Unite Ryerson and Transform RU butted heads in a rowdy and divided RSU election debate Monday.
For the first time in years, all candidates running for executive positions face organized opposition. The debate showed this tension.
Unite Ryerson candidates talked about continuing their legacy as incumbents of the RSU, whereas Transform RU argued the benefits of applying new perspectives to old techniques.
The incumbent group epmhasized the success of its Freeze the Fees campaign, during which RSU members camped out in tents on campus last November. The protest called for the university to freeze tuition fees, which have increased by 197 per cent since 1993, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The result was a meeting between the RSU and Ryerson administration to discuss tuition cuts.
But the campaign received backlash and incited a counter-movement in the form of a group called Rise for Ryerson.
Rise for Ryerson rallied in support of university administration in November and said that the Freeze the Fees campaign “jeopardizes the reputation of the university and the value of a degree from Ryerson,” The Ryersonian reported in November.
Pascale Diverlus, Unite Ryerson’s presidential candidate, defended the Freeze the Fees campaign Monday night.
“The best thing about student unions is that we have autonomy,” she said in response to a question asking how the union intended to repair its relationship with the administration after the aggressive protests around the campaign.
“(Administration) realizes that we are autonomous and that sometimes we aren’t going to agree with them,” Diverlus said.
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Unite Ryerson also voiced its support for “aggressive” protesting. Vice-president education candidate Zidane Mohamed said he would “support aggressive protests if it (represented) what the students want.”
Transform RU took an opposing stance on the Freeze the Fees campaign.
Its vice-president education candidate, Cormac McGee, who was also involved in Rise for Ryerson, said he would rather have the RSU talk out issues as a first step. However, he would support protests if that’s what students want.
Another hot topic at the debate was the candidates’ opinions on the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
CFS membership has been a recent topic of controversy, after McGill University graduate students voted to leave the organization last month.
Ryerson students also have a history of distaste for the CFS, with many joining the anti-CFS group, Time to Mobilize, in 2013.
Diverlus stressed the importance of the CFS and said it connects Ryerson with 300,000 students.
But Andrea Bartlett, Transform RU’s presidential candidate, said it’s important to weigh options.
She said that a union would never make a decision that significant without consulting with students.
By Emma Dillabough and Jessica Lepore