The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union’s Candidates Forum was held on March 15th in anticipation of the upcoming union elections and saw the introduction of the slate One UTM. The slate is running unopposed for every position and is comprised of Felipe Nagata for president, Andres Posada for vice president university Affairs, Yan Li for vice president internal, Atif Abdullah for vice president external, and Leena Arbaji for vice president equity.
Running unopposed for president is Felipe Nagata, a third-year political science student, who served this 2017-2018 academic year as UTMSU’s vice president of campus life. During the forum, Nagata spoke about his intent to expand the free breakfast program currently run by the UTMSU to include free dinners during midterm and exam seasons, as well as introducing a food market on campus. He will also focus on instituting an increase in space for printing and copying services in the student centre.
VP University Affairs
The candidate for vice president of university affairs, Luis Andres Posada, is the current president of the Latin American Student Association and marketing director for the Student Management Association. Posada discussed his plans to keep mental health initiatives at the forefront, enacting mental health support suited to varying student needs. Posada also hopes to increase the current two-week window for courses must be dropped in order to receive a full refund. Posada also expressed an intent to eliminate the $55 system access fee for ACORN.
Yan Li’s plans for the position include relaunching the UTMSU app, making it more user-friendly and incorporating within it an events calendar to keep students updated on campus. Li also plans to introduce a mentorship program for incoming students. The program will see first-year students paired up with upper students in similar programs and would run in collaboration with the academic societies present at UTM.
Atif Abdullah, a second-year student in computer science, previously worked as the associate to the vice president university affairs on initiatives leading to an extension in the credit/no-credit deadline. He aims to prioritize the Fight the Fees campaign as VP external. Abdullah also plans to advocate for fees coverage for international students, students from families earning more than $50,000 a year, and part-time students among others. Additionally, he pledged to continue to work on increasing the transit systems encompassed by the U-PASS, with a particular focus on the Brampton and Oakville regions.
Leena Arbaji is a fourth-year student and current sustainability coordinator. Her plans for the position of VP equity include the development of an environmental justice campaign situated within the local context of UTM. Arbaji aims to minimize the campus carbon footprint while maximizing sustainability. She also highlighted a continuation of efforts to dismantle sexual violence at UTM by supporting survivors through support groups and formalizing consent culture training for UTMSU staff, as well as clubs and other groups on campus.
In an interview with The Medium, One UTM further explained some of their major platform points and goals for their positions if elected. Nagata stated that their platform points mainly focus on creating a closer community as UTM
This program would seek to match up first-year students with upper-year students from various academic societies based on the program students are enrolled in. The goal of the program is to give students more insight and assistance in their initial programs in order to help them acclimate to university life.
The program would feature “any academic society who would be interested in providing guidance to any first-year students who have not yet decided a program, and allow academic societies to build that connection from the beginning with first year students,” stated Andres Posada.
“The idea is that the mentors will be connected to the academic societies and represent that program. And then act as a student advisor to those students,” he continued.
Posada said the slate would work with the academic societies to determine the mentors for the program. According to Nagata, the program would run on a volunteer basis, with academic societies choosing if they would like to participate. The choice to provide payment to any mentors would be determined by the academic societies participating. Nagata stated that the UTMSU would function more as an overseer of the program, and the societies would be responsible for their mentors.
The GTA U-Pass
One UTM has stated their intent to continue to lobby on expanding the current U-PASS to incorporate other local transit, in addition to Miway. Obtaining a U-PASS applicable to more than Mississauga, has been a UTMSU goal for several years. One UTM stated they would focus primarily on incorporating Brampton and Oakville transit into a pass.
“We have been doing a lot of working in terms of the surveys we have been doing, data collection, we had conversations with Metrolinx. We said focusing on Brampton and Oakville because they are smaller transit companies, so lobbying them would be a lot easier, now that we have the data,” Nagata stated.
“In terms of actual points moving forward, I feel that conversations, now that we have statistical data pretty much need to happen, in terms of Metrolinx, as well as the other transit authorities.”
