By RON FANFAIR
Jermaine Bagnall has always stood out because of his height – which he used to his advantage to carve out a successful university basketball career – and his easy demeanor.
Now, he’s the big man on Ryerson University campus after becoming the first Black and the first graduate student union president. He defeated his closest challenger by 158 votes for the right to head the student union for the next year.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” said the president-elect who will officially assume office on May 1. “This is an opportunity to be part of a team that will work in the best interest of the students by addressing their many concerns. It’s quite a challenge, but one that I am prepared for.”
Bagnall promised that the union, which represents nearly 24,000 students, will fight to lower rising tuition fees, work with student unions across the country to combat Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and racism, pressure the government to restore OHIP for international students and bring a Caribbean-style carnival to the campus.
“There are many issues and concern which we will address,” he said. “I am a fairly easy going person who gets along well with everybody. However, I am a person of integrity and I will not be moved on positions I believe strongly in and those that will benefit the constituency I represent. I have a mandate to fulfill and I cannot lose sight of that.”
The graduate executive committee, which he also chairs, is elected from among and by the university’s full and part-time graduate students. In addition to representing the concerns of graduate students, the committee works to advocate for, create and develop a sense of community.
Bagnall completed his undergraduate degree at Laurentian University where he played basketball and was involved in numerous community initiatives in the Sudbury area. They include the production of a documentary that highlighted homelessness in Sudbury, organizing basketball camps and participating in a cancer project.
The Ryerson University Master of Fine Arts documentary media program graduate plans to produce and direct documentaries and interact with young people to help them develop their lives after he leaves campus.
Bagnall praised his parents for teaching him the value of a good education and for providing him with positive support and guidance to become a success. His Jamaican-born mother, Lavern Sookoo, works in Ryerson’s administration office while his Kittitian-born father, Kenrick Bagnall, is a Toronto Police Service officer who studied computer science and engineering technology and worked in the information technology arena in Canada and Bermuda before pursuing a law enforcement career.