(Deven Knill/Ryersonian Staff)

Three presidential candidates in the RSU election took part in Thursday nights debate. (Deven Knill/Ryersonian Staff)

Controversial layoffs, lacking mental health services and tuition prices dominated the main discussion points at the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) election debate.

Executive candidates from the RU Connected and Impact slates and one independent presidential candidate debated their platforms in the Rogers Communications Centre March 3.

The debate addressed the human rights complaint filed against the RSU by former RSU staff member Gilary Massa in December. On Feb. 29, Massa said she had filed a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for discrimination. In December 2015, she lost her job while on maternity leave. She accepted severance several days later and she will receive maternity leave pay until March 31, 2016.

Awo Akobor, presidential candidate for RU Connected, said, “There is no justice in firing a woman on maternity leave.”

Impact presidential candidate Obaid Ullah, who was vice-president operations for the RSU when Massa left, clarified that the RSU did not fire Massa, she was laid off.

Independent presidential candidate, Dara Vosoughi, said, “If there was a human rights issue, the RSU should take steps to compensate for that.”

The topic of mental health services on campus was raised by the several audience members during the question and answer period.

Susanne Nyaga, the vice-president equity candidate for RU Connected said, “We need to focus on mental health all the time. Not just having yoga once and saying, ‘We addressed mental health.’”

Impact candidate Tamara Jones reiterated that point by saying we needed to have real and difficult discussions about mental health.

During the last academic year, the counselling centre saw 1,866 students for individual appointments and 247 students in group therapy.

Both vice-president education candidates agreed that the recent overhaul of the Ontario Student Grant Program was a good first step to making post-secondary education more accessible, but they also added that fight for lower tuition fees is far from over.

The grant program will allow students from low-income families to apply for a grant that will cover the majority of their tuition costs.

Martin Fox, vice-president education candidate under the RU Connected platform, said that he thinks tuition fees should be eliminated. “Kids getting an education will give the government a return on their investment,” Fox said.

The Rhino Party executives did not take part in the debate in protest of the shortened campaign period this year. Last year, candidates had a little over two weeks to campaign, this year they have just two and a half business days before voting begins.

Voting for the next RSU executives and board of directors will take place on Ryerson’s Administrative Management Self Service (RAMSS).

Polls open at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 7 and they close 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 9.

Copy Editor and Reporter for The Ryersonian

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