campus, so we can make that more accommodating. Maybe we can lower the amount of people we need to reach quorum. Having more sessions like the tax clinic or lunch-and-learns where students can talk to the executives or finance team in person should be our first priority. 

Closing statements

AZ: I feel that my experience as a current faculty director for the TMSU, my experience in my design team and work outside of school give me great time management and operation skills. I want to help implement initiatives such as increasing design, team and campus group funding. Improving the budget by hiring a full time financial controller and hopefully creating internships at the TMSU to create a union that is run for students by the students. 

ZK: One of my motives is to raise student involvement, increase student services and develop employment opportunities for all students. I want to pay more attention to the needs of students and work towards meeting more of their basic needs. Also hiring more consistently, more opportunities for part time staff, launching new services and promoting those that already exist. Making sure the TMSU is devoid of judgement and fosters a safe environment for students. Overall, I would say my team and I are prepared to apply all of our expertise and enthusiasm into our student union. 

Vice president education

Three candidates were in the running for the vice president education role—Hala Touma, Aneesa Masood and Hetu Patel. Of those, only Patel attended the forum.

Opening statements

HP: Hi, my name is Hetu Patel and I’m a current second-year international computer science student at TMU. I have been involved with student advocacy and mainly student academic advocacy for over a year now. Last year when I joined, I ran for the Senate elections and I was the Faculty of Science student representative at the Senate for about six months and then I got elected as the vice president education for TMSU. One of my portfolios for VP education was to represent TMSU at the Senate. So that was when I stepped down from my faculty of science student representative position and stepped on as TMSU representative at the Senate. So to my journey of Senate, I have got immense knowledge about how to roll out academic bills and how motions are put forward, what the correct way and time to bring forward the issues or any concerns we have and how to represent them in a way so that the committee feels the need to step in. During mid fall, I was reached out to by our Vice President, Academic of the university Roberta Iannacito-Provenzano. She emailed me sending an invitation to join the academic plan 2530 advisory group, also known as the kitchen cabinet. So I’m the undergraduate representative at the group right now. We are a group of 32 members and what we do is we sit down at regular meetings and we make the economic strategy for our next five years. So that was one of the reasons I ran for TMSU elections last term. Because I knew that I had to do more groundwork and I can’t just be an undergraduate representative at the kitchen cabinet without getting more involved with it. Working for my term so far, I realized that I have a lot more to give to the undergraduate community. That is the TMSU. I have some of my campaigns going on. I have a lot to give to TMU. So that’s one of the reasons why I want to re-run for the VP education, for my own position, for a longer term. Thank you.

Q: The first responsibility of your job states that the representative “shall liaise and lobby the university administration on academic issues [and] University policies.” What academic issues do you view as most pressing and how would you lobby for them?

HP: So far, I have understood that when we talk about academic issues, that is a vast area we are speaking about. It’s not just about your grades or your courses we’re talking about. It’s also about the environment where you study or the content provided by professors or the classrooms you study in, your mental health during your academic term and much more. So one of things I’m currently working on is the engineering reading week campaign. And I would love to continue that when I get elected for my position again. And another issue that I identify strongly is the content, the way the content is provided to the student in a university. Through my previous experience, meeting with a lot of influential people and people with so much experience in academic history, I have realized that we do have sources, we have great professors at our university. The only problem is that we don’t have a strong bridge between the professors and the students. And that’s what I want to work on. Because I strongly believe that when a student has some problems, their professor is the first person they reach out to, be it a mental problem, if they have any problem emotionally, or physically or even with their grades or anything, because that’s the first person they will be in contact with from the university. TMSU or the university administration, chair of the program, they are the later people. The first person for someone for a student to reach out to is a professor. So I want the students to feel that confidence to communicate with the professors and also for professors to have that real connection with the students. Thank you.

Q: When the VP education starts their term, they often choose to focus on one big project for the year, while underestimating the smaller everyday responsibilities that come with the role–an important one being assisting students with academic concerns. How will you ensure your role is benefiting students directly in the most efficient way possible?

