By Mohamed Omar
As the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) prepares to elect new board members, gaping holes in student leadership and disagreements over how to implement change threaten the union’s stability.
Matthew Cwihun, CESAR’s previous director of campaigns and equity (one of two executives to resign within the last month) argued a new elections policy was introduced with little warning – leaving just three days before the Feb. 28 deadline for nominations.
The last minute elections policy, introduced by Annie Hyder, director of membership and communications, passed at a board meeting on Feb. 25. It introduced a demerit points system, campaign reimbursements and an appeals process to candidates.
Cwihun, a public administration and governance student, thinks it provides a more accountable voting platform for members. But he fears the spontaneous introduction gives any returning executive the upper hand.
“[The fact that] there’s an executive running based on this policy is really disturbing, because… they’re completely fluent in how this policy is structured and anybody running against them is going to have to play catch-up and try to familiarize themselves with this policy,” said Cwihun.
He said the policy’s breadth led the board had to extend the nomination deadline to March 7.
Shinae Kim, director of finance and services running to be the director of membership and communications, voted for the policy change, which she hopes will prevent a repeat of last year’s turbulent elections.
“If you look at our current bylaws, and just look at the elections section… it’s not specific,” she said.
At that time, the board had to operate with three out of five directors after Harmonie Wong, the former director of academics and policy, resigned to attend graduate school.
Cwihun resigned shortly thereafter.
Kim said the vacancies haven’t affected the association’s service.
“When you have people missing [from the executive], there are challenges. But in terms of providing services and advocating for students, there has been no drop-off in quality.”
But Dwayne Anderson, who is running against Kim, disagrees.
He said that the current executive is too concerned with the “status quo” and not as ambitious as they ought to be.
Anderson has been involved with the organization for about four years, and said students “deserve better.” Like Anderson, Cwihun had decided to run for a spot on CESAR to improve student services, but said his ideas were rejected because of a “major difference in perspective.” He added this irreconcilable rift made him feel cornered and isolated, prompting him to resign.
Kim disagrees. “I still see him as somebody who is on our team and this is the nature of our organization.” As 10 candidates vie for the five director positions, with one returning candidate, there is potential for renewal but a consensus will be harder to find.
With files from David Corrigan