By Emma Prestwich
Student politics are becoming less diverse, but student union members running for Ryerson Senate and Board of Governors (BOG) don’t see this as a problem.
Ryerson Students’ Union members campaigning as student senators have stated they’re using the Senate to push through parts of their agenda, citing the committee as an official avenue to advocate for student concerns.
Several students campaigning on the Students First ticket ran as part of Students United in the RSU election. President-elect and current vice president of equity Rodney Diverlus and VP student life and events Alyssa Williams are both running for Senate, along with several other faculty directors. VP education Melissa Palermo and incoming VP operations Andrew McAllister are running for BOG.
Diverlus said many of the concerns he heard from students while campaigning in the recent election fall under the Senate’s jurisdiction.
“For me, I made the decision to run to be able to bring issues I heard while campaigning straight through to the Senate,” he said.
There are no rules prohibiting RSU members from running as student senators and the VP education has an automatic spot on the Senate. But Komail Kanjee, who is running as a representative for the faculty of engineering and architectural science, doesn’t agree with the decision.
“If you’re running for the union, you’re declaring the fact that you’re fully towards students. If you’re there for Senate, you’re there for the benefit of students, faculty and school staff,” said Kanjee, a secondyear computer and electrical engineering student.
However, Diverlus disagrees and says that initiatives such as the fall reading week only passed because RSU members were present on Senate. But the constant highlighting of those victories is the issue, said fourth-year politics student Stephen Kassim, who is running as a student candidate for the BOG on the UR Vision slate.
“The successes [highlighted] are the same every time [RSU] members are involved,” said Kassim.
He said he thinks the way RSU members portray their victories suggests they’re the only students qualified enough for their roles.
“The purpose of a student union is getting as many people involved as possible,” he said.
Tiffany Landau, a campaigning senator who is also an RSU faculty of arts director, thinks the committees often work hand-in-hand, representing the same interests. She said she’s running for Senate because no one else in her faculty is taking a leadership role.
“No one else is stepping up to the plate,” she said. “There’s a general apathy.”
She said her goal is to improve the arts curriculum and she thinks she’ll be able to accomplish more as part of the Students First slate. Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said the opinion of RSU members is welcome on the Senate.
“You want anyone who is running for Senate to represent all the students and all the types of issues students have, as opposed to a particular one that the CFS [Canadian Federation of Students] might have,” said Levy.
But Kassim said that the dominance of RSU members in student politics hides the contributions of others who are less formally involved.
“There are so many different qualified people [on campus] and their achievements are hidden, not in your face,” he said. “You don’t have to be part of the students union to be qualified and make a difference.”