Ryerson students will vote next week for a new student government structure
Ryerson students will vote on a new student government structure next week — but the strict campaign rules have created issues for some teams.
Campaigning officially started Feb. 24, making it a 10-day long campaign. Students will vote March 4 and 5, with results announced March 6 — the same day Ryerson and the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) will appear in court for the next stage of their legal action.
This election is for the structure of a new student government. Students will vote in April for people to fill the roles of the new government, in a general election overseen by the lead process officer. This comes after Ryerson terminated its operating agreement with the RSU in January, saying it had lost faith in the union to represent students.
Lianne Newman, the process manager of the student government selection committee, said the election process was planned around final exams.
“In order to allow students to run for and vote on the leadership positions for the successful proposed structure(s) before exams start, 10 days for the campaign period of the proposed new structure is the amount of time that was determined,” she said in an email to the Ryersonian.
At the University of Ottawa, when students voted for a new student government structure there was three weeks of campaigning for the new proposals.
David Jardine, who put forward the Ryerson Undergraduate Students’ Alliance (RUSA) proposal, said they wouldn’t have wanted to campaign for much longer, but the process itself has moved quickly.
They added they believe Ryerson has said the March 6 court date isn’t the reason for the rush.
Jardine said they wished the period of time students had to create proposals was longer, noting this would have given students the opportunity to collaborate more. They said some of the proposals were similar and, with more time, students could have worked to combine their proposals instead of submitting similar ones.
“I think that the proposal-making process itself was a little rushed,” they said. They added that as a fifth-year student who has been involved with student politics, they had connections to help with their proposal — but they noted this may not have been the case for younger students.
Ryerson announced its plan to appoint a lead process officer and committee to oversee an election for a new student government structure Jan. 29. Students had until Feb. 19 to submit a nomination package for their proposal.
Ryerson’s independent committee initially received six proposals, but four made it through the vetting process. The two proposals that were disqualified did not include enough information about financial accountability, according to Newman.
Anoop Dhillon, who was part of the group who put forward the Ryerson First proposal, raised issues with the strict rules around campaigning.
Each campaign can spend up to $200 on posters, social media advertisements or other printed materials, according to the campaign rules.
The rules encourage students to “limit the amount of posters being printed to consider their carbon footprint.”
Anyone from a campaign is prohibited from conducting class visits. Instead, a slide was submitted to all undergraduate and graduate instructors including information on when and how to vote.
Providing food or drinks during the campaigning or election period is also not allowed.
In RSU elections, candidates were allowed to visit classes and hand out free food, often waffles or pancakes, to students throughout the school.
The rules also include specifics around setting up a table to campaign — commonly referred to as tabling — and holding other campaign events.
Newman told the Ryersonian the committee felt the $200 spending limit was reasonable. “There has been much criticism from students in the past on the amount of financial support being provided for election materials,” she wrote.
She said other restrictions around class talks came after students complained about “aggressive” election messaging from past elections.
“It’s a very difficult way to campaign,” Dhillon said.
The rules document says that groups found to be in violation of campaign rules will be investigated by the lead process officer. If the investigation finds rules were broken, “the campaign group will face penalties ranging from demerits to disqualification.” Students could also face consequences under Ryerson’s non-academic student code.
Dhillon said people were not told of the rules and regulations of the campaign until the Feb. 24 all-candidates meeting, the first day of campaigning.
“Even though we may be allowed to do certain things, with the effective time frame it’s impossible,” he said. “How are you going to table when you only have a week of campaigning and it takes two-to-three weeks to be approved for a table?”
He added he wasn’t sure if the university was thinking of these factors, “but there’s definitely some concerns and issues with this.”
Jardine said most of the campaigns raised the same concerns about the rules at the Feb. 24 all-candidates meeting. In response, they said the university added a second day of voting.
They said they understand where Ryerson’s rules for not allowing class talks came from, since the committee can’t monitor what is said. “But at the same time, is it at the cost of democracy? I do think so. But I can’t really complain, because I don’t have a better solution.”
Both Dhillon and Jardine said they’ve been primarily using social media to campaign.
The Ryersonian spoke with several students who said they were unaware of the election details and dates.
Faith Ilori, a first-year business management student, said she didn’t know anything about the election.
Victoria Mushka, a first-year environment and urban sustainability student, said she had seen posters around campus “but I just didn’t know what the election was for or what it was about.”
WIth files from Katie Swyers and Khalida Rixzan