By Joe Friesen
RyeSAC’s political establishment is being challenged by a pair of business students who want to disrupt the entrenched pattern of presidential elections.
This year’s three-way race pits long-time RyeSAC executive member and current Vice-President Education Ken Marciniec against business students Vishal Darji and Dave MacLean.
An experienced political, Marciniec’s manner is more reminiscent of a cabinet minister than a 23-year-old student. But while he may lack flare, Marciniec hopes to prove that his commitment and experience make him a candidate of substance.
“I take this seriously, it’s not a joke. You’re not going to see me half-naked on my posters or using any sort of gimmicks,” said Marciniec, referring to MacLean’s campaign poster, which featured him clad, holding a sign in front of his crotch.
Marciniec sees Dave MacLean, whose campaign is being managed by Cooney’s bete noire Sajjad Wasti, as his main rival, but wonders whether ryerson students will be convinced by the third-year business student’s policies.
“I’m not sure why or what he doesn’t agree with,” said Marciniec. “He’s also come up with some really strange suggestions like making the student union the student financial assistance office.”
MacLean’s platform calls for RyeSAC to use its contingency fund to increase the number of bursaries available to students.
“Poor students would be subsidizing even poorer students,” said Marciniec.
“He’s not looking at the big picture, and I think that’s important.”
Marciniec’s priorities include making sure the student centre is finished, implementing a TTC discount plan at ryerson, and working with students to influence the provincial election.
“We need to be working together instead of at odds,” he said.
MacLean said that recent attacks from Cooney and his supporters have only strengthened his resolve as he aims to defeat the clique which has controlled RyeSAC politics for years.
“There’s this whole torch passing policy in RyeSAC,” said MacLean. “It’s just basically whoever wants to do exactly what was done the year before, that’s who they pass the torch to.”
MacLean, who moved to Toronto from his hometown of North Bay, Ont., said his early experiences in university pushed him into student politics.
“I got involved with RyeSAC for the sole purpose of bringing student life to this campus,” said MacLean who is also a board member.
MacLean sees himself as a down-to-earth campaigner who understands what students want.
“I’m every guy-student, while Ken’s more wrapped up in his tunnel vision” he said. “He’s lost touch with the students big time. he’s been in that office for two years and he lives nothing but that office.”
MacLean said that Marciniec’s disregard for student life is proved by the fact that his slate of candidates does not include a nominee for vice-president student life and events.
The third candidate, 23-year-old Vishal Darji, ran for the vice-president finance and services job last year but lost. Darji ran an unorthodox campaign in which he didn’t put up posters, but came within 120 votes of the eventual winner.
This year Darji plans to use posters, but believes the spirit in which he ran his last campaign will carry on.
“Last year I ran as your no-bullshit candidate, which I still think I am,” he said.
Darji is the founder and past president of the ryerson Indo-Canadian Students Association, a group which during the two years of his leadership, ballooned from 20 to 350 members.
He said student groups are the only effective outlet for student life on campus and he wants to see this profile expanded.
However, he recognizes how difficult it is to get elected without the help of the political establishment.
“A straight underdog, grassroots campaign is what im running, because it’s really hard to run against these slates,” he said. “My supporters are anyone who believes an indeoendent candidate has a chance and who believes in a proven hard worker.”
Marciniec received outgoing president Darren Cooney’s official endorsement last week. Marciniec has been a RyeSAC executive for the last two years. He served as vice-president finance and services in 2001-2002 before winning the education post last year.