HP: So as I mentioned before, as well, the one big project I want to focus on primarily is the engineering fall reading week. I’ve been doing it but our term this time was short and I want some more time to advocate for the engineering students. That is my primary campaign when I get reelected. The other thing I want to work on is to provide the course outlines to all the students before they get enrolled in the classes. Usually, the course outlines are provided to us like in the first week or during semester. And sometimes there’s a lot of edits made. Our enrollment dates normally end two weeks after school starts. So I want to have a platform or website. I think engineering students have a website or page on the website where they have listed all the basic course outlines of all the courses they have running for the semester. So if that’s provided, students know that this is the way, they know the evaluation system, or they know the amount of time they’re supposed to spend in that specific course. So accordingly, they can get enrolled and also with the specific professors. Because what happens is, during the first few weeks, there’s like a whole mishap going on with students dropping the classes and getting enrolled again. As a computer science student, I have noticed tons of my friends not getting into any courses, because there’s always a mishap. Students don’t get into the course sometimes and they have to get deferred to the next term. And sometimes we don’t have it in the next term as well, we have to wait until the next winter or next fall for that course. So it’s much better if everyone has access to course outlines and if we try to work more on what the course intentions are and be more accurate.

Q: Several restrictions have been implemented that could make international students’ lives harder, such as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller’s restrictions on PGWPs and Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Sean Fraser’s restrictions on housing for international students. How will you best support both incoming and outgoing international students as they deal with these restrictions and their effects?

HP: So as an international student, I very well understand the problems or the issues and concerns faced by other international students coming from all over the world to our university for that academic year. So touching on the first issue, that’s the housing issue. So when students are coming in, they have to rent their place out before they even get in the country. We know that there’s only very limited on campus housing provided by the university. And we do have some private or public partnerships with other companies or organizations where we can find off-campus housing as well. But I feel like it would be really good to advocate for international students to support them to get better housing and security before they’re in the country or in the city by providing them with a list of options or possibilities of the housing or residences available around the university and also with tips and tricks they should keep in mind when they’re looking for things. Probably this should be done by TMSU, because we have first-hand experience of how that works. I’ve also been aware about housing crisis that international students trying to rent a place out are supposed to give a downpayment of 12 months, 24 months, because they don’t have any promising source of income or credit score to represent to the landlord for them to trust them with the lease. So I’ve very actively heard about this issue. And this is something I also want to work on, because this is kind of exploitation of international students. Because when they’re coming into the country and they’re paying thousands, probably like 15 to $40,000 in fees, $20,000 of Guaranteed Investment Certificates. And on top of that, they’re supposed to pay the rent for 12 months in advance as a downpayment or as a deposit. That sounds really crazy. So that’s something I really want to advocate for. So another issue faced by international student is security. A lot of the time they’re threatened or they are not very sure about where to get or how to navigate markets within Toronto. So, the TMSU already has food bank security—the Good Food Centre—that is used by hundreds of students regularly. But it would need to provide that service on a bigger scale and make some good arrangements to let more international students have access to it. And definitely domestic students as well. Because at the end of the day, all of us are students. So that would be something I would love to work on to advocate for international students. Thank you.

Closing statements

HP: First thing, thank you for giving me this platform to question me and to know my views and thoughts about what I would do to advocate for students’ concerns and issues that already exist and are probably coming in on bigger scale in the near future. I get that some people think that my experience is really short, like it’s a a year. But you don’t have to have a longer experience to have that journey. My short term here has taught me so much and just given me so much time. The conversations I had with several influential people around, sometimes I’m not even a TMSU representative, I’m just me: a random student talking to someone. That’s given my kind of outgoing personality a chance, because I love to talk to people. But I’ve just realized that there are a lot of issues. But there are also a lot of resources provided by the federal and provincial government and our university. We just need to know what’s right. We need to bring the right thing to the right students and make that work. We just need to be the bridge to provide the already existing services to the students and probably also advocate for new services if they don’t exist. Thank you so much for your time and giving me this platform.

Vice president equity

Vice president operations candidates Yumna Hussain participated in the forum while candidates Hafsa Iqbal and Patricia Doan were absent. 

Opening statements

YH: My name is Yumna and I’m a third-year student in the Social Work program. I spent almost one and a half years volunteering and working for the TMSU, including in the equity centres. I started by volunteering for TMSU’s sexual assault line, which I believe is an important service in TMSU’s equity centre. I was then promoted to work in the Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence and have been there ever since. I want to be your vice president equity because it offers me the chance to make better changes and take action. My past research and work experiences have all revolved around equity in various circumstances, including post-secondary education, student spaces and structural inequities. I have conducted a project regarding trans-affirming gear and I have brought more menstrual products to the Centre for Safer Sex. My background in social work and social services demonstrates my unique ability to make amazing changes for a safer and more equitable students’ union. I plan to do this by listening to students’ needs and wants to get more everyday needs for students met or at least discounted. I also plan to have more consistent hiring within TMSU’s equity spaces. I plan to create new services and promote existing ones, as they’re often forgotten about. And I want to ensure that the TMSU is a judgement-free space with cultural sensitivity.

Q: The VP equity may be approached by students in crisis who share personal and confidential information with them. How do you plan on dealing with these instances in an ethical and professional manner? 

YH: I would first look at my duties towards confidentiality, and to keep a safe space for someone who wants to speak to me. However, if things do take a turn or something is being discussed where another person may be beneficial to support that person or there are certain cases that need to have multiple witnesses, then I would definitely need to extend that option and have someone come in with me in terms of those disclosures. Otherwise, I have been trained in peer support. And I would be willing to use my training as the VP of equity and continue that as well. 

Q: Some students are frustrated with the lack of equity training among TMU faculty related to drug abuse, differing health conditions and harassment from instructors. If a student comes forward with a specific complaint of this, how do you believe the TMSU should support them? 

YH: So one of the things I plan to do is actually increase training for both TMU faculty if possible, and within the TMSU to create more equitable and safe spaces. I feel that trauma training, sexual harassment training, all these trainings that have been done, often they get overlooked. And I’ve heard this from professors myself. I feel that if we do more training, these issues will have more consequences in the first place. And then also, our professors will be more capable towards having the strength and knowledge to be able to get through these instances.

Q: Students at TMU have a wide variety of needs. The TMSU has been discussing implementing prayer spaces across campus and TMU itself has implemented a new breastfeeding pod in the SLC to accommodate the needs of students who are parents. With such a wide range of needs across TMU’s student body, what are some projects or initiatives that you’d like to implement to support all students?

YH: I’d definitely love to continue the work that has already been done. I myself am a Muslim woman who uses prayer spaces. But to be honest, sometimes I don’t, because I find myself in a different building that’s too far between classes. And so, I think that being culturally sensitive is such an important aspect in this situation, where if you were to have multifaith rooms in each building, or if you were to have more. Whether it’s breastfeeding mothers or people who need a calm space to decompress, because of accessibility issues, we want to have those areas. I know that the equity centres have implemented different support groups for that, and I’d love to give them more space, whether it’s allotted classroom times or specific rooms, I’d love to be able to continue that.

Closing statements

YH: I hope that the time here with me has enlightened your point of view on myself and my slate’s goals. As a slate we hope to improve student services, create and enhance student work opportunities, and commit to improving student engagement on campus. I myself am committed to listening to students’ needs and wants to get more everyday needs for students met or at least discounts, have more consistent hiring within equity spaces and TMU and creating new services and promoting existing ones and ensuring TMSU you again is a judgement-free and culturally safe space. My team and I are ready to take on all of our knowledge and passion to represent you and put your ideas into action to start making more improvements to your life at TMSU.

Vice president student life

Only three of the five candidates running for the vice president student life role were present at the forum. Those individuals include Meia Mathura, Alessandra Baltodano Lucho and Ozi Molokwu. The candidates who were absent were Aadreeka Srivastava and Koby Biya.

Opening statements

MM: I have lots of student leadership experience in multiple student groups. In the TMSU I’m an avid member of the Caribbean Student Association. As an international student, this group is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve also been on the board of directors of the Art Society for the past year and have been reelected to be the director again next year. As for what I would like to do in my role, I have three key points. Starting off with bringing back the start-of-semester culture jams. Student groups of various ethnicities under the TMSU would come and showcase their culture. Secondly, I would like to support more student initiatives such as student group trips. Language and intercultural relations is a program here at TMU and their core focus, especially during reading week, is going on trips. Recently they had a trip to Montreal. And I really believe that it would have been amazing if the TMSU could have been more of a financial support. There are many other student groups that I feel like we could better support. I would like to double student group funding. And my final point is to have more multicultural events, including Black, Indigenous, people of colour, queer and disadvantaged groups on campus.

