Comment By Sean Wetselaar
It’s that time of the year again. Ryerson is on the eve of the annual Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) general elections.
The Eyeopener has argued before that more students should run in the election to make our little version of democracy a bit wider in scope, and we stand by that. But there’s another issue I want to address here, which is the electoral system on campus in general.
If you aren’t aware, the individual who oversees elections on campus is called the Chief Returning Officer (CRO), and it’s this person’s job to be unbiased, impartial and ensure everything runs smoothly. But, as it turns out, this external CRO is not as external as we’d like to think.
The CRO is hired through a process overseen by the internal coordinator and executive director of communications and outreach at the RSU – full-time employees of the RSU who get benefits and would like to keep it that way.
Once these two have hired a CRO, they present them to the executive – without so much as a name or qualifications. From there, Rodney Diverlus, president of the RSU, said the executive keeps its distance due to an obvious desire to prevent a conflict of interest.
Furthermore, once a CRO is appointed, the only body capable of appealing decisions made during elections – the elections appeals committee – is chosen by the CRO.
The CRO even chairs this group, albeit as a non-voting member.
All this places an enormous amount of power in the hands of the CRO – their word is law for the purpose of election bylaws and regulations. The CRO’s position on the appeals committee makes it very difficult to appeal a CRO ruling.
And that would be fine, if there were a system in place to ensure this individual is always truly external.
Now, is the RSU actively engaged in some kind of conspiracy aimed to bias the CRO? I highly doubt it.
But the reality is the system that appoints the body overseeing the elections is inherently flawed. There are not nearly enough checks and balances to ensure legitimacy, and it would be far too easy for a biased CRO to slip through the cracks.
And until steps are taken to make the CRO accountable, and to rectify the system it’s even harder to take our student elections seriously.