ASSU 2013-2014 Award Winners

ASSU is pleased to announce the winners of our awards for 2013-2014

Out of an extremely competitive pool of nominees,  these recipients were chosen to be honoured for their involvement and dedication to the Faculty of Arts and Science, and the community at large. Thanks to all of the nominees for making these award decisions so difficult to make.

First year campus involvement award

Stephanie Calhoun
Amitpal Singh
Amy Xiao

William R. Gardner Student Leadership Award

Winner – Abinaya Balasubramaniam
Runner-Up – Johnny Huang
Runner Up – Deborah Mazer

Gavin Nowlan Campus Leadership Award

Winner –Lucy Chau
Runner-Up –Benedict Darren
Runner-Up –Emily Tsui

Katharine Ball Graduating Award for Course Unions

Winner – Benjamin Gillard
Winner – Matthew Tran
Runner-Up – Vivian Choo
Runner-Up – Widya Salim
Runner-Up – Bruno Savoie

Sanjeev Dewett Course Union of the Year Award

Association of Political Science Students

Ranjini Ghosh Excellence in Teaching Award

Dr. William Ju – Human Biology Program

Terry Buckland Award for Diversity & Equity in Education

Washroom Inclusivity Project

Urmila Sarkar Students Service Award

Sally Walker – New College Registrar


Exam Jam 2014 Edition

Exam Jam is the best way to get ready for finals

Exam Jam December 2013-1

Exam Jam  brings together some of the great resources on the St. George campus to help you get through the busy final exam and paper season. You don’t have to be an Arts and Science Student to participate, all of these free events are open to everyone. Come get a massage, make a button, munch on some healthy snacks, and attend a review session.

Exam Jam 2014 edition will take place on Monday April 7th in Sidney Smith Hall from 11-3.

Exam Jam is a collaboration between the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU), and many others to provide a fun and productive environment to get ready for finals.  Check out the Exam Jam website often as new instructors and classes are added to the list of review sessions.

Exam Jam December 2013-2

Exam Jam is not just about cramming for that final test, but about taking some time to have fun and de-stress before the exam period begins.

Exam Jam December 2013-3

And why not pet a cute dog?

Exam Jam December 2013-4

Yeah, that seems like a great idea.

For more information check out the Exam Jam website.

ASSU’s New Executive

Congratulations to our new 2014-2015 ASSU Executive!

ASSU council met on March 19th to elect five new Executive members for the coming academic year. The candidates gave impassioned speeches about the need for more support from the Faculty of Arts and Science, as well as a renewed focus on Course Union collaboration. The voting was extremely close due to quality of the candidates. Thank you to everyone who ran! As per the ASSU constitution, there will be two more Executive Members elected in late September.

PRESIDENT (Acclaimed)

Abdullah Shihipar


Lisa Chen

Reid Dobell

Chrystal Gao

Dylan Chauvin-Smith

Thanks again to the wonderful candidates, and the ever-benevolent ASSU council.

ASSU Elections

ASSU Council will be meeting to elect their new Executive Council for the 2014-2015 year on Wednesday March 19th at 4p.m. in SS2135.

The ASSU Executive is responsible for implementing policy initiated by Council, as well as working with Course Unions, the administration, and other campus groups to improve the academic life of students in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

The Executive is made up of seven members: one President, and six Executive members. Four of these Executive members are elected at this meeting, and two will be elected at the first ASSU council meeting in the next fall term.

Each Course Union will get two votes, one for their President or delegate, and one for their second council member. Current ASSU Executive members can also vote for candidates.

Here are the official statements from the candidates running for Executive:


Presidential Candidate (Acclaimed)

Abdullah Shihipar

Hi everybody. My name is Abdullah Shihipar and I am running to be your president.

Having served on ASSU for the past two years, I know the challenges we face as students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. We are privileged to be able to learn from some of the brightest minds in the world, however at the same time our academic experience is hindered by challenges the size of our faculty presents.

These past two years, together we have been able to accomplish a lot. We expanded our course union forum and increased cooperation, we worked with the faculty to tackle issues like private review sessions being hosted on campus, drop dates and syablli issues and collaborated to bring you events like Exam Jam. However, there is still a lot to do.

Inefficient course evaluations, flat fees and the declining quality of the educational experience in our faculty make it harder for students to earn a degree without facing significant academic, social and financial stresses. Taking a significant toll on their mental health. As president, I promise to first and foremost, listen to what you have to say and make sure your concerns are effectively represented at the decision making table. I wish to continue our productive relationship with the faculty, but I will also not hesitate to advocate for students on contentious issues.

Working together, we can overcome the obstacles we face in our quest for a better quality, affordable and accessible education for all.


Executive Candidates

Dylan Chauvin-Smith

I am running for re-election to the Arts and Science Students’ Union largely so that I can continue the work that I started this year and because my commitment to student issues hasn’t wavered.

If re-elected, my main focus will be the Syllabus Review Project that I initiated this academic year. The impetus of this project is to provide our executive team with the statistical data necessary to demonstrate the kinds of systemic policy compliance issues that are so often the subject of our advocacy to the Faculty administration.

I will continue to fight for a fairer fee structure, a better user interface for course evaluation results, and a more equitable academic environment. Additionally, I would like to explore how ASSU can adapt its structure and relationship to Course Unions, with the aim of improving our service to students in the Faculty.

I have been involved in various student organizations during my time at U of T, but my executive position on ASSU has offered me the best opportunity to make positive change for students. Please give me a chance to renew my commitment to Arts and Science students by voting for me.​


Lisa Chen

Hello ASSU council, I am running for re-election after a challenging but educational first year as an executive.  I am new to both U of T and ASSU, and my time as ASSU has helped me understand the university and its students better – be it through council meetings with their diversity of student groups or office hours where come in personally and voice their concerns about a professor or an assignment.  In this year I have re-vamped ASSU promotional posters for events such as Games Night and Exam Jam to better catch the attention of students and student unions alike.  I have also launched the meme-campaign to encourage students to donate past midterms and expand the test bank, using humor to remind students how their contributions can help other students.  In addition to promotional material, I have served as member on the ASSU scholarship committee where I have reviewed some truly exceptional students and was faced with the daunting task of selecting only one to receive the scholarship.  Serving as an executive on ASSU has allowed me to learn more about the student body and great diversity offered through our course unions, as well as personally connect and help students through office hours and travel grant requests.  I hope I will be given the opportunity to continue learning and connecting through a second term serving as a member of the ASSU executive.


Reid Dobell

My name is Reid Dobell and I’m running for a spot on the ASSU Executive. I’m currently in the second year studying International Relations and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, but I’ve also taken courses in Math, Computer Science, and Economics. I have held leadership positions with multiple groups and clubs at the university, including serving as a NMCSU Executive for two years. I now manage the union’s finances and perform vice-presidential duties. I believe that this experience has prepared me to assume a greater leadership role. Aside from continuing the great initiatives of this year’s executive, my goals for the year ahead include:

  • Establishing a dialogue between ASSU and course unions to find innovative ways to increase attendance to CU events.
  • Increasing the funding and outreach support provided by ASSU for CUs seeking to engage their membership.
  • Promoting greater interaction between course unions by improving on the existing forum for executives to share ideas and information.

Additionally, having participated in the Faculty’s external review feedback session, I plan to actively advocate for the Faculty to act upon the recommendations of the report. I will work extensively with the Faculty to explore ways to innovate the first-year learning experience. I would also ask the Faculty to consider implementing a standardized feedback system for teaching assistants, much like the one that exists for professors. Thank you for taking the time to consider my statement.  I look forward to answering your questions at the next meeting.


Crystal Gao

My name is Crystal and I’m a first-year International Relations student. Though I’m still a fresh face on campus, I am running for an executive role on the ASSU because I have been dedicated to elevating student voice for the past few years.

As Vice-President of the largest school board senate in Canada, I represented the interests of 250,000 students. Last year, I organized and chaired two major city-wide student conferences at City Hall securing guests like the Minister of Education and Craig Kielburger, the founder of Free the Children. In 2013, I was selected as one of 20 TD Scholars across the country for my commitment to youth advocacy. As an ASSU executive, I wish to build on the great work that the ASSU team has accomplished thus far. I will continue to foster good relationships with student unions and ensure the academic concerns that matter most to our students are heard loud and clear. I will increase ASSU’s social media presence so that more students are aware of the valuable services that we provide.

Together, we can make a better academic experience for all students in the faculty.


Noor Kayyal (*”The first 250 words of the candidate statement is posted as per election rules”)

This time three years ago I was in sitting in my English class in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  My high school teacher started a class discussion on what magic was, and the ways in which it can be defined.  During that classroom discussion, my Saudi-British teacher advised something that has stayed with me since: “whatever you want to do, whatever dream you have, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Going to school the next day,

Next day coming to school I decided to look at every opportunity I had to get involved.

In those couple of weeks I joined 7 out of 10 clubs at school.

Extra-curricular became my priority, and school became secondary; and I loved it!

  • As the next year came by I made it a goal to continue being involved, with a balanced load however.  By the last two years of school i’ve gotten the honour to be a part of my favourite clubs:
  • President of the Student Council Captain of the basket ball team
  • Prefect Member
  • Executive President for Winter House

When I look back at high school, I credit the bliss of being part of such great committee and experiences in allowing me to defeat feeling overwhelmed.  I cannot begin to emphasize how important it is to have a support group, even more at u of t, where It’s really easy to indulge in stress.

