Roleen Alarab, a third-year student pursuing a double major in biological sciences and psychology, has served as co-president of the University of Manitoba Working for Inclusivity in Chemical Sciences (UMWIC) group, sometimes working alongside UMSU in this role.
She said that she has undertaken over 600 hours of volunteer work within her community in the past three years, including with the Manitoba Lung Association and a non-profit organization that welcomes refugees to Canada.
She wants to become UMSU president to create a space where all students can feel safe to express themselves.
“We have many diverse intelligent students and I think it is important that the culture is acknowledged,” she said. “This will make for a more inclusive student body.”
Alarab’s priorities if elected will include helping students to make their voices heard, which she called “the first major step to improving our school.”
“So many students hold back from asking questions or reaching out for help, or trying to be involved in the university’s community,” she explained.
She also wants to advocate for students’ mental health and maintain constant communication between students and UMSU. She hopes to emphasize the importance of diversity at the U of M if she wins.
“There’s an abundance of nationalities within our community and yet we are lacking inclusivity,” she said. “I want to provide people with opportunities to try new things. I want to welcome them with open arms and inspire them to step out of their comfort zones.”
Alarab said she thinks that students need payment plans for tuition. She said that some students must postpone their degrees or drop out of their programs because they can’t afford to pay for a full semester of tuition all at once.
“I had to postpone my first semester of university because my immigration papers weren’t ready and the school didn’t help accommodate at all,” she said.
She expressed her opposition to lowering Canada Student Grants — which were doubled to a maximum of $6,000 in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic — to their pre-pandemic amounts, especially considering recent inflation. She also proposed fundraising money to assist struggling students with their tuition.
Alarab thinks that a “fresh set of eyes with a passion to change” will benefit UMSU and the student body.
“‘Refuse to be Silenced’ is my main slogan,” she said. “Together we will overcome, I am nothing without the students.”
Tracy Karuhogo is a fourth-year student majoring in psychology with a minor in women’s and gender studies.
An international student from Uganda, Karuhogo has served on UMSU’s board of directors for the past two years, first as women’s community representative and currently as vice-president student life. She thinks this inside knowledge and experience makes her perfectly suited for the UMSU president position.
She wants to be president because she is “passionate about advocating for students.”
“After working as vice-president student life, I realized there is more work to be done to make the experience of my fellow students in post-secondary education better and beneficial,” she explained.
Her priorities include “fostering community through equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives,” broadening engagement with students and making services more accessible to those at U of M. She highlighted the challenges that many face in accessing mental health support both on and off-campus.
“There is also a huge issue of affordable post-secondary education,” she said. “For example, the rising cost of tuition.”
She pointed to the high cost of textbooks and the potential cuts to Canada Student Grants as issues to address, and said she will advocate for international students’ free provincial health care to be reinstated.
Karuhogo outlined several ideas to save students money or assist them financially, including establishing a financial resources web page on the UMSU website with links to available scholarships, grants and bursaries.
Additionally, she said that she plans to introduce Businesses by Students Week, “where all students at the University with businesses are spotlighted on our socials and get a chance to table in University Centre in order to increase their customer base.”
She also supports more funding for the food bank, as inflation has increased the cost of food items, which in turn has reduced the amount of items that can be bought for students.
“Student leaders before me have advocated and worked to get us to this point and I also want to do my part to make my community better,” she said.
Justin Langan is a third-year political studies student who has served as co-president of theUniversity of Manitoba Indigenous Students’ Association and the Métis University Students’ Association.
He is also a representative on the Canadian International Council and is an activist for student rights, mental health, environmentalism and Indigenous prosperity. Last year, he worked with the Canadian Federation of Students’ Manitoba branch as one of the co-commissioners of the circle of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students.
He is running because he thinks that the student body consistently feels “unrepresented and underappreciated by the current union and has for years.”
“It’s time to change what UMSU represents and its relationships by re-establishing the core principles of transparency and accountability by which it was founded and by putting students first.”
Langan said that the “bedrock” of his priorities is rebuilding UMSU’s relationship with the Canadian Federation of Students and taking advantage of the benefits offered by federation membership. He also wants to restore students’ trust in the union and renewing campus life.
Langan hopes to honour the union’s commitment to working on behalf of the student body.
“I plan to implement a campus reconstruction plan that includes transportation alternatives, safe and available spaces, on-site engagement, winter events and tunnel renovations,” he said.
Langan hopes to also work alongside the Canadian Federation of Students in order to pressure the Manitoba government to reinstate international students’ health care.
“Students need more than a hardship fund; they need steady employment and leaders to fight against price gouging and tuition hikes,” he said. “I will re-evaluate UMSU businesses and work with them to offer better pricing and opportunities for students.”
“It’s time to make opting out of the U-PASS easier for students and work with the university to examine and reduce current fees, which include parking.”
Victoria Romero is a third-year political studies and history student currently serving as UMSU’s vice-president advocacy and as chair of the Manitoba Alliance of Post-Secondary Students.
Romero also sits on the national youth advisory board for Action Canada, an organization that bills itself as “Planned Parenthood Canada.” She believes her past experience with UMSU makes her a good candidate for president.
She wants to become president to create a supportive university environment for all students where they have access to the resources they need.
“UMSU must hold the UM accountable to this responsibility, and as president I will ensure that this is done not only in my role, but by empowering and providing resources to groups on campus so they can do the same,” she said.
Her priorities include breaking down economic, social and accessibility barriers to education, building rapport with students in order to better address their needs, striving to host fun and inclusive events and fulfilling UMSU’s mandate to represent students.
“A strong and organized student union is the key to creating a university community that puts people over profit — UMSU has the duty to ensure student concerns come first,” she said.
With rising cost of living and tuition, Romero said that she will advocate for free and accessible learning materials, such as open educational resources.
“The expansion of [open education resources] would mean more students are able to attend class as financial barriers are removed,” she explained. “Nobody should ever have to make the decision to choose between paying for food or paying for textbooks.”
Romero also hopes to support harm reduction initiatives, and aims to cultivate stronger relationships between UMSU and the three levels of government in order to facilitate more advocacy on issues such as transportation and safety.
Romero hopes to help students financially by opposing organizations that attempt to put profit over student needs, fighting for increased hardship funding, resisting tuition fee increases and advocating for the reinstatement of free health care for international students.
“Complacency breeds a decline in access to affordable educational resources (tuition, textbooks, tutoring) and furthers the narrative that universities are able to exist for profit,” she said.
Romero thinks that her time as vice-president advocacy has demonstrated her ability to advocate for students despite adversity.
“My advocacy does not end when others say it is unattainable, but when I have accomplished the goals I have set out to achieve,” she said.