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By Eric Lam

The Ryerson Students’ Union has hired a new chief returning officer for the upcoming executive election. And while the name will be different from last year, the previous job experience is the same.

Eric Newstadt, the current Chair-person of the Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) National Graduate Caucus and a formal local representative of the CFS, will replace last year’s chief returning officer, Kelly Holloway, who was also a senior member of the federation — a national student lobby group.

In recent years a CFS-backed slate has been one of at least two slates running.

“It’s just more of the same, more controlling and manipulating the election process from the inside,” said Sarah Turnbull, who ran unsuccessfully for RSU president in the last election and often butted heads with Holloway.

“The CRO last year gave me a lot of grief and in my personal opinion it was very biased,” Turnbull said. “I was crazy to run last year, and if anybody else runs this year they’ll be even crazier.”

According to Turnbull, the CFS has become “paranoid” and seems to want to ensure that CFS-friendly student unions are elected across the country.

As reported by The Eyeopener during Turnbull’s campaign the Ryerson Students United Slate — the current RSU executive — helped campaign for candidates at York University.

Turnball said Newstadt was one of those candidates. He was later elected VP of finance for the York Graduate Students’ Association.

“If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back,” Turnbull quipped.

RSU President Muhammad Ali Jabbar defended the selection process.

“It was a real tough competition, tough decision to make,” Jabbar said. “The hiring process was fair.”

He pointed out that he did not know Newstadt prior to interviewing him, and hired him on merit alone. “(Newstadt) is well organized, well educated, and knows about the political process,” Jabbar said.

Newstadt was hired from a pool of five candidates who submitted resumes and participated in interviews, following an open application period of two weeks. While previous chief returning officers had to be approved by the board of directors, that hasn’t been the case for Holloway and Newstadt. According to RSU bylaws, the RSU president and an “appropriate staffer” conduct the hiring process.

“I’m not a used car salesman. I’m not asking people to ‘trust me, trust me, trust me,'” Newstadt said, adding that there are rules preventing him from unilaterally making decisions, including an Election Appeals Committee for grievances against the chief returning officer. Ironically, the CRO chairs that committee.

“I believe in free and fair elections. I have to, in order to serve those principles, and be objective,” Newstadt said. “I’m not concerned. I invite people to ask questions about my work in the coming election.”

Nominations for candidates close this Friday.

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