The integrity of Ryerson’s fledgling student democracy depends on a re-vote for the RU-Pass. There needs to be a second referendum because the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) distributed inaccurate information to student voters, violating a referendum policy.
Last week, we published an undercover Ryersonian investigation into how RSU-trained campaigners in favour of the mandatory $564-per-year RU-Pass gave inaccurate information to students about a range of issues related to the pass. Here are examples of some of those inaccuracies. One campaigner said talks for an additional GO Transit pass “are literally in a few weeks.” But when asked to confirm, Metrolinx, which runs GO Transit, said that was false. Campaign materials stated that McMaster negotiated a GO Transit student pass with Metrolinx after obtaining its own local transit pass — but the general manager of the McMaster Students Union told the Ryersonian that such a deal doesn’t exist. A third campaigner told us we could sell the mandatory pass if we wanted to regain the money we’d lose due to extra tuition. But RSU president Ram Ganesh said that this was neither possible nor legal.
The fact that the RSU misinformed so many student voters, leading them to vote on an illusory pass that was better than the real one, renders the results of the referendum illegitimate. One other reason why the pass is a divisive and controversial issue is its cost. It adds $564 to the annual tuition bill for all students. The high stakes of this vote make it incumbent upon those responsible to hold a second referendum, where the exact features of the RU-Pass are made clear. Student voters deserve that much, particularly those who stand to benefit the least from the pass: those who take GO Transit, live near campus, drive to school, or for whom an extra $70 a month will be a serious burden.
The Ryersonian has no problem with an increase of $70 per month in tuition, per se. Our objections do not arise from the results, but rather a process so flawed it could be called undemocratic. We disagree with our friends at The Eyeopener, who wrote, “this referendum has been one of the most accurate representations of the interests of Ryerson’s student body in recent memory.” How could it be, when the information the student body used to determine what was in its interest was inaccurate? And how can democracy function properly when the campaigners that voters rely on to inform them about the issue do not tell them the truth?
The Eyeopener is correct to note that the voter turnout for the RU-Pass referendum, a whopping 42.8 per cent of eligible voters, is impressive compared to the meagre percentages of students who vote in elections for members of the student union and senate. The high voter turnout would be a heartening sign of a healthy student democracy—if only the student voters knew what they were voting on.