By Sandie Benitah
International student Sajjad Wasti wanted the Canadian experience of democracy and free speech. Instead, he got the Ryerson experience of electoral process dejection and his fellow peers’ rejection.
Wasti, who is running for v.p. finance, an executive position on RyeSAC, has been faced with nothing but trouble since he put his first poster up a month ago.
Day after day, Wasti would find his election posters defaced and himself defamed. The first incident happened when his friends witnessed someone scrawling the word “loser” on the signs. Then, somebody decided to rearrange Wasti’s intricate horizontal and diagonal patterns.
Soon after, snide remarks such as “Wasti not, have not,” were found scribbled on the posters.
“We’re talking extreme immaturity,” Wasti says.
However, he stopped laughing when he came upon the most disturbing graffiti yet.
Last week, he found that somebody had drawn a Jewish symbol, the Star of David, along with a penis beside his head. This time Wasti has no idea who could be doing this or even what the message means as it could be offensive to Jews and other groups.
“The sign obviously represents Judaism but I don’t know how that can be offensive to anyone,” he says.
Wherever Wasti turned for help, he found there was little anyone could, or would, do.
Jason Curran, RyeSAC’s chief returning officer (CRO) who is in charge of overlooking the election, says that he investigated the matter to see if there were any inks to other candidates. In 1999, RyeSAC ousted a sitting v.p student life and disqualified the v.p. elect for defacing posters. This year, Curran says that won’t be necessary.
“I can almost guarantee it’s not connected to anyone in the election. Other than that, it’s blatant vandalism which needs to be settled by security and the university.”
Thinking his matter was a serious one, he filed a complaint with Ann Whiteside, Complaints Officer at Ryerson’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Services. The treatment he received made him wonder if anyone was going to take him seriously at all.
After telling Wasti she didn’t have a chance to read the e-mail that security sent on the incident, Whiteside told him that he should contact her if he didn’t hear from her by the next day. She didn’t call and he never bothered to.
“They seemed completely uninterested,” he says. “They didn’t even check their e-mail. Just a few words to show that it’s bad would have been enough. A few words would have shown they have some interest in me.”
Some action was taken after The Eyeopener’s inquiry. Tony Conte, Whiteside’s assistant, promptly called Wasti for an appointment and an update on the situation.
Still, Wasti’s luck with the election campaign didn’t get any better.
Still reeling over his ruined campaign posters, Wasti was shocked to discover that one of his opponents, Vishal Darji, was using e-mail to campaign — a clear violation of RyeSAC’s election rules.
“I’ve e-mailed the RyeSAC president, the equity commissioner and the CRO. I haven’t heard back from the president, the commissioner or the CRO,” Wasti says. “For God’s sake, where the hell are those guys when you need them?”
Curan says that he has decided not to disqualify Darji and that RyeSAC election by-laws don’t allow other effective punishments.
“I made a judgement that (the e-mail) wouldn’t really have an effect on the campaign,” Curran says.
“I’m at a loss for a punishment for him.”
Under the by-laws, Wasti can now appeal Curran’s decision. If Darji is eventually disqualified, Curran says that RyeSAC will hold a by-election to determine a replacement.
Wasti is particularly infuriated because this happened the weekend before the polls opened this Monday.
In the meantime, Wasti wiats for the election results with a new feeling for Canadian politics, especially for Ryerson.
“All I’m trying to do is restore some professionalism to this institution,” he says. “As an international student, I pay two-and-a-half times more tuition than anyone else. I think I’m entitled to some results.”