By Shane Perusse and Leah Hansen
With the Ryerson Communication and Design Society (RCDS) elections just a few weeks away, the board of directors for the student government group quietly passed a bylaw Jan. 21 that banned students from running as a slate, or group.
And some students weren’t happy about it.
After he found out about the new bylaw, third-year performance dance student John-Charles Vaughan started a change.org petition with the goal of forcing the RCDS to hold a general meeting, and presented that petition to the student government on Tuesday.
“They brought it up in a board meeting and it does say in their bylaws that they are supposed to have a general meeting where the members discuss any bylaw change,” Vaughan said.
Online elections for the RCDS board of directors are Feb. 10 to 12. The petition needed 50 signatures from FCAD students in order to call an emergency general meeting, Vaughan said.
“As an FCAD student, we have the right to create a petition and if they get 50 signatures, they have to hold a meeting for whatever we want to motion,” Vaughan said. “Because it’s an election bylaw and because elections are coming up, I think it should be before the election.”
RCDS policies state that any amendment to a bylaw must have a two-thirds majority in a general meeting attended by all members, followed by approval from the board of directors No general meeting was held, Vaughan said, but the bylaw was introduced anyway by a board of directors vote last Thursday.
Even though there was no general meeting, no bylaw rules were broken by the student executives because they did not amend a bylaw, said Miri Makin, manager of student relations and development — they introduced a new one. There was no existing bylaw that mentions slates before the Jan. 21 vote, she said.
“Technically, there was no law prior to Jan. 21, there was just kind of a grey space,” Vaughan said. “They weren’t for or against slates, but if there’s no bylaw, it technically shows that they’re for slates. There is a little bit of a loophole.”
The existing bylaw rules state that any responsibility not laid out in the policies will be the “responsibility of the executive of the RCDS.”
RCDS president Casey Yuen said the board’s decision was made on the grounds of fairness and confirmed that the decision to eliminate slates was finalized during a board of directors meeting, not a general members’ meeting.
“Slates may not be beneficial for students who want to run alone,” she said.
Slates allow groups of students to run for elections together with pooled finances and increased opportunities for resources, such as more campaign posters, that would be out of reach for any student individually.
But the ban on slates isn’t where Vaughan said he finds fault. Slates or no slates, students should have the chance to vote for bylaw changes in a transparent general meeting, he said.
“I think it’s more about the general meeting being held just to have the input of students whether or not the motion continues or the motion does not,” Vaughan said. “I think it’s more about the input from students and less about whether or not it gets passed.”
After presenting the petition to RCDS executives on Jan. 26, Vaughan said that an emergency general meeting is now in the works and that it will take place before the election.
“It’s going to be a good time for students and the RCDS to have this conversation about what they’d like to see in the upcoming weeks with elections.” Vaughan said. “This is a good step in the right direction.”