Nagata also stated that the possibility of an opt-out option would depend on the demand of people who would use the pass versus the number of students who wouldn’t.
Currently, the TTC has approved a proposal by the St. George student union, in collaboration with other universities to move forward with a transit pass for Toronto university students.
One of the slate’s platform points is continuing to lobby the provincial government for free tuition. One UTM acknowledged that this goal probably won’t happen in one term, but want to continue to raise the issue to the provincial governments, particularly in light of Ontario’s upcoming provincial elections.
“How do we make the system that currently exists better in any way possible with the eventual goal of free tuition, but at the same time, working towards one project at a time, keeping the campaign in place and keeping the pressure to say that we need to make our system better,” stated Abdullah.
Environmental Justice Campaign
One UTM pledges to keep UTM a green space and improve the sustainability on campus. According to Lena Arbaji, who’s running for VP equity, one initiative of the committee is to improve recycling on campus.
“One of the big things that we want to try to tackle is the way that our waste is currently collected and sorted on campus and in campus. We have just purchased new receptacles for the student union, it collects organics, recycling and landfill. Unfortunately, most people aren’t educated on which materials belong in which receptacles, and once a receptacle is contaminated with something that does not belong, it all goes straight to the landfill and is not disposed properly.” Arbaji noted that UTM does not have an organics collection on campus, and stated that the school needs to talk about waste management and collecting methods, particularly in the UTM kitchens.
Another goal for Arbaji is to reduce the amount of cigarette butts on campus and get more cigarette users to recycle after smoking.
One UTM wants to lobby to remove the $55 ACORN fee that’s included in student’s invoices to aid in reducing student fees overall.
“This $55 is an extra expense, and the first step is pointing that out to students. Then beyond that, once students say this is something we want to move towards removing, showing that and negotiating with the university,” Posada stated. “We’re already paying a lot of tuition—we should not be paying this extra unnecessary fee.”
Board Game Café
The café would be situated in the Student Centre. Students would hand over their TCard to a staff member from the UTMSU in order to borrow a game, and receive their TCard back when the game has been returned. Nagata also mentioned a possible coffee and tea bar for students in the café.
According to the slate, this initiative comes as a way to provide de stressors to students all year round, while building a sense of community.
“It’s pretty much a way to detress, focus on mental health, get away from anxiety,” Nagata said.
“The other space issue we hear about is study space. And that is something that we do see of being tackled with the TFC renovations and the new north building,” stated Atif Abdullah, “The problem with the study spaces is being worked towards but there still is the problem of lack of community space, which is not about studying. Sometimes you just want an hour to relax with your friends and play a game of cards,” Abdullah continued.
The team seeks to utilize storage space within the student centre in order to bring in more printers and copiers to serve more students.
Although the slate stated their intent to utilize more spaces within the student center, they said that a student centre expansion is a long-term goal. Abdullah stated that before the UTMSU starts to lobby for an expansion again, they would want to consult with students to ensure there is a demand and a willingness to pay for the project.
“It’s a hard campaign to make because it requires a lot of money. We are going to be working on it. We are compiling a document to provide to the university. Nagata stated, that due to the large amount of money required, the expansion would not be a front priority of the team.
This initiative would consist of compiling data of student experience to present to the administration, in order to demonstrate what students need on campus, such as representation. The slate stated they would be willing to collaborate with the Sexual Violence and Prevention centre to collect stories of UTM experiences.
Arbaji stated that this was not meant as appropriation but instead focused “on bringing issues to light.”
This initiative is designed to be an online centre where clubs and academic societies can purchase gear at a discounted price from outside suppliers and companies, for any of their events or promotions.
“We’d be linking that company to the platform where club executives can pick and choose what they want, the amounts and the design. We would try to make it as cheap as possible.
UTMSU would not be collecting any of the funds from these sales, according to Nagata.
“As a non-for-profit organization we are not looking for profit at all,” he stated. One UTM is running unopposed following last year when two slates competed against each other, and in 2015 when four slates and several independent candidates campaigned.
The campaign period will end on March 22nd, with the voting period taking place from March 20th to March 22nd.