By Terry Schonberger
Athletics director David Dubois sat on his couch Thursday evening, eyes pinned to the televised baseball playoffs.
He awaited a much-anticipated call, but not from the home plate umpire. As his phone rang, Dubois picked up the receiver and listened to the report. Stunned by the news, all he could do was lower his head in disappointment.
The results were in and students had voted a resounding No’ to the athletic referendum.
Nearly two-thirds of the 2,638 students who logged on to the online polls last week voted against an increase to mandatory athletic fees. The voter turnout was about 1,000 more than last year’s RyeSAC elections.
The rise in the levy would have provided an extra $1.4 million for greater support for intramural and varsity teams, as well as extended RAC hours and services. Instead, the athletic fee will remain the lowest in the province at $57.17.
“I’m disappointed, but it’s what students are telling us,” Dubois said. “We anticipated 1,000 votes, not 1,500 to vote against us.”
Dubois, who fought for a ‘yes’ vote, appeared on CKLN Friday morning and declared the campaign was built with students’ best interests in mind and the defeat will make it difficult to provide students with athletic services.
“We’ll have to find other means… we won’t be able to advance as quickly as we wanted, we won’t be able to move forward with the planning we had in place.” The proposed athletic initiative also promised full-time coaching for varsity athletes – an approach that may have made Ryerson teams more competitive at the provincial and national levels and re-instill school pride among students.
The defeat is seen as a “hiccup” in the plan to prepare athletes, Dubois said. There is no word on specifics for a new plan of attack and the possibility of a ‘No’ result was not considered.
Dubois insisted on more than one occasion that he was “looking at winning.” The unexpected result was attributed to a ‘No’ campaign, organized only three days prior to the vote.
Unapproved flyers were distributed to students and several posters were placed around campus. The Board of Governors had these posters removed because they were inaccurate and not approved by the board or RyeSAC.
“The fact that they were hiding and not giving names of groups meant that they could spread lies and innuendos and other types of things that if they had put their name to it…they would have been treated as liars and cheaters and there are some provisions in the student code to deal with liars and cheaters,” said Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse. “But it’s a total lie to indicate that tuition would go to $7,000 next year when everybody knows tuition is frozen. That is just a lie.”
While Ram Sivapalan, one of the members of the ‘No’ campaign, agreed the $7,000 quote attributed to Lajeunesse wasn’t accurate, he defends the posters. Besides, he said, “the posters had no effect, they were only up for a couple of hours.”
The ‘No’ campaigners said they won voters by lecturing in computer labs, where students could vote easily.
For now, another referendum is not being planned. The athletics committee will figure out where the campaign went wrong and whether the message about the benefits of the fee increase reached students.