In the midst of intensive planning for arguably the most anticipated UTM Students’ Union event of the year—Orientation Week—the two key people in charge of the planning and execution of festivities resigned from their positions at the students’ union, three weeks prior to the start of Orientation.

This was Lara Stasiw and Neelam Din’s second resignation. Stasiw and Din allege that their first resignation, which was “not accepted”, came before they were yelled at and “demeaned” by UTMSU executives. Their second resignation followed an event in which the president of UTMSU, Raymond Noronha, claims Din “harassed and attacked in person and later via email” a frosh leader during the second frosh leader training. Din has disputed this claim.

Not for “personal reasons”

UTMSU’s executive director, Walied Khogali, wrote in an email on August 15 to the executives of UTMSU-funded clubs and societies that the resignations were due to “personal reasons”.

“I did not resign for personal reasons. I resigned because I no longer supported the environment that was being created by UTMSU. [It] was blatantly hostile,” said Stasiw in an interview. “We were yelled at numerous times in the [UTMSU] office. Both of us have cried numerous times. We have been demeaned by all except for Hassan [Havili, VP part-time affairs] and Grayce [Slobodian, VP campus life], [and] at some point, most blatantly by Raymond [Noronha, president] and Nausheen [VP internal and services].”
Neither Stasiw nor Din are strangers to Orientation Week, having both attended their own orientations as first-year students.

Stasiw went on to become a frosh leader. She was an orientation coordinator last year, while Din served as an Orientation Committee member.

Who disrespected whom?

Problems between the new OCs and the executives of UTMSU began before that, according to Stasiw. For one thing, she said, she had to ask for last year’s final numbers in the Orientation budget before being told she could not have a copy but could “briefly” look at it. On top of that, said Stasiw, her opinion was “not valued or respected”.

“All of our decisions for Orientation were overlooked and undermined,” she said. “It was very difficult not to stand up for what we truly believed was right. However, we were very quickly demeaned and told we were being disrespectful when we were merely calling attention to the inequities and injustices put forth by executive members,” said Stasiw.

Noronha said in an email to frosh leaders, “We have always treated the orientation coordinators with respect and expected nothing less in return. Unfortunately, respect for us was lacking and it was evident during the decision-making process.”
Stasiw acknowledged that she and Din did not always respect the decisions made by UTMSU executives, alleging that those decisions were not always in the best interest of students.

In one instance, the executives went in camera and voted no to an Argos game that the OCs wanted first-years to experience as part of Orientation. The executives did not provide reasons for their decision, said the OCs.

Din alleged that Noronha sat her down one day and told her, “Everything that has happened that has been bad thus far is your fault.”
“It was after their lack of transparency that we realized they were making decisions based on what they personally felt was best for them rather than what would be best for students,” said Din.

Stasiw said that one of her goals as OC this year was to bring new ideas to Orientation rather than continue with the same activities as past years.

“We felt going to an Argos game with the rest of U of T would have been the perfect opportunity, especially when it didn’t affect the budget or ticket prices. It was unfortunate to have the execs vote no and not be transparent about their reasoning,” said Stasiw. “Leaders should be embracing [this idea] rather than shying away from [it] merely because of the associated liability, which is no greater than any other frosh event.”

Resignations “not accepted”

Stasiw and Din handed in their resignations on June 4, but were told that their resignations were “not accepted” because Noronha did not see a reason for them to resign.

In a meeting with Noronha, Khogali, Adam, and Slobodian, they outlined their reasons for resigning, but were convinced by Khogali to stay.

“We continued [to work at UTMSU] because we believed the broken promises we were fed and the commitment to improve the work environment,” said Stasiw.

They held leader interviews and training.

“Leaders that myself and Lara felt uncomfortable with were put on the leader list,” said Din. “There are some people that should not be on that leader list right now […] they are leaders because of the executives.”

Noronha, on the other hand, said UTMSU has a very transparent process for hiring leaders. Applications that are sent in to UTMSU are screened by the OCs under the supervision of the VP campus life and interviews take place.

“After the interview, the final list of names is reviewed by the UTMSU Executive Committee to make sure we do not take on leaders that might have been problematic in prior years,” Noronha said. “That being said, UTMSU does not have any preferential hiring for any leaders or staff members.”

OC accused of harassment

During the weekend of August 10, the second leader training took place, in which Din had allegedly “harassed and attacked” a frosh leader, according to Noronha.

The leader in question was a volunteer at last year’s Orientation and had, according to the OCs, repeatedly broken rules. This leader was not supposed to be on the list, said Din, but Noronha insisted that she be made a leader.

Noronha addressed this issue by saying that the leader did well in her interview and her having a “personality conflict” with the OCs was not a sufficient reason to bar her from participating as a leader during Orientation.

“Myself, along with other members of the executive team, had previously worked with that leader and we knew that she would be an amazing leader during Orientation Week—and she was,” said Noronha.

At the second leader training on August 11, the leader engaged in a heated conversation with Din about not obeying the rules at last year’s Orientation, at which the leader was a volunteer.

At that point, according to Din and Stasiw, Noronha raised his voice and told Din that she had to leave.

“I said, ‘Fine, I will leave, but you will have to make the decision of keeping her or me.’ Then I left and I cried. Leaders saw me and committee saw me,” said Din. “That’s when people saw that this isn’t the best place to be working in if your employees are crying every week because things aren’t proper.”

When asked about the incident, Noronha replied, “A leader was harassed and attacked in person and later via email by one of our orientation coordinators. […] I stopped the OC right there from continuing the conversation with that leader.

“It’s ironic that Neelam mentioned herself crying,” added Noronha. “It was actually the leader who had tears in her eyes, and myself and Ro’a are witnesses of this fact.”

Din denied that she had harassed the leader either in person or via email.

Orientation by someone else?

Stasiw and Din handed in their resignation the next day. It was approved by the executive committee three days later and ratified by the UTMSU board of directors at its meeting of August 19. Stasiw, Din, and their supporters discussed the possibility of Orientation being done through a different organization, but Stasiw said that the majority felt it was too late to do so without affecting the Orientation experience for first-years.

“We were not proud working for a students’ union we felt did not stand up for what was best for students,” said Stasiw. “We handed in our letter so we would have a clear conscience, knowing we did all we could in the positions we were in and with what material we had.”
When asked his opinion of why Stasiw and Din resigned, Noronha responded, “My opinion is not relevant. Ms. Stasiw and Ms. Din resigned for reasons that we as employers have tried to resolve on many occasions […] Unfortunately, the threat of resignation was used as a tactic to intimidate or as a means to reverse decisions that were discussed and finally decided upon.”

“We resigned as we wanted students to realize they do not have to put up with abusive conditions to achieve anything,” said Stasiw.
After their resignations, Noronha emailed frosh leaders to inform them of the news.

Stasiw alleged that this email slandered her and Din. “It was extremely untrue and was a matter of ego before professionalism,” she said.

The email in question was sent on August 13. Noronha addressed the incident that took place at the second frosh leader training.

“Over the weekend, a potential leader was harassed and attacked in person and via email by one of our orientation coordinators,” wrote Noronha. “We had no choice but to take all the necessary precautions to stop the use of our resources to attack any student.”
After their second resignation, Stasiw and Din approached Khogali and requested that, at the request of several leaders, they continue their term as OCs, so long as they did not have to communicate with UTMSU executives on matters unrelated to Orientation.

“Seeing as no executive played an active part in any of the planning until we resigned, we were aware of the implications on first-years should we not complete [our work as OCs],” said Stasiw, who added that Orientation planning at that point was far behind schedule. They were later told that Noronha’s immediate response to the request was a blatant “no”.

Noronha said he is unaware of such a request.

