The unofficial results of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) elections were announced on March 19, with a sweeping victory across the board for the student slate Build Back Better UTM. Four of the five positions on the UTMSU executive team were uncontested. Moreover, 11 new members were elected to the Board of Directors, out of the 17 candidates.
Current President Mitra Yakubi was re-elected for the 2021-2022 academic year with 879 votes in favour and 257 votes against. The VP internal candidate Lai Wei was elected with 914 votes, VP external candidate Maelis Barre with 895 votes, and VP university affairs candidate Merica Joy Carlos with 894 votes.
The only seat on the executive team with more than one candidate was the VP equity position. Ryan Tomlinson from the Build Back Better UTM slate was elected with 648 votes. The other VP equity candidates, Laiba Khan and Maryam Yousefipournigjeh, received 233 and 173 votes respectively.
With Covid-19 restrictions in place, this year only included a virtual voting option, with an approximate 50 per cent decrease in voter turnout, from 14.7 per cent in 2020 to 7.5 per cent in 2021.
The voting process this year involved students entering a virtual conference call on the video conferencing software Zoom to verify their student number and receive a voting pin. This pin could then be used to cast their ballot. The whole process reportedly took no longer than five minutes.
However, some students questioned the efficiency of this system, especially when compared to the online voting portal used by other U of T-based clubs and unions.
Reaction from the student body has also been playing out on Reddit, an online discussion platform, which allows members of the UTM community to engage in an open forum discussion. Many posts by UTM students showed concern over the lack of competition in UTMSU elections in recent years.
Re-elected President Mitra Yakubi, who had posted a thread on Reddit highlighting her campaign points, was also very active on the website and responded to some of the comments made by Reddit users.
In addition to the criticism over the voting process this year, UTM students spoke out about the compensation in place for UTMSU position-holders. In response to a student asking about the president’s compensation, Yakubi stated that “unlike other students’ unions,” all members of the UTMSU executive team receive the same pay.
“By having paid positions, it allows me (and really any other student that runs and gets elected) to focus on [the] job because at the end of the day, it is full time,” stated Yakubi. “For me personally, I’m still a student and paying for my tuition myself so I can make ends meet while doing work I love.”
Yakubi also argued that students would be unable to work in the union if the executive team positions were unpaid.
“I am paid minimum wage (for the whole year it’s about $31k) and we aren’t paid for any overtime work which is often required with this position,” continued Yakubi. “Also, as an organization we have actively advocated for fair wages, eliminating un-paid internships and so forth for students, so I think it’s important that we hold our self to the same standard and pay folks for their labour.”