By Olivia Maeder and Rasha Rehman
Financial plans, Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) membership and improving toxic work environments were front and centre at the Ryerson Students’ Union’s (RSU) 2018 student election debate Monday evening.
The Elevate, Rhino and Unify slates all came out to the Eaton Lecture Theatre in the Rogers Communications Centre to pitch their final message to students and their supporters before voting kicked off yesterday.
Although the event was advertised across campus, it attracted a small crowd of approximately 20 students who were not obvious supporters of any slate.
They raised questions that revealed the different plans each executive team has to eliminate the RSU’s current operating budget deficit of nearly $1 million, a hotly debated issue in this year’s election.
Unify’s vice-president operations candidate, Savreen Gosal, said that if elected, she would implement an operations audit and secure corporate partnerships.
On the other hand, Elevate’s vice-president operations candidate, Adam Asmar, said that if elected, he would focus on student-run task forces and bringing back internal businesses like CopyRITE to generate revenue.
Rhino’s vice-president operations candidate, Domenic Marchese, said that budget cuts would be inevitable.
Another popular topic for candidates was the relationship between the RSU and the CFS. The CFS is a federal organization that represents more than 650,000 students across Canada.
Matthew Smith, running for president on the Rhino slate, said he is not interested in being a part of the CFS.
“The CFS does not appeal to me in the least,” Smith said. “Past experience and working with other slates who’ve run against CFS slates, and also just looking at just any organization that’s not transparent with their finances and their student members, like it’s just not a good organization.”
Unify’s presidential candidate Ram Ganesh said he views the federation differently.
“I feel very, very strongly about the CFS. It is an organization that was created to voice the opinions of students, a very noble cause. But I feel like it got lost in the sauce,” said Ganesh. “We really expect them to do a lot more than what they’re currently doing – improved transparency, more accountability and better voting policies.”
Susanne Nyaga, the current RSU president, who is running for re-election with Elevate, said she believes the potential to unite students on campus isn’t being maximized and that Ryerson needs spaces that acknowledge all students’ experiences.
However, she also agreed with the decision to reject the Men’s Issue Awareness Society’s application for campus group status.
“They had three chances, I believe, to present some form of safety plan or to address these concerns which they felt didn’t associate with them,” Nyaga said. “We know systemic misogyny is very real and we know that sexism is very real so when you’re not centralizing student safety, that’s not something RSU can support.”
While there were some sneaky jabs here and there during the two-hour debate, the candidates overall kept it clean, broadcasting their messages of devoting themselves to students by budgeting money, communicating better with other members of the executive and being honest.
Voting began Tuesday and will continue until Thursday, Feb. 15. Students can vote in polling stations across campus at George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre, Rogers Communications Centre, Student Learning Centre, Mattamy Athletic Centre, Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre for Studies in Community Health, Podium, Kerr Hall East and the Student Campus Centre.
Polling stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday.