By Jen Gerson
The RAC referendum’s ‘No’ campaign said it was shut out when the university tore down their posters, but the school said the campaign was inaccurate and didn’t follow the rules.
“[The university] is taking down our posters because they don’t agree with the No [vote],” said Liz Diaz, a first-year social work student who is leading the week-old group against the fee increase.
Diaz said the university should be working with the RAC and with students to lobby the government for more money. “They shouldn’t be gouging the students,” she said. But Shirley Lewchuk, chair of the election procedure committee, said that all students are allowed to voice their opinion, as long as they follow the university’s policy on platform material.
“You have to identify yourselves,” said Lewchuk. “The ‘No’ campaign didn’t provide contact information or identify who they were and what they stood for.”
Secondly, she said “the publicity has to be accurate. If there are any complaints, we need to know where to turn for a correction.” “We had a number of complaints about the accuracy of these posters, but because we had no contact information for the group [the posters] had to come down.”
University policy states that the only posters allowed on campus have to be approved by either RyeSAC or the Board of Governors. The ‘No’ campaign, whose members paid for the printing materials out of their own pockets, did not get approval from RyeSAC to plaster their posters.
Lewchuk said that the university and the presidents of RyeSAC and CESAR took one look at the materials and agreed that they should be taken down immediately.
The posters and flyers distributed by the No’ campaign didn’t explain what the RAC referendum is. The signs also said the fee increase is tantamount to breaking the tuition freeze. ”
Student fees shouldn’t be increased regardless of whether or not they’re ancillary fees,” said Diaz. Lewchuk said this is inaccurate. “[The tuition freeze is] not what this is about,” she said.
The posters target Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse, although it was athletics director David Dubois who championed the RAC referendum.
Lajeunesse said last week to The Eyeopener that he would not take a position on the referendum, nor would he try to influence student opinion.
Still, he and the rest of the board voted unanimously in favour of allowing the referendum.
“As the head of the university, he is responsible for how things are funded…in that sense, he should be respecting the freeze,” Diaz said. She said the posters don’t mention Dubois because:
“We don’t want to attack the RAC. It’s about tuition fees being increased.” She said her group supports the RAC getting the funding it needs, but not at the expense of students.
The 8.5-by-11-inch, white and yellow posters also said “Vote no”, “Ryerson wants you to pay more”, and “last week Claude [Lajeunesse] said he wants tuition fees to increase to $7,000.”
Diaz said Lajeunesse called for the raise in tuition fees at the state of the university address last Thursday. But Lajeunesse actually said that he didn’t think current tuition levels are too high.
The highest tuition at Ryerson is $6,000 per year. While Diaz understands how some students might find the posters misleading, she said they are not; her group aims to educate students and to offer some balance against the plethora of biased advertising that encourage students to vote Yes without understanding the consequences.
Diaz’s group, which she said has about 10 members who will be pasting posters in the halls, lecturing in classes and holding petitions, is also angry that the referendum won’t require a minimum number of voters, or a quorum, to be considered valid. “Only 10 people could vote, and if they all vote Yes, this could go through,” she said. “[The university] only advertised [the RAC referendum] for one week. That’s not enough time to let the student population know what’s going on.”
In 2003, Carleton University held a referendum to fund a new alumni hall and sports centre. Drew Love, the athletics director at Carleton, said that it’s important to run a No’ campaign in any school election.
“The No’ campaign here was spear-headed by a group who didn’t want fees raised, who believed that the government should deliver more money,” said Love. “It wasn’t that they were opposed to the building, the campaign was against students having to pay for it.” Students voted Yes at Carleton.
“If [the ‘No’ group] wants to campaign, they have to talk about the RAC referendum specifically and why students should vote against it,” said Lewchuk.
Voting at Ryerson will take place on-line today and Thursday.
-With files from Amanda Marie-Quintino