Unite Ryerson sweeps RSU elections amidst declining voter turnout

Ryerson Students' Union president, Melissa Palermo high-fives the Unite Ryerson supporters after results are announced. (Nicole Brockbank/Ryersonian staff)

Ryerson Students’ Union president, Melissa Palermo, high-fives the Unite Ryerson supporters after results are announced. (Nicole Brockbank/Ryersonian staff)

This year’s Ryerson Students’ Union election saw record-low numbers of voters, continuing a trend of at least three years of declining voter turnout.

Unite Ryerson’s Rajean Hoilett, a third-year social work student, took the RSU presidency Thursday night with 1,446 of 2,004 valid votes cast.

Voter turnout saw a 13.1 per cent decline from the 2,306 votes cast last year.  The turnout also falls well short of the 2,674 in 2012 and 2,676 in 2011.

But Unite Ryerson — the latest incarnation of the group that long dominated student politics — still made a clean sweep of all executive positions, with only the presidency being contested. For each vice-president positions, only one candidate ran and all were elected based on a yes/no vote.

The votes were counted at the Thomas Lounge in Oakham House and the results, screened live at the Ram in the Rye, were finalized shortly after 10:45 p.m.

Jesse Root, a graduate student in immigration and settlement studies, was elected vice-president for education; Pascale Diverlus, a second-year journalism student, was elected VP for equity; Dora Adobea, a final-year finance student, was elected VP for operations; and Saphi Subendran, a final-year business student, was elected VP for student life and events.

Hoilett, currently the RSU vice-president for equity, won with 72.1 per cent of the vote, beating out the independents Roble Mohamed, a second-year civil engineering student, and John Scott, a second-year journalism student.

Mohamed and Scott attained 14.2 per cent and 13.7 per cent of the vote, respectively.

Hoilett said Wednesday’s snowstorm may have been a factor in the low turnout this year.

The storm closed numerous roads and caused public transit delays across the Greater Toronto Area, and resulted in Ryerson cancelling evening classes for the day.

The counting of votes, originally scheduled for Wednesday night, was pushed back one day to allow more students to vote.

“There were definitely fewer students coming to class,” Hoilett said.

Members of the newly elected team are expected to officially assume their positions May 1.

Hoilett ran on a platform to increase student space and support for campus groups, and during the election said he could campaign for repurposed study space and a free lunch program.

He said Thursday night he would start working on the specific steps for implementation once he assumes power.

Hoilett’s share of valid votes is slightly higher than the 71.2 per cent his predecessor, Melissa Palermo, attained.

But Mohamed, the only candidate who ran against Palermo last year, saw his votes drastically cut by more than half this year to 284, down from 655, or 28.8 per cent, last year.

Mohamed, who previously vowed to keep running for RSU president, could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday night.

Scott, who attained 271 votes, said ­­­­he did not believe he would win, and only ran to “outline how futile the election process is.”

United Ryerson comes from a long line of mutually affiliated groups that dominated student politics for more than 10 years, he said.

The last time an independent won the RSU presidency was in 2004.

“It’s kind of a puppet show,” Scott said.


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