ABL: My main goals will be to create a more connected campus community with events to help counterbalance the stress of academics. I also want to create more events and initiatives that celebrate the cultural diversity on campus, provide more support and funding to student groups and create a positive impact on the university experience. I was a year rep and the president of the Creative Industries course union. And I’m the current president of the Organisation of Latin American Students. I plan on restructuring the reimbursement system so it doesn’t take months, rather a couple of weeks. I plan on bringing back the student group awards to give back to the students that help make our community so vibrant, as well as providing them with more ways to fund their events. I also plan on updating the website database to create exposure for student groups and course unions.. Currently, I’m a part-time staff at the TMSU. I work with the events team and have also been able to work alongside past VPs of Student Life. Other events that I would do as a VP of Student Life are a Culture Fest and more thematic pub nights. I would like to do more networking events for all faculties with professors and industry experts, and events geared toward mature students and international students. I also want to focus on initiatives that even if small, will have a big impact on day-to-day life. Providing free tea or coffee in the morning on certain days of the week and getting more partnerships with local businesses to offer more student discounts. My slate wants to build a strong and engaged community, because our main goal will be to listen to what the community needs. 

OM: I’d like to speak about two factors that I believe are contributing to the current state of TMU student life. Classes feel disconnected, and when it comes to getting involved, a lot of us don’t even know where to start until it’s too late. We’re only finding out about opportunities as they’re passing. I am super passionate about student advocacy, I’ve been involved in the TMSU in various forms since my first year. I have been the African Students Association first year representative, I have been the VP Student Life and Events for the TMSU and I have acted as part time staff and a general member. The reason why I believe I’m a good candidate, and that you should vote for me, is because I have identified a very particular issue within the student life department of the TMSU. As I mentioned before, students feel left in the dark as to how to get involved or how to just manoeuvre like maintaining relationships, class-to-class relationships. What I’m proposing to you is a campaign filled with initiatives that are intentional, consistent and powerful. All of these initiatives are listed on my campaign platform on my Instagram page. And what I call this vision is Passion to Action. I’m here to lead a plan that has already been curated. And now all that I need is your approval and a strong team to execute this platform. 

Q: The world is full of two-sided conflicts and there are many student groups and collectives under the leadership of the TMSU with opposing views, how will you ensure all student groups are advocated for equitably, especially when these groups start conflicting with each other?

MM: I think our role as students union is to advocate for all students equally. That being said, if there is conflict, and there are situations where people are being disrespectful or groups feel like they are being victimised, I think we should be able to take fair and equal approaches to having all of these groups feel heard and having situations be handled in the best way possible.

ABL: Each student group has the right to support their own ideas but it is important that the Students’ Union provides guidelines to make sure that a student group can express their ideas in an organised manner that will not harm others. The student union should also make sure that they are closely monitoring situations in order to make sure each student group is able to express themselves while respecting each other.  

OM: A good way to tackle this issue would be through one of the initiatives I’ve set out in my campaign, reinitiating the student group reward system. The system will allow for there to be a demerit points system. We include penalties for bad sportsmanship, being inequitable, all that stuff—all of those categories are inside the demerit points system, then student groups are going to be less likely to do anything that would get them docked points. So reinitiating student group rewards with an intentional like pointing grading system that accounts for topics like this. 

Q: Planning events for the TMSU student body can come at a high cost and requires lots of careful budgeting. How would you manage these financial aspects to ensure the TMSU stays within its budget, receives payment from third parties and follows through with contractual obligations?

MM: I’m currently a member of the funding committee and I’ve been sitting on the funding committee for the past year at the Art Society. I’ve dealt with reimbursements, I’ve dealt with communications with students who want to get their money, I’ve also helped with the planning of the budget for the fiscal year. A large part of what would make this process easier is really good planning, and really good communication. Good planning comes from making sure that we stick to the budget that has been made for us by the VP of operations. And we try to maximize within the limits of that budget. Frequent communication as well as communicating policies, and communicating the exact process step by step of what the TMSU does to get student groups their money, I feel like that’s very important. 

ABL: When you have a good plan, and you are able to plan it ahead of time, there are less unexpected expenses. To make sure to not go over budget you need to make sure to use all of the unused resources that are available. I’ve also learned through planning events that there are a lot of companies that are willing to sponsor events. Especially with an institution as big as the TMSU that has so many undergraduate students, the target audience for a lot of companies around downtown Toronto. 

