Voter turnout surged during this year’s Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) election, and some candidates credit different campaign tactics.
Total turnout varied among the various executive committee positions.
The total votes for the president of the RSU increased by 73.6 per cent, vice-president education by 72.4 per cent, vice-president equity by 71.7 per cent, vice-president operations by 65.35 per cent, and vice-president student life and events by 70.1 per cent.
All three slates used similar outreach elements while campaigning: posters, music videos, social media pages, on-the-ground student interaction, and food.
However, only one posted their slate’s pillars on the RSU’s website.
The RSU election bylaws state that any type of outreach can be used, as long as the campaign material isn’t “racist, sexist, homophobic or offensive in any way.”
Susanne Nyaga, who was voted in as the new RSU president, said her success was due to the campaign tactics used by her slate, Elevate.
“I found that on-the-ground outreach was probably the most successful. A lot of the time I would be speaking with students and they wouldn’t even know what the RSU was, or that they pay a fee to the RSU. So it was great to inform students about what was happening on campus.”
However, Elevate was the only electoral slate to post campaign statements on the RSU website’s list of candidate bios. Two other slates, Ohana and Spark, chose to post their slate statement and individual candidate bios only on their personal websites and pages.
Nyaga said, “Our main method of outreach was making sure we were informing students about the work we wanted to do and the work we had done. And since the RSU website is the one place where you can find all the bios at one point without switching between websites, we thought that we should have our bios on there.”
Daniel Lis, a Spark slate candidate who was elected vice-president education, said it was a missed opportunity not to have his team’s candidate bios on the RSU’s website.
“That’s completely our fault,” Lis said. “We didn’t hit the deadline in time for it to go up, so that was a complete oversight. Of course we wish we had gotten it in in time because extra publicity would only have helped us, but unfortunately we just missed the boat on that one.”
According to the RSU’s bylaws, slates can post “a photograph of each candidate and text of no more than 100 words outlining their platform and biographical information … on the RSU website.” All candidates’ names and respective slates are listed.
Current RSU president Obaid Ullah, who ran with Spark, was elected as the union’s upcoming Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science (FEAS) director. Prior to the election’s voting period, he said it was more practical and traditional for slates to post candidates’ bios on slates’ personal websites.
“There’s only so much information you can have on the RSU website,” Ullah said, adding that for the last years, “each slate has had their own website to talk about their own information.”
In addition to Lis, two other Spark slate members, vice-president student life and events-elect Lauren Emberson and vice-president operations-elect Ali Yousaf, were voted in. Camryn Harlick joined Nyaga on the Elevate slate and was voted in as the upcoming vice-president equity.
Emberson credited her personal win to her slate’s one-on-one student outreach, much like Nyaga.
“I think the difference that I’ve seen is online strength versus on-the-ground,” Emberson said. “I felt a lot more confident talking to students one-on-one and really understanding their thoughts and what they want. And I think that’s what makes them interested in and engaged with the RSU. I think a lot of students don’t know the RSU exists or that these services are here for them.”
Luckily for Ryerson students, a lot of that on-the-ground campaigning involved food.
Emberson made sure to emphasize that food wasn’t used to bribe students to vote for Spark. “It’s making sure you’re talking to students with intention because students can see through the ‘here’s a Timbit, please vote for me.’ I always try to be genuine. I thought I’d lost, there were some fantastic people running against me who I think would have done a fantastic job. I’m thinking about these same questions. How did this happen?”
Ohana won no executive seats, but won a FEAS director spot and swept all seven faculty board seats for the Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM).
“In general, food is a good idea,” says Lis. “Because in my opinion, it gives a little bit back to the students. They get a nice meal out of it rather than just posters.” His slate, Spark, focused on one food in particular: pancakes.
“The pancakes worked well because it gives you that time to have a discussion as they’re waiting. Pizza, we did try it, it worked very well for Ohana. We had mixed results. Sometimes it would work but sometimes they would grab the pizza and go.”
Lis also said Spark should have added more lawn signs around campus. “Elevate did a good job of getting their lawn signs out and making them stick, they were very noticeable. I wish we had put more out, I think it would have definitely helped us with the campaign, maybe gotten us a little bit further with some more votes. That was my biggest regret.”