For the first time in at least three years, four slates and one individual vie for seven University of Toronto Students’ Union executive positions as the Spring elections begin this week.
The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union election polls closed last Thursday after only two teams ran for the executive positions. Following a dispute between both the UTSU and UTMSU over the election date, the downtown union scheduled their election date to take place the week after UTMSU’s elections.
The UTSU held its candidates’ forum last Wednesday, where questions were presented to each candidate with one minute to answer, including how they plan to put students before themselves, what they would do about the raising of tuition, how they want to lobby the administration, and how they would advocate for a healthy political environment on campus. The debate lasted close to three hours.
All four presidential candidates were asked how their first four months in office would be like, if elected.
Current UTSU’s VP internal, Mathias Memmel, is the presidential candidate for Demand Better U of T.
Memmel stated that the first four months would focus on restructuring UTSU, including the staff and the union’s services.
“It’s something that we have to speak to students [about], speak to clubs and communities and say: What would the UTSU look like if you were to rebuild it, and how would it best serve you?” said Memmel at the debate.
“That’s an organization-restructuring in terms of staff, about the services that we provide, about the advocacy work that we do. It’s about how our board is structured fundamentally, it’s about how the executive itself is structured, and it’s about the types of services that we provide for students,” Memmel added.
We the Students
Andre Fast is the presidential candidate for We the Students. According to his candidate statement on the UTSU website, he was the founder of the free tuition coalition and the co-founder of U of T Fight for Fifteen and Fairness. Fast’s goal is to start a campaign on tuition within the first four months of his term in office.
“I was told by some folks involved with UTSU that they would be starting a campaign on tuition […], and that never happened,” said Fast.
“I think the lack of any coordinated effort to advocate for students, when it comes to tuition fees [that] continue [to increase], let down a lot of students this year.”
Fast conceded that if elected, he and his team will also make sure to represent low-income students.
Reboot U of T
Micah Ryu was an executive for the Korean Students’ Association, and is currently an executive for the Society of Linguistics Undergraduate Students at U of T.
Running as the presidential candidate for team Reboot U of T, Ryu stated that his goals in the first months in office would be to remove UTSU’s full-time executive positions, as they “disproportionally exclude international students and professional faculty students.”
Ryu also wants to launch a new clubs funding structure.
“We’re going to come up with a new clubs funding structure that takes into account reduplication of services by cultural clubs that provide services that often surpass the quality of the services provided by the UTSU,” he said. “And [clubs] should really in fact be treated more like component parts of the student union, rather than just another club that has to apply for funding.”
Whomst’d’ve U of T
With an aluminum hat over his head, John Sweeney sat at the presidential candidates table as he elaborated sarcastically on his goals, as well as his team’s, Whomst’d’ve.
As stated by The Varsity, Sweeney was part of the Engineering Society in 2015-2016 and was also the editor-in-chief for The Toike Oike in 2013-2014.
“There are a lot of issues on campus that I know next to nothing about. My plan is to educate myself on these issues, which realistically will be a long process,” said Sweeney as applauses and laughers emerged in the room.
“I need to sit down with every executive on the team and make sure we all have a solid game plan going forward, and make sure we’re on the same page of what to do when there is any disperse. Other than that, the usual preparation for orientation week,” he added.
Aside from Sweeney, the two other candidates of his team also wore aluminum hats. When asked if the team had a particular message from wearing those hats, Sweeney told The Medium that it was more of a “joke” and that it also helps draw attention to them.
He also clarified that the name of the team is “a way of bringing the ridiculousness of the kind of names” that get used for the slates running for UTSU’s elections.
In a Reddit series of posts, the team posted that the candidates would “do stuff once elected.”
“Our transparent platform is simple,” read one of their posts. “[…] We want to leave the CFS, enforce pineapple on pizza, and support the defederation of any self-sufficient student groups that want to leave.” However, the post continued that the team is ready “to be serious when needed.”
Whomst’d’ve also told The Medium that although they are not entirely serious, “we’re enjoying ourselves, and have a few good points.”
Sweeney further explained to The Medium that the de-federation of small groups on campus is one of the team’s main goals. He recited that the Engineering Society had previously tried to hold a referendum to separate itself from UTSU, but the union did not allow it.
“I understand that there are legal hurdles to get through [at the time], but [the society] ended up passing a resolution to have some of the fee diversion back to the Engineering Society,” said Sweeney.
“What we really want to look into is that if there’s a student group that want to leave and they are able to sustain themselves, we think it’s more sufficient of them to be able to govern their own majority and have their own representation.”
UTMSU’s current VP internal, Jackie Zhao, is also running for the UTSU elections this year as the VP internal with team We the Students.
Other candidates running for the VP internal positions include Daman Singh from the Demand Better slate, and Jessica Leung from Reboot U of T.
UTMSU’s VP university affairs and academics, Vanessa Demello, has announced on Facebook her support of We the Students.
The elections for the UTSU executive positions and board of directors begin this week from March 14 to 16, with voting polls across both the U of T and UTM campus, as well as online at utsu.simplyvoting.com.