“It is sad that the OCs chose to resign a few weeks before Orientation Week. Since their first resignation, I have pleaded with both Lara and Neelam to continue to work at UTMSU as orientation coordinators, but we emphasized that it is important to respect their colleagues and the decisions made by the elected executive,” said Noronha.

Stasiw had been employed by UTMSU for three years as a poll clerk, while Din spent one year as a poll clerk and two as the volunteer coordinator.

  • Junaid Imran

    Even if half of what these OCs said was true, UTMSU should be ashamed of themselves for running such a corrupt and disorganized student union. Of course this isn’t the first time their execs have made a hostile environment for students…

  • gladigraduated


  • Teddy Brar

    The lack of organization, transparency, and direction was blatantly obvious during Orientation Week. The few events that were successful were due to the leaders (and some committee members) going out of their way to make it fun and entertaining. UTMSU’s performance during the course of the summer and Orientation Week was simply lacking and tainted the image of the University as a whole.

    • FOG

      People are catching feelings to the point where theres levels to this shit, over everything post frosh – lets be real we all had a great fucking time, the week itself went unbelievably well when you think about how something would go without OCs and with all the prefrosh drama. We had a bunch of new shit that worked well, old events were solidified, and the froshies were fucking amazing.

      There were a few KEY things that got on all of our nerves and its those that are being emphasized rather than the successes. The fuckups were not little fuckups and we should figure out how we will deal with them next year, but just to keep everything in balance all parties involved should have an equal voice and everything needs to be put into perspective.

      People this week had a great time, bonded, grew out of their shells, lost their voices, and bust repeatedly due to the fun that they had. But people also messed up, lost control, and screwed up a couple of minor/major things that left a bad taste in their mouths for the whole week.

      You can’t just think an article would cover everything from every aspect, how can you tell me that this article is impartial with a straight face ?

      If you really wanna figure out what went wrong and why, sit down with everyone involved, hold an open forum and see what needs to be done.

      If you don’t want to do that make sure that you’re either a leader or a committee member for next years frosh so you can directly be a part of it and make sure the mistakes aren’t repeated.

      – Your Friendly Neighbourhood OG

      • Luke

        Whose favour is it partial in—the OCs or the executives?

        This article’s scope is the resignation of the OCs and why, as told by both the OCs and the executives. The people who think it tries to cover everything aren’t the ones who published it.

  • Ali Karim

    Some things never change. Ah, the memories lol

  • flo

    Kudos to Neelam and Lara for sticking it through as long as they did.

  • SMH


  • SMH


    Terrible school spirit (no one goes to any of the games, no one cares about the campus, no events) and terrible people

    • UTM Alumni

      No events? No one cares about the campus?

      Are you sure you go to UTM? lol. Because the UTM I know has a lot of events and people do care about the campus.

      PS. Please do visit the Blind Duck pub when there are events hosted by different clubs. You can also visit events and conferences that different faculties and Departments on campus host ! I am sure you will find the “school spirit”

  • Prince

    Nice to se the medium keeping up with its propaganda. Nothing new here.

    • Luke

      Who comes off better, in your opinion? The OCs or the executives?

      • Ace

        Nobody is better off. The OCs lost a position they cared about greatly that they were incredibly passionate about. I rather doubt that the executive wants another press fiasco, so this isn’t exactly in their best interest either.

        What really struck me were the statements regarding the Finances.

        If the OCs had a problem with the members of the Executive, why did they not go to the board?

        There is an Orientation Finance Committee, and I am wondering, If the OCs had a problem with the executive, why did the OCs not just try and talk to the Board Members on the OFC?

        I know several Board of Directors members personally. They are all hardworking, professional, and approachable people. At the very least I am sure talking to them would have allowed them to clear the air on any financial concerns.

  • Jason

    I guess that’s why the medium’s office have a huge piece of glass in their office. They don’t get out much. They are like children in monkey bars. They have this nice little playground where they all play dress-up and journalism all day.
    You should be ashamed to call yourselves journalists. You guys don’t know a thing about writing, haha. I can’t believe that we pay fees to the medium. I guess thats how they are able to afford all those expensive camera gears, the nice iMacs, expensive couches and chairs.
    Did you know there are professional writing courses offered at UTM???

