RSU election debate lacks inspiration

RSU presidential candidates John Scott, Roble Mohamed, and Rajean Hoilett at the debate Jan. 30. Courtesy Samuel Greenfield / Ryersonian Staff

RSU presidential candidates John Scott, Roble Mohamed, and Rajean Hoilett at the debate Jan. 30. Courtesy Samuel Greenfield / Ryersonian Staff

If you are one of the 99.8 per cent at Ryerson you’ll want to read further. With this number I don’t mean the occupy movement. This is the percentage of the RSU’s 30,000 membership that was not present at the election debate on Wednesday – if you could even call it a debate.

Four of the five RSU executive positions are unopposed. And perhaps that is one possible explanation for the poor turnout. At any given time there were no more than 50 people in the room – that is being generous. Now subtract the student press (four from The Ryersonian alone) and the candidates and their attaches.

What you have left is much more evocative of a Toastmasters club than a thriving democracy.

But this is not an attempt to place blame or rail against voter apathy. Firstly, it would be physically impossible for every student to access the Tecumseh Lounge in the student centre.

Were I not a member of the campus press, I likely would have found something else, equally unproductive, to do with my time. But as such, I consider it my solemn duty to bore you with the details.

You may be stunned to know that vice-presidential candidate Jesse Root would like to work for the interests of all undergraduate and graduate students. Not to be outdone, presidential candidate Rajean Hoilett would like to empower students.

Gee, news flash.

If I made a serious foray into RSU politics, I suspect my gut instinct would be to campaign against students’ interests and to disempower them. Please forgive my cynicism.

Candidates were given five minutes for the standard verbal preening, the banal platitudes and the shorter histories of their performances in the RSU trench network of service groups.

Each of the four unopposed vice-presidential candidates were then asked one question. These questions seemed entirely staged, although there would be no way to prove that.

One such question, tossed gently to the VP of operations candidate went something like: How would you balance the three pillars of the students union? This query was actually not an engineering question but appeared to be a fiscal question about the spending priorities of the union.

It is bewildering how politicians can spew forth such a plethora of verbiage without actually having said anything. But I digress.

To say there was debate during the event would near a misstatement. About the only time this sordid exercise in democracy resembled anything of a competition was when the three presidential candidates gave their spiels and then sat shoulder to shoulder facing down their supporters and the media.

Roble Mohamed alluded to re-purposing the funds currently sent to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).  By this he must mean leaving the CFS and, did he stand a serious chance of winning the election, this would likely be the closest thing akin to political suicide.

The CFS suffers from what I call Hotel California syndrome. Namely, you can check in whenever you want to, but you can never leave. But it was a ballsy, if an unrealistic, thing to say.

He also would like to give more power to the students – direct democracy style with more meetings. This is nice in theory, but given the turnout for the “debate,” it is hard to see how this would solve voter apathy.

Then there is John Scott whose outlandish dreams of separating from Canada and looking into mineral rights under Ryerson University are surely code for “protest vote.” He even suggests he may step aside at the last minute if Mohamed has a shot of winning so that the vote isn’t split.

So I wish all would-be members of the RSU politburo the best of luck next week. Do not take this personally, I know you all have the best of intentions. And I’m sure that by the second pint, we could probably all have an amiable enough chat down at the pub.

But the fact is, the system is broken. And not even the Marxist-style fist that emblazons RSU advertising material, such as their student action banner on the front of the student centre, can pound the dents out of this wreck.

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