It’s only been a good 8 months at school, I’ve found myself as


Celine Liu (*The first 250 words of the candidate statement is posted as per election rules)

Hey ArtSci buddies,

I am Celine Liu and I am a first year student here at UofT.  I am running for ASSU Executive for 2014-2015.

The reason why I am passionate about getting involved in ASSU is because I have benefited a lot after attending many great events course unions held and I want share my experience and encourage all my other ArtSci buddies to come together to create a better ArtSci community.

Short and Sweet, here are some goals I would like to achieve in the coming academic year:

(a) Make people care more about ASSU – The “Unofficial Anti-Calendar”

By establishing an open, online system, which allows ArtSci students to report any problems they have found in class to corresponding course unions, we can directly address students’ concerns about the course itself and the development of the faculty as a whole throughout their learning experience.

(2) Develop a more comprehensive course evaluation system – Call for “Course Evaluation Day”

By participating in F.O.C.U research group, I start to understand how important students feedback are to the development of ArtSci faculty itself. By creating a course evaluation day, it would be more effective for the faculty to collect students’ feedback

(3) ArtSci in business

Networking is important. After participating different events held by course unions, I have found career destinations is always the common concern for students in ArtSci. What job can I get after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts?

In the coming year, I will be working on providing course unions with more networking opportunities





ASSU responds to student concerns regarding paid review sessions

ASSU continues to work with the Faculty of Arts and Science to increase free services for students


The Executive of the Arts and Science Students’ Union has received feedback surrounding the “Say no to private reviews” campaign. Much of the feedback is based on false information regarding the nature of the campaign, and what exactly ASSU is in favour of. The Executive have written a letter to clarify to students expressing concern what exactly this campaign hopes to achieve. You can view the full letter here.


March 10, 2014

We would like to thank the students who have sent in their concerns about ASSU’s recent “Say No To Private Review Companies” campaign, and would like to take the time to collectively respond to the concerns raised and we hope that this will clarify any misunderstandings.

ASSU launched its “Say No To Private Review Companies” campaign in November as an awareness campaign, not as an attack on any individual private tutoring services. The basis of the campaign was to inform students that there are free under-utilized resources available to them at the university.

It was also a campaign to inform students—first year students in particular—that these companies are not affiliated with the university, though some instructors with the private tutoring companies have teaching experience with the university, as a lecturer or a TA. The responses that we have thus far received clearly indicate that students are trying to make an informed decision, and we are pleased that students are taking the time to decide what is best for them, which is one of our main goals for this campaign.

Certain reviewers use questionable tactics to promote their sessions by highlighting or exaggerating the rates of failure for students, or spreading rumours of forced bell-curve. We do not believe that companies should be allowed to make profit on campus and through preying on students’ anxieties during exam season.

We would like to clarify that this is not a campaign to ban these companies. Rather, it is a campaign to raise awareness about the pre-existing and under-utilized resources that can help students to reach their academic goals. It is clear that some students do benefit from the review sessions, and this reflects the University’s inability to meet the needs of our students. We wish to stress that students are entirely free to choose to attend these seminars.

ASSU Executives have regular meetings with the Office of the Dean of Arts and Science, and the Office of the Dean has given full support for this campaign. In addition, The Office of the Vice-Provost Students has endorsed the campaign and has repeatedly stressed that there are free but under-utilized resources available to students at the university.

If students are not given enough preparation by the lectures, or if there are not enough resources available to them, then this is something that needs to be remedied by the Faculty. After all, we pay tuition precisely for these resources. ASSU has been pushing the Faculty to provide adequate support and ample review opportunities for tests and exams through the External review process and through our Exam Jam de-stressing sessions.

Thus, we believe that the students in the Faculty of Arts & Science should decide for themselves which academic resources best fit their needs, but it is ASSU’s responsibility to ensure that students make these decisions with accurate information.

For more information about our campaign, please visit our campaign website at If you have further questions feel free to get in touch with us, we are always happy to discuss these issues.


ASSU Executive

ASSU Award Winners

ASSU is pleased to announce our award winners for the 2013/2014 Academic Year

Out of  an extremely competitive group of applicants, these students were chosen to highlight the amazing leadership and involvement students in the Faculty of Arts and Science here at the University of Toronto have shown. Congratulations to these dedicated students.

William R. Gardner Student Leadership Award

Abinaya Balasubramaniam -Winner

Johnny Huang -Runner Up

Deborah Mazer -Runner Up

Gavin Nowlan Campus Leadership Award

Lucy Chau -Winner

Benedict Darren -Runner Up

Emily Tsui -Runner Up

First Year Campus Involvement Award

Stephanie Calhoun

Amitpal Singh

Amy Xiao