OM: Event planning is one of my favourite things to do in my free time. This just goes back to having a plan. If you have a back up plan from the beginning of the year as to which initiatives you’re going to be doing it is going to be easier to communicate to communicate with the board, it will be easy to communicate with VP operations, and it’s going to be easier for you and the people you are working with. So that by the early summer period, you have everything that you need. By the early summer period of time when all the costs have been set, giving, the financial team of the TMSU a full month to review costs and see where we can make things cheaper and see if there’s anything we can borrow. 

Q: How do you plan on advertising to TMSU-run campus events effectively to ensure the student body is informed as well as benefiting from the resources that the union provides? 

MM: In-person outreach is at the core of what makes events successful on campus. I’ve done a lot of events with the Art Society. Most recently, we had a staycation event. It was very successful. And one of the reasons that it was so successful despite the fact we only marketed it for a week, was that we focus on in-person outreach. Tabling, in my opinion, is one of the best strategies. We should also focus on social media outreach. So the TMSU has a very great social media presence already. We should be engaging in tactics like business boosting on Instagram and boosted post sponsorships on Tik Tok. Those are just an idea of what we could do on social media. But I am more focused on in-person outreach, because from my personal experience of planning my own events it has been the most successful strategy.

ABL: A strategy that is underestimated, that helps a lot when promoting campus events is using  student groups. Student groups already have such a dedicated base of students and followers that attend their events, because they love what they offer, the culture that they’re representing, or that niche interest they’re filling. I will collaborate a lot with student groups to create events that are targeted towards their audience but are also open to the public. And in that way, creating a closer relationship not only with the campus community overall but with student groups and helping them fund their events. Having said that, in terms of engagement, even though the TMSU has a big following on Instagram, in the past year, the social media presence has declined. So something very important is having a dedicated person to promote social media, promoting the TMSU events or whatever initiatives they have on social media. And something also that works every single time is an in-person campaign. Something key, even if it sounds silly, is always having something to give out to students. Because that way they have something nice for the rest of their day, even if it’s just a snack, they also get to know about all of these amazing things that have been happening on campus. 

OM: There has to be consistency. That is the only way to grow engagement and have more students coming out to the events. Whether that be in the regularity in which events are being held, or the type of events are being held. There has to be intentionality and consistency in the type of events that are being executed. And the only way in which we can actually get students involved intentionally and consistently is if we know what we’re doing from the get go.

Closing statements

MM: I would like to implement the start of semester culture jam to increase orientation participation. I would like to bring back the formals. So I want to have a start of semester formal as well as the end of semester formal for first and second semester. I want to have more multicultural events and I want to increase student group funding by double if possible. And my slate the Students Leading Change is a slate of very, very experienced and very, very passionate student leaders with lots of fire in them to change things to bring a positive impact to the TMSU. 

ABL: My main goals for this position are to create a more connected campus community. I want to rebuild that bridge between the students and the TMSU. I also want to create events that will impact the social, academic and professional aspects of the university experience for all undergraduate students. I will focus on promoting and celebrating the cultural diversity that our campus has, through different pub nights, culture fests and celebrating cultural events. I also want to implement initiatives that will have an impact on the day-to-day life of students, like providing free tea or coffee during the week and securing partnerships with local vendors to provide student discounts. My experience with different student groups has provided me with insight on how to support them as they are pillars of the community, and I will support them and help them grow through the restructuring of the reimbursement process, providing more funding and giving them more incentives to continue to do this work with campus group awards. Finally, I want to say that even though I’m graduating, being close to graduating makes me want to step up and be fully committed to this role. I want to give to the students what I know they need and also what I wish I had during my time as an undergrad and graduate. 

OM: You already know that I’ve done this job. Outside of my experience in the TMSU, I do event planning. Essentially, to close, I don’t really want to speak about my experience or anything like that but I want to kind of encourage you all to come out. I really can bring a vibe and foster campus community through my campaign platform. All the initiatives that I want to run and actually execute are on my Instagram page. But really, I’d like to encourage students to come out this week at 6 p.m. everyday this week in Kerr quad. I will be attempting to foster community engagement because it is what I want to do, it is what I can do, and it’s what I know I will do for you. 

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