Campus Personality: Jasmine Denike

NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT FROM HERCAMPUS

These past few weeks, I had the pleasure of running and campaigning with one of the slates running for the UTSU, HelloUofT. Not only have I experienced a new way of involving myself in university, I was able to meet some of the most compassionate and loving group of people. One of those amazing people is one running for UTSU President, Jasmine Wong Denike. The first day I met her, she told me and the rest of our group that she put every single one of us before her and pledged to do everything she could to ensure that we always put our best foot forward and that we were taking care of ourselves. This warmth translated to the strangers she campaigned to at Bahen, where she stopped people on their way to somewhere, had an engaging conversation about the upcoming elections, and instantaneously won their hearts over. This is why I thought she would be amazing to interview as a Campus Personality: her dynamic personality and uplifting, positive attitude is phenominal and should be shared with the world.

Can you briefly describe the positions you’ve held around U of T as well as your involvement?

Absolutely! Alright, so… I guess I started getting involved in campus groups and “politics” in my second year when I (sort of) forced myself to become an Innis Frosh Leader. For context, I didn’t know anyone and made no friends in my first year, so I really wanted to change that in second year. Being a frosh leader was amazing, so come third year I was thrilled to be a Frosh Captain and applied to be the ICSS (Innis College Student Society) Marketing Director. After, I ran to be the Graduating Students’ Rep on ICSS and then VP External of UTSU. 

I definitely wasn’t someone who you’d expect to get involved - I was shy, awkward, and I was holding onto high school for way too long. When I started to get involved, I met so many amazing people who I’m now lucky to count among my closest friends. No regrets. 

How has your time at U of T changed you as a person?

To be honest, it’s changed me a lot - in the best way possible. I’ve become so much more confident in myself, so much more aware of the injustices people face and the privileges others occupy, while also being able to figure out where I stand in the world and what I can do if I want to see real change. When I first came here in 2011, I was so different - if I bumped into myself in first year, I’m hardly recognizable. But every year at U of T was sort of “meant to happen” in the sense that I needed them to figure out the type of person I was capable of becoming.

Do you have any favourite places to be around on campus?

It changes every year depending on the friends I make and the opportunities that come up! Throughout my first to third years, my favourite places to be on campus would be the Innis College Cafe, the Innis Residence Events Room, and (believe it or not) Robarts. Now that I’ve expanded my knowledge of campus and met more amazing people, I can comfortably call the JCR, Vic’s Goldring (“Real Goldring”) and the UC Commuter Student Centre among some of the best places to hang out on campus. I mean, Robarts will always hold that special place in my darkest nightmares, so stopping by for the casual all-nighter isn’t unheard of.

In my opinion, you are one of the most positive, radiant people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. What inspires you to do the things that you do in and around U of T?

You can’t see my face, but it’s beet red. I don’t take compliments well, but thank you so much. I guess the main things that have inspired me to sort of go through that “cocoon phase” would be seeing all the social butterflies around campus and wanting to be like them. There’s something about what I was like in high school that had prevented me from doing those things - in high school I hung out in the computer lab, and had my niche of friends, but was far from “popular” or “that girl” that people knew. In a way, I wanted to force myself to change, and by getting to know these amazing people who’ve inspired me - past ICSS presidents like Mary Stefanidis and Aman Chohan, ICSS Social Directors Brianne Katz-Griffin and Adam Tward, as well as meeting so many amazing people at the 2013 Student Leadership Conference at UTM - sort of pushed me to really go the extra mile in wanting to help others and be someone that could prevent students from feeling like how I did when I first got here: alone, awkward, scared of everyone.

What do you feel are the most important things to remember during one’s time at university?

Remember that it’s only temporary. You won’t be here forever, and whether it’s 3 years, 4 years, or 7 years you’re still going to have to leave someday. Know that the time that you have at University is fleeting and that what you learn here (academically, or about yourself) will stay with you longer than the impact you make while you’re here. It’s important to not just focus on your studies, but also look at what’s offered to you outside the classroom or the lab. U of T is a unique school and not taking advantage of everything you can is a waste. There are people on this campus just waiting to meet you.

What has motivated you to run for president of the UTSU and what would you like to see change?

Oh boy, so that’s a big one. A lot of things. The main reasons for me wanting to run for President stem from everything I kind of rambled about earlier - I honestly just want to see a U of T that I would have wanted in my first year. I want to see a school that has (at the very least) adequate mental health coverage and doesn’t turn students away from counselling services. I want to see a U of T that’s inclusive for international students so there are fewer barriers and more provided for them. I want to see a school where the clubs, colleges, and professional faculties want to collaborate on different initiatives. I want to run for President because literally everyone putting their names out in this election want to see substantial change, and I want the chance to work with people who will, one day, change the world.

Student Politics is stupid. It really is. It’s a mess, it’s low, and it’s damaging to everyone who’s involved. It’s time to create a UTSU that isn’t about the politics, but it’s about actually giving students the chance to have their voices heard on a louder scale. People use the megaphone as imagery for student action, when in reality the UTSU should be that megaphone - instead of hearing our own voices, it’s time that we hear everyone else’s. If it’s pointing at the admin, the government, and ESPECIALLY if it’s pointed at us. We aren’t here to dodge criticisms, attacks or anything else. We’re here to endure it and fight for what students deserve. If there’s something I’ve done, as VP External, that you’re unhappy with I welcome your criticism and your anger - because it means I’m not doing my job as well as I can be, and that’s what I want to change.