By Roman Khazin
The room of athletes erupted before Ryerson President Sheldon Levy could even say the total number of voters.
As soon as Levy started talking, his voice was drowned out by the roar of the crowd. The campaign flyers reading “Vote Yes” now became confetti. Soon, the group broke out in cheers of “Rams! Rams! Rams!”
This was the scene at the Ram in the Rye on Thursday when Ryerson athletes and coaches were told the athletic referendum passed. A clear majority emerged as 74 per cent of the 4,754 student voters approved a $126 fee hike to support building a new athletic facility. Just over 1,200 students voted against the referendum.
These results were a sharp contrast from those of a similar referendum held in 2004, which was rejected by 60 per cent of voters. Only 2,638 students voted in that referendum.
Ivan Joseph, Ryerson’s director of athletics, said this year’s referendum passed because the students wanted more from their athletic facilities.
“The students were looking for something to belong to,” he said. “The students went out and after what they wanted.”
Joseph said the results show that students want to have more chances to participate in athletics, and that Ryerson would cater to this desire.
“You want an opportunity to participate, you want to have facilities, you want to have leadership. Now we’re looking how we do this.”
But members of the “Vote No” campaign have raised concerns about the referendum. Mohammed Ali Aumeer, vice-president of programming and outreach for the Continuing Education Students’ Association at Ryerson (CESAR), one of the organizers of the campaign, said there have been allegations of verbal attacks on the campaign’s members and instances of thecampaign’s posters being torn down. Aumeer said there were also allegations that the intramural league members’ list was used by the “Vote Yes” campaign to contact members. He said CESAR is looking into these allegations.
“I don’t know how valid these results are,” he said. Frank Whitestone, also an organizer of the “Vote No” campaign, said that incidents of torn-down posters were reported to the referendum’s returning officer but nothing was done.
Whitestone also said that his side applied to Ryerson for funding to run its campaign, but was not contacted when the money became available. Instead, he said his side had to contact the university more than a week later, time which it could have used for campaigning.
The delay contributed to the “Vote No” campaign being smaller than its counterpart and limited its ability to get its message out, he said.
“We couldn’t really compete with the organized campaign that the university had.” Still, members of the campaign that supported the referendum said the new facility would benefit Ryerson and its students.
Greg McDonald, a member of the men’s volleyball team, said he expects the new building to create community spirit at Ryerson. “Even during the campaign, it’s brought all the teams together,” he said. Katelinn Tuovinen, a member of the women’s rowing team, agrees. “If sports is the way to get together, it’s amazing,” she said.