The man behind the outrage

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By Sutton Eaves

Once introverted and unsure of himself in a new country, Sajjad Wasti has come a long way since he arrived at Ryerson.

“The culture shock was pretty prolonged, so I didn’t hang out with too many people,” says Wasti of his first couple of years at Ryerson. Coming from Karachi, Pakistan, he struggled to adapt to a new culture like many international students.

Today, as RyeSAC’s vice-president finance and services, Wasti is a familiar face around campus, particularly since his very public attack on RyeSAC last week.

With an SAT score of 1230 out of 1600, Wasti passed up acceptances from the University of Toronto and York University — where he was offered a $1,500 entrance scholarship — to come to Ryerson.

“It’s very Toronto, very downtown, very practical,” says Wasti, a fourth-year business student.

Undeterred by the $80,000 price tag attached to an international student’s tuition and living expenses, Wasti moved into Pitman Hall in September of 1998 to meet his new roommate, Ken Marciniec, who is now RyeSAC’s vice-president education.

“We got along well. He was a nice guy. He still is a nice guy,” says Wasti.

The relationship between the two was strained by Wasti’s letter attacking RyeSAC, and Marciniec now advocated kicking Wasti out of RyeSAC.

By his second summer in Toronto, Wasti felt he had his bearings and was ready for a challenge. Completely unknown within the political community on campus, Wasti campaigned on foot to promote himself.

“It was ground work,” he says. “Lots and lots of ground work.”

Wasti says he spent a lot of time talking to students one-on-one; a strategy that paid off when he won the position last February.

Unable to get involved in politics in Pakistan for fear of his personal safety, Wasti anticipated a more democratic political culture to exist in Canada.

“I have lived in a third world country where literacy rates were 23 per cent. If you know English you can get a kick-ass job,” he said. “I have seen how government functions. Basic things like getting a telephone or buying a car are huge problems back home because of bureaucracy, secrecy, bribery, nepotism, an unclear process.”

Wasti says he was surprised to find government in Canada was little different what he was used to from Pakistan.

“Why is this happening here?” he asked. “It shouldn’t be. It’s such a mature society, it’s such a mature country, says Wasti, whose beliefs have drawn a cleft between him and other members of RyeSAC.

Openly right-leaning, Wasti is interested in current events and financial matters — a copy of The Economist is pinned proudly above his desk. While he has hopes of becoming an investment banker, Wasti doesn’t rule out the possibility of politics as a future career path.

One thing he says he has learned is that political mentalities are the same everywhere.

“What I’m experiencing here is exactly what I experienced back home,” says Wasti.

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