Let the campaigning begin.
The official campaigning period for the UTMSU spring elections began last week, with one incomplete slate and three independent candidates running for next year’s executive team.
The UTM Inspire slate is made up of candidates for all positions except VP part-time affairs. Its candidates for president, VP university affairs and academics, and VP external are running unopposed. Independent candidate Amir Moazzami (currently a board member) was the sole eligible contender for VP part-time affairs as of press time.
UTM Inspire has VP part-time affairs Hassan Havili running for president (currently VP part-time affairs); Melissa Theodore running for VP equity (currently VP external); Genny Lawen running for VP university affairs and academics (currently associate to the president); Ebi Agbeyegbe running for VP external (currently associate to the VP external); and Bryan Chelvanaigum, running for VP internal (currently associate to the VP internal).
“We called our slate ‘UTM Inspire’ because we want to inspire UTM students to be the best in whatever they do,” said Havili. “We believe our students’ union is the best place to provide resources and support to students [who] want to navigate this large institution. The main goal we wish to achieve is working towards uniting the UTM community and building a strong working relationship with students.”
The slate’s platform includes lobbying for a fall Reading Week, increased club funding, and more study space on campus.
While UTM is currently exploring the option of implementing a fall Reading Week, Havili said that his team will advocate for the option the majority of the student body prefers.
When asked whether his team would hold a third consecutive Student Centre expansion referendum, Havili said no.
“We will not be holding another referendum in the upcoming year, but we will lobby the university to contribute more to the expansion of student space, including an extension of the Student Centre,” he said, adding that he hoped that the university would take this year’s referendum failure to mean “students don’t want to pay more, period”.
Three candidates are running independently of the slate for VP equity, VP internal and services, and VP part-time affairs. This is an unusually high number of independents running in recent years.
Farishta Amanullah, currently the associate to the VP equity, is running as an independent candidate for VP equity. Like Theodore’s platform, Amanullah’s includes lobbying for mental health awareness and increased multifaith prayer space on campus.
“The reason I’m running independently [is] because I’m really, really passionate about the position,” she said. “I’m not running against the team,” she added, saying that she hoped the winning candidate would implement the same changes she’s advocating for, if she doesn’t win.
Amanullah was handed eight demerit points by the Elections and Referenda Committee, chaired by current VP internal Nausheen Adam and including one member each of the Associate of Graduate Students, the UTM Athletics Council or Residence Council, and the Canadian Federation of Students’ GTA chapter, for failing to include the line “Please pass on to a friend or recycle” on her posters.
Running for VP internal and services is independent candidate Erik Hernandez-Oberding. Hernandez-Oberding expressed his dissatisfaction with the union in its current governance, citing problems with the team’s knowledge about governance and equity issues.
“There are a ridiculous amount of issues with UTMSU,” he said. “I really don’t like the way it’s run.”
Hernandez-Oberding believes his chances of winning as an independent are slim. He said that the reason he didn’t form a slate was that many of the issues that need to be addressed come from marginalized people, who he said are excluded from slates because they lack connections with the union. Hernandez-Oberding added that he came from a marginalized background himself, having to deal with mental health issues and belonging to a low-income family.
Hernandez-Oberding didn’t explain why his posters weren’t up as of press time, citing concerns of being accused of “slander”.
Candidacy for VP part-time affairs has been one of the most contentious issues so far. Both Hassan Chughtai (currently the clubs coordinator) and Minahil Minhas were denied their applications to run for VP part-time. Chughtai, who had planned to run as part of the Inspire slate, was considered ineligible to run because the nomination package he submitted contained one or more signature from students who were not part-time. The EARC denied Chughtai an extension to gather more signatures, citing precedent.
Minhas’ candidacy, which was denied on the grounds that she was not a part-time student at the time of her nomination, is currently under appeal for the second time.
Another independent candidate for VP equity, Saad Alam, withdrew on March 20 for reasons not made public.
Moazzami, the sole independent candidate for VP part-time, aims to increase employment options for part-time students; in an interview, Moazzami told the Medium that he himself is a part-time student for financial reasons.
“It hits home if a student just doesn’t have enough money to go to university full-time,” he said. “You see all these students going through four years of school and then getting on with their lives, coming out of that bubble, and then you have students [who] have to graduate at the age of 27 or 28 because they just can’t afford to go to school.”
Moazzami explained that he has had to alternate between attending university full- and part-time to take care of his mother, who was diagnosed with cancer and later passed away.
He also said he wants to lobby to expand UTM’s Work-Study program and decrease parking prices because many part-time students are commuters.
According to current UTMSU president Raymond Noronha, more candidates are running this year than last for positions on both UTMSU’s executive and board of directors. He attributed the increase to UTMSU’s success in engaging with students.
Moazzami said he will address what he considers a disconnect between students and the UTMSU. In a letter to the Medium published in February, Moazzami advocated for students to change the union by becoming more involved in it.
“We need to instill culture back into this campus […],” he wrote. “We need unity. Without unity, there is no union.”
The elections for UTMSU’s board of directors are also taking place at this time. There are 15 candidates for four positions in Division II and 12 candidates for seven positions in Division III—a very high number compared to the average. (A candidate for Division III withdrew on March 15 for unspecified reasons.)
Recently, the EARC ruled that the code regarding slating among board members from different divisions allowed for interpretation, and they decided not to permit it. “Board members serve as a check and balance on the work of the executive. Hence, it is important that the board acts in due diligence, makes decisions in the best interest of students, and decisions are free of any biases,” reads their statement. “Given the number of candidates running for divisional positions and the level of competition, the EARC believes that it is in the best interest of students that they compete independently.”
Voting for next year’s executive and board of directors will take place from Tuesday to Thursday. An all-candidates meeting is scheduled to take place in the Blind Duck today, March 24, from 12 to 3 p.m.
This article has been corrected from the print edition. EARC was chaired by Nausheen Adam, not Raymond Noronha. A notice will be printed in the March 31, 2014 issue.