By Richard Maerov
The presidents of Ryerson’s two student unions have found themselves at the centre of a York University student election controversy.
Jeremy Salter, president of Ryerson’s Continuing Education Students’ Association (CESAR), who was hired as Chief Returning Officer for last week’s student elections at York, was the subject of formal complaints made by disqualified York Federation of Students presidential candidate Michael Landry, as well as editors of York’s student newspaper, Excalibur.
Salter’s responsiblility as CRO was the impartial administration of the elections. He tagged Landry, a third-year political science student, with 50 demerit points and a fine of $600 for violating YFS election procedure and failing to comply with the spirit and purpose of the elections.
In a letter sent to the school’s election appeals committee on March 16, Landry accused Salter of falsely quoting him and of misinterpreting what he said as a form of bribery.
Salter said Landry told a student he would buy him beer for votes. Landry later said Salter “made it very difficult” throughout the election for Landry and his party to overcome the odds of toppling an incumbent party that benefited from the support of a network of student executives from other Toronto universities.
One such executive was RSU President Rebecca Rose, who was seen campaigning on the York University campus on Thursday of last week for her friend Corrie Sakaluk, who defeated Landry in the bid for YFS presidency. Also campaigning for Sakaluk was Ryerson’s VP academic Nora Loreto as well as U of T’s campus life VP Samson Romero.
“It’s really not fair to have to go up against not only our own candidates but also the Ryerson student president and vice-president of U of T (Students’ Administrative Council),” Landry said. “You’d think that (Rose) would be consumed with her work helping Ryerson students rather than coming all the way to our campus to campaign for another party,” he said.
Rose insists she had every right to be there. “Corrie and I are good friends,” she said. “We both worked together this year and are both very strong advocates against the tuition fee hikes. I believe she would do the best job and be the best ally.” Salter maintains there is nothing in the election procedure code prohibiting Rose from helping a student politician at York.
On March 15, Landry said Salter overheard him saying sarcastically to a friend “If I win, I’ll buy you a beer.” Salter took the quote seriously. “(Landry) was offering material gain for votes,” Salter said. “The rules are quite explicit. It is not a joke. This has a direct impact on the result of the elections — that is why the demerits were so severe.”
Salter’s actions were once again called into question last Thursday when Rose complained to him that editors from Excalibur were harassing her while she was handing out flyers on York’s Keele campus for Sakaluk’s campaign. According to Excalibur’s editor-in-chief Chris Jai Centeno, his staff had been asking Rose questions and taking photos of her when she launched into a screaming outburst of profanity, threatening to take legal action against him and his staff if they didn’t leave her alone.
“She went absolutely crazy,” Centeno said. “She was very offensive, and insulted us by saying we weren’t real journalists because we didn’t go to journalism school.”
Rose contends the Excalibur staff was extremely belligerent and that she felt threatened.
“There were five of them cornering me. I agree I spoke candidly, perhaps too candidly — but they were being very aggressive and I didn’t appreciate the way they were accosting me,” she said.
Rose later apologised to editors after complaining to Salter, who promptly asked the Excalibur team to leave the building and stop interfering with the campaign.
“I told them if they have questions to set an appointment for an interview,” Salter said. “They were impeding the campaigners from working.”
Centeno plans to file a letter of complaint to York’s director of student community and leadership development Frank Cappadocia, saying Salter had no right to exclude them from the event.
“We’re students, we had as much right to be there as Ryerson’s student (union) president,” Centeno said.
Both Landry and Centeno questioned the ethical validity of the CRO hiring procedure. Salter was hired by a committee that included members of the current York student executive.
The same issue was raised during RSU’s election’s when presidential candidate Sarah Turnbull was nearly disqualified by CRO Kelly Holloway, also hired by current executives.
Salter was surprised by these accusations. “It’s interesting that he would say I was in favour of one specific party when up until the disqualification they were only five demerit points apart,” he said.
Salter is still to submit a final report to York’s Board of Governors.