Rafaeel Rehman, a fourth-year student majoring in legal studies, is running independently for the role of WUSA president.
If elected, Rehman plans to support students struggling with housing and employment, advocate for improved accessibility on campus, and increase transparency surrounding WUSA decisions.
Rehman said that he, like many students, has also personally struggled with housing and employment. “In my last co-op term, the management was not very respectful of my rights as an employee,” he said. “This is something I wanted to run on as well – to make more of an effort to protect student rights.”
One way he hopes to improve these issues is by educating students about their rights as both tenants and employees. The Professional Development (PD) program, a suite of online courses that UW students are required to complete as part of their co-op program, would be the “perfect opportunity” to teach students their rights, Rehman said.
He also suggested exploring alternative options when resolving an issue between an employer and a co-op student. When Rehman experienced problems with his co-op employer, the recommended solution was for his co-op advisor and employer to have a discussion about the situation. Rehman said that this solution was not feasible for many students.
“The [employer] cannot legally retaliate; they can’t fire you. But they can give you a bad review, and if they give you a bad review, that means basically no co-op jobs for the rest of your co-op career,” said Rehman.
To help with the issue of housing, Rehman said that UW could reserve certain buildings specifically for students, as well as put pressure on the City of Waterloo regarding building-related decisions outside the university’s control.
Rehman said that while there has been plenty of progress toward accessibility at the university, there is more to be done.
“There are a lot of buildings that are just completely inaccessible. The doors are not automatic, certain areas are only accessible by stairs. Tunnels that are meant to be for students that might require mobility aid are only accessible by stairs,” said Rehman.
According to a 2021 WUSA Accessibility Survey, some areas on campus with accessibility concerns include Psychology, Anthropology and Sociology (13 relevant answers) and older buildings (11 relevant answers).
The same survey showed 43 per cent of respondents did not believe their instructors understood or accommodated enough concerning disabilities.
“I’ve looked at previous candidates that pushed for accessibility, and they’ve done a lot of good work. So what I’m really focusing on is looking for ways to make little improvements, if that’s even possible,” Rehman said. “If not that, then just double down and really make sure that the current initiatives towards accessibility are actually being pursued.”
In terms of transparency within WUSA, Rehman said he is not looking for a reform of the entire governance model. However, he feels there are several ways to improve transparency at WUSA, including informing students about the role of the organization and what kinds of decisions they make.
“In my meet-and-greet, I talked to so many people who asked me, ‘What does WUSA do?’” said Rehman. “I’m someone who’s running – I don’t even know what WUSA is capable of. I’ve talked to so many people who worked as senators, or sat in, or actual board members – and it’s very difficult to get a clear picture on what we are even capable of advocating for.”
Another method Rehman says could improve transparency is to give students a follow-up from WUSA roundtable events, improve student engagement, and provide a clear way to keep track of financial decisions.
Voting for the WUSA general elections opens at 12 a.m. on Feb. 12. Students can vote online at https://vote.wusa.ca.