University administration has received a petition signed by more than 1,000 students who demand that the school investigate allegedly “undemocratic” campaign practices in this year’s Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) election.
The petition, drafted by the Ryerson Commerce Society (RCS), asks that the university pressure the RSU to restart the election process, help hire another chief returning officer (CRO) and have ballot boxes stored in a secure location during elections.
RCS president Ashisha Persaud says the petition was approved by commerce society board members last Wednesday after “the apparent discrimination that TRSM students have faced during this election.”
Students signed the petition and insisted that the university review the complaints, enforce a democratic RSU election, and “protect the membership” by withholding any student fees the union receives until this is achieved.
According to the petition, the RSU and Fatima Sajan, the CRO, have ignored complaints filed by candidates. The complaints have been about the posting of illegal banners, campaigning
outside of designated times and refusing to disclose the locations of ballot boxes.
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The purpose of the CRO is to moderate an unbiased election and to enforce bylaws, but Persaud says that Sajan has not been fulfilling her duties.
Last month, Sajan announced a fifth Ted Rogers School of Management faculty director position one week after candidate nominations closed.
Business students were not given extra time to fill that position, which breaks an RSU bylaw.
“It’s ridiculous that some of these things are allowed to happen,” she says, adding that the new position was inadequately advertised across the school.
The RCS president says that the CRO has favoured the incumbents, Unite Ryerson, throughout this election.
According to Persaud, Sajan disregarded complaints from Transform RU members and would sometimes take over 48 hours to reply to its approval requests for posters, while replying to Unite Ryerson immediately.
The RSU was also recently scrutinized after it was revealed that Sajan had previously worked with the members from Unite Ryerson who hired her.
“There (are) bylaws in place to ensure that it’s democratic,” says Paulina Gusciora, a second-year creative industries student who’s involved with the petition.
Persaud says that the RCS hired a lawyer to draft further demands to send to university administration.
If the RSU and CRO do not fix the problems outlined in the petition, it demands the termination of Sajan from her position and that the university administration intervene and hold a new election.
“We want the administration to recognize that there is a large percentage of the student body that … knows that the elections aren’t being fair,” Gusciora says.
Ryerson spokesperson Michael Forbes says he hasn’t been made aware of the petition and that the RSU and university are “completely separate legal organizations.”
According to Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates, the university would not involve itself in student union issues without evidence of egregious fraud, like embezzlement or ballot-stuffing.
He says that the RCS’s complaints are “conceivably a basis for a lawsuit if there are genuine problems in the fair conduct of the election, but … if you were a university, you wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot pole.
“It’s got to be pretty bad before you step up to that level.”
This story also appeared in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Feb. 11, 2015.