Ryerson’s annual student union elections come to a close on Thursday and it will be clear how well each slate’s campaign translated into votes.
When walking around campus, one thing quickly becomes quite clear.
It’s that team Unify, led by Ram Ganesh, and team Elevate, led by Susanne Nyaga, are the two slates with the most vocal support and biggest campaign budgets.
But there’s another slate in these elections, one whose posters you may not see plastered on every wall.
That is team Rhino, led by Matthew Smith.
When a group of people run in any election under a banner with the word “Rhino,” expectations may crop up that such a group isn’t entirely serious in their run for office.
Previous RSU elections had “Rhino” teams take a crack at fielding candidates.
However, their statements on the campaign trail and answers during interviews all suggested that they weren’t serious about winning seats on the RSU’s executive.
But this year, Rhino’s presidential candidate has taken a different tack.
Smith, a computer engineering student, has highlighted in debates what he describes as his slate’s newfound mission: to seriously tackle the problems they see in the RSU.
“A lot of the complaints we’ve heard about the RSU focus around, ‘why am I paying the RSU this money, where is it going?’ So, we’ve simply chosen (our) core theme to be 100 per cent transparent with campaign points. Like, ‘here is where your money’s going, here’s how it does benefit you, here’s how it should benefit you,’ ” he said.
Smith doesn’t hesitate to point out that his slate’s website is currently the only one that’s kept an updated list of campaign spending.
He also has no qualms talking about the silly, flippant perception of his slate in the past.
“We ran the Rhino party during Transform (an RSU slate in previous years) as a full-on joke, and then the following year, I was helping with Impact (another former slate). But at a certain point, it was like, ‘this isn’t right, something needs to change,’ and that’s when we started transitioning to more of a serious thing,” Smith said.
During the RSU’s debate Monday evening, it was clear from the pep-rally style audience, and from some candidates themselves who thanked “both parties” for attending, despite the Rhino’s presence, that Unify and Elevate were widely considered to be the front-running teams.
While their slate may not be taken as seriously by other candidates in the election, the Rhino’s new, transparent approach to their campaign is evident when hearing Smith tell the story of how he tried to run for the Rhino slate as the director of the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science (FEAS) in previous years.
“I lost my form on the way to the RSU office. I was carrying a stack of 10 forms through Kerr Hall, and mine slipped out. So I got to the office and handed it in, I wasn’t paying much attention, and then got an email a few days later like, ‘you’re not running’ and I’m just like ‘Interesting!’”
Such an open admission of an amusing mistake might be hard to imagine coming from other executive candidates.
Whether students like or loathe such an approach in their student leaders, the Rhino slate still remains unique in the RSU elections, even with their newfound mission.