Ryersonian presidential debate breakdown

Photo by Jessica Valeny

The Ryersonian hosted a live debate between the three presidential candidates for the upcoming RSU election at the Rogers Communications Centre (RCC) yesterday.

Current RSU president Susanne Nyaga of Elevate, Ram Ganesh of Unify, and Matthew Smith of the Rhino Party, all answered questions in three key areas: accessibility, finances, and social issues. Each candidate had a minute to respond to each other’s comments and to answer each question.

Here’s a breakdown of each party’s stance on topics discussed in the debate:

TOPIC 1: ACCESSIBILITY

In the first portion of the debate, candidates focused on what they planned to do to create more 24-hour study spaces and make Ryerson a more accessible campus for students with disabilities.

Elevate

  • Expansion of the current 24-hour study space project in the International Learning/Living Centre (ILLC)
  • Turn Ryerson’s Student Learning Centre (SLC) into a 24-hour facility with security on the premises
  • Push for 24-hour access to all buildings and labs at Ryerson and survey students to see which buildings they want overnight access to
  • Hold accessibility audits around campus and bring in student voices to understand which parts of campus need to become more accessible

Unify

  • Turn the Student Campus Centre (SCC) into a 24-hour space by working with CESAR and the Palin Foundation, which operates the SCC
  • Partner with Ryerson to do a space audit and discover problem areas on campus for students with disabilities

Rhino Party

  • Has agreed not to nominate their own candidate for the position of VP Equity, as they believe the other slates have qualified candidates that they “would be happy to work with.”

TOPIC 2: FINANCE

A focal point on the topic of finance was transparency for students on the RSU’s budget and spending activities. Candidates were asked what they would do to make the budget clearer for students and how they plan to make sure the Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass), which allows unlimited TTC access to postsecondary students, will be available for students in the upcoming school year. They were also asked about their stance on the RSU’s relationship with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

Elevate

  • Put the current financial policy online for students to see details on spending, such as who signs off for certain expenses and who can use certain amounts of money
  • Hold town halls to have direct conversations with students on where they want to see their money going
  • Expand ideas on U-Pass and coordinate with other transit systems such as MiWay and GO Transit to create a GTA-wide transit pass
  • Listening to what students think about the relationship between the RSU and the CFS, and allowing students to make that decision, rather than having one imposed by the slate
  • Removing unpaid internships and placements for students

Unify

  • Revitalize operations by breaking down each line item in the RSU budget and writing paragraphs to explain what each line means
  • Within first 60 days in office, will have each executive propose what they want to do with the budget to create a model that will be proposed to the board
  • Work with team that planned U-Pass to discover how fast it can be implemented at Ryerson before moving onto GTA transit
  • Hold a referendum about U-Pass.
  • Promote corporate partnership between Ryerson and companies that take students as interns to financially invest into students rather than students paying for placements
  • Will continue to work with CFS but with a more “transparent budget” and a vote for where money is allocated

Rhino Party

  • Make the RSU budget accessible to everyone with a budget document that outlines exactly where money is being spent
  • Make updates on the RSU website about where money is going every week or month
  • Listen to student voices before implementing any referendum about the U-Pass
  • Work with Ryerson to help reduce the associated, out-of-pocket fees that come with internships
  • Wants to vet and critique RSU’s financial transparency before then scrutinizing other organizations, like the CFS

TOPIC 3: SOCIAL ISSUES

As the Rhino Party doesn’t have a representative to run for VP Equity, Elevate and Unify spoke on behalf of their slates on topics surrounding the proposed removal of Egerton Ryerson’s statue and the changing of Ryerson University’s name, mandatory indigenous education and sexual assault policies on campus.

Elevate

  • Will always support elevating marginalized voices on campus by asking students what work they would like to see on campus
  • If Indigenous students want to move towards changing the university’s name, Nyaga is “all for it”
  • Support mandatory Indigenous courses to recognize that Ryerson stands on colonized land and to understand how colonization has negatively impacted Indigenous communities
  • Collaborate with Ryerson’s Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line (SASSL) and all equity service centres to understand the way sexual violence disproportionately affects marginalized communities

Unify

  • Will make sure all board and executive are all aware of what will be published on the RSU’s behalf at least five business days in advance
  • Will work with various student groups that are affected by Ryerson’s statue to have an open dialogue
  • Having more open dialogue about mandatory Indigenous classes to be sure of the commitment
  • Continue to develop sexual assault policy and work hand-in-hand with SASSL

Rhino Party

  • Sexual assault policies needs as much help from the RSU as it can get
  • Wants to do more to directly help students who are affected by sexual violence

To conclude the debate, candidates were asked to mention one issue they would like to tackle on campus that hadn’t been discussed in the debate. Nyaga talked about student access to mental health services on campus and how she would like to not only properly advertise the current resources on campus, but also try to eliminate the month-long waiting periods for students seeking mental health support.

Ganesh addressed board dysfunctionality and the importance of having an unbiased chair that most board members can agree with. He said his party would like to appoint a chair to get semi-annual general meeting agendas approved and that there is action towards making these agendas happen.

Smith ended the discussion by talking about the importance of honesty and working across different slates in student politics. He said that campaign promises that are impossible to keep don’t improve student access to education and resources at Ryerson today.

There will be a debate held by the RSU between the three slates at a later date. Voting starts on Feb. 13 and will end on Feb. 15.

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