By Taeeba Sadar
The VoteEducation campaign at Ryerson University will exclusively promote left-wing politics, say some members of the Ryerson Students’ Administrative council.
“RyeSAC claims to have no bias,” said Derek Isber, vice-president of Student Life and Events. “But this is not an educational campaign; it will be a Tory bashing campaign.”
In an interview with The Eyeopener, RyeSAC President Ken Marciniec openly expressed his disdain for the ruling Tory party.
“Time after time there are really legitimate reasons for students to be critical of this government,” said Marciniec. “We can clearly see which parties have taken students seriously and one party that clearly hasn’t and that’s the governing party.”
Vote Education organizers have mapped out a comprehensive strategy in the run up to the Oct. 2 provincial election which includes classroom lectures, public service announcements and and getting students in residence registered as voters in the Toronto-Centre Rosedale riding.
RyeSAC has allocated $4,000 for Vote Education and similar campaigns like the municipal election in November and a federal election should one be called.
“[The money] will be used for at least two and potentially three important election campaigns to encourage student participation this year,” Marciniec said.
But while Vote Education intends to foster democratic participation and raise student awareness about the electoral process, some anticipate that serious effort will be made to keep students from making an independent decision.
Dave MacLean, president of the Ryerson Commerce Society believes that RyeSAC should stop short of promoting any political agenda.
“Are they really representing all 14,000 students by saying down with Ernie vote for Howard?” asked MacLean. “I’m not saying what party to vote for but I am willing to say that student council should never take political stances. i challenge them to step up this year and actually care about the whole school. Lobbying has its place but we don’t have to do it constantly.”
Isber and MacLean point to the Canadian Federation of Students as the source of RyeSAC’s purported left-wing bias. The CFS is Canada’s largest student representative body, unifying 75 locals across the country. Much of the literature and paraphernalia slated for distribution across campus endorses the NDP educational platform, which includes reducing tuition fees by 10 per cent.
The CFS denies any left-wing affiliation.
“We work with issues, not political parties,” said Joel Duff, Ontario chairperson for the CFS. “if parties agree with our principles, great. If not, then we work to change that. We are non-partisan. It doesn’t serve us to belong to a party.”
Although membership with the CFS was determined by a student referendum, Isber said it alienates students.
“Many business and engineering students prefer not to vote “NO” to the WTO and they support the G8,” he said, referring to other social concerns addressed by the CFS. “Many plan on jobs on Bay street where the CFS holds its protests.”
MacLean said that while rising tuition fees are a shared grievance among all students, RyeSAC should tackle other important issues of concern to Ryerson students.
“If we only focus on tuition, where are we getting on the rest of it,” said MacLean. “Poor teaching, bad courses, the hiring process and the board of governors all affect how students get to class. We need to focus on educational, social, and professional programs.”
But Marciniec said the primary goal of the campaign is to help students participate in the voting process.
“We have a real oppertunity here after years of sky-rocketing tuition fees, deregulation and 40 per cent less access to OSAP to go out as students and vote for a new government that will take students seriously,” said Marciniec.
“We need to convinve students to vote and educate them on the track records and party platforms so they can make an educated decision.”
With files from Wendy Glauser