    • Luke

      This probably wins an award for most backfiring comment.

    • former student

      Please explain your stance. You presented no argument to defend your opinion, so I’m curious as to why you believe this doesn’t qualify as a quality article?

  • UTM Alumni

    Sorry to say but the facts presented are no where close to the truth and this article is completely biased. Where is the mention of the success of the paint party or even pictures of it, the amount of sponsors that came out to the Carnival and other events, the fact that a Froshie won the Frosh Got Talent for the first time ever, the fact that people had the best experiences of their life during the week of Frosh!

    Its easy to hate on people without seeing both sides of the coin. The success of the Orientation Week speaks for itself !

    • former student

      I believe you are reading the wrong article. This one is exclusively about the OCs’ resignation from their posts. The Orientation event has its own article, which does in fact mention the paint party. As you can see, there were no opinions expressed by the author in this article, and both sides presented their own views. And there were no allegations made by the author that Orientation was unsuccessful. Please actually read the article before making accusations! Perhaps then your opinion would have more merit.

      • UTM Alumni

        Thank you for your response !

        – Firstly, I am not reading the wrong article. I also read the other article that had LESS THAN A PAGE mentioned about the activities in Frosh, while three and half pages dedicated to this ! Why? And no pictures of the paint party or the Carnival in general? Why again I suppose?

        – There was a video-grapher/ photographer from the medium for the paint party and the Parade and all you got is LESS THAN A PAGE ? Now how is that showcasing any success about the Orientation Week.

        – I am not trying to discredit this article completely, however, it would have had more credibility if the hard work of the UTMSU was also mentioned in picking up Frosh when the OC’s resigned and not only how the OC’s loved the Argo games and what not!

        – Why is that you don’t reply to users that praise the OCs and bash UTMSU?

        I hope you take this comment as a form of critique!

        Thank you

        • Luke

          Hi. EIC here.

          Thanks for validating your comment by making some points. Still, there’s some misunderstanding.

          The Frosh article was continued on a second page.

          We plan to post an album of extra Frosh photos on Facebook. There’s always more we wish we could put in print. That said, at some events UTMSU blocked our access to take photos.

          The Argos game is mentioned twice by name. One is by the OCs saying they don’t know why it was cancelled, and the other is by the executives saying they would’ve loved for it to happen but it was impractical. What’s your point?

          As for replying to other users, all commenters are entitled to their opinions.


        • Olga Tkachenko

          I believe the lack is photos is a result of some access issues to some events for Medium staff photographers/videographers. Also, if a source came forward who was interested in displaying their view of the hard work the UTMSU put into it, they would have most certainly been included, but I am not sure whether there was such a source at the time of the article being written, not being the author of this piece. As I mentioned, this is NOT an opinion article, or the opinion of the author, but the opinions of people who came forth and shared theirs. The job of the Medium (see the editorial) is not to advertise events or praise people, but to report events that are newsworthy. The (double) resignation of the OCs is certainly newsworthy, as is the Orientation event itself, of course, which is why both were covered; the Facebook group is also interesting to note, whether it puts a negative light on the event or not. I hope that answers some of your questions.

          I completely understand your viewpoint that not enough was mentioned about Orientation in comparison to the OC article, but I think you can also see why that article is so important for students to read. As always, I am sure anybody is welcome to write an opinion piece for the Medium if they wanted to share their opinion.

          Oh, and bashing UTMSU is nothing new. I don’t necessarily agree with it, and have previously defended some aspects of their work, but I do agree that the lack of transparency is a concern. I also have no idea how Orientation planning went down, not having been there myself or been on the Planning Committee, so I can’t say whether I think UTMSU did a great job (plus my opinion here is irrelevant); my comments include only information I have some understanding of.

        • Connor

          All right Grace

  • Luke