By Sierra Bein
While campaigning for friends at the University of Toronto, incoming Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) president Rajean Hoilett allegedly misrepresented himself as a U of T student, according to an article published on the campus newspaper’s website.
On March 13, The Varsity, U of T’s student-run newspaper, published an article investigating claims of outside student executives helping current vice-president of equity and presidential hopeful, Yolen Bollo-Kamara, campaign at the school’s St. George campus.
Among the executives from York University and Ryerson encouraging U of T students to vote for friends running for executive positions in the University of Toronto student union (UTSU) election under the slate U of T Voice were Melissa Palermo and Hoilett.
Like members of the RSU, Bollo-Kamara is a member of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario (CFS-O).
Titled, “U of T Voice’s use of RSU, YFS campaigners draws criticsm,” the article says that a student journalist who identified themselves as a Varsity reporter approached Hoilett for an interview.
The article also says that Hoilett initially identified himself as a U of T student before admitting he was a Ryerson student.
Hoilett denies these claims, adding furthermore that the journalist never identified themselves as a reporter.
“I didn’t identify as a U of T student. I was asked if I have a TCard – which is their equivalent to our OneCard,” Hoilett said. “I said I’m a Ryerson student, I’m helping out a friend. I declined to do an interview and that was the article that was published.”
Joshua Oliver, The Varsity’s editor-in-chief, stands by his paper’s story.
“When Rajean was first approached by a reporter who said they were working for The Varsity, he said that he was a U of T student but didn’t answer any other questions,” Oliver added.
Reporters at The Varsity made efforts to contact Hoilett before the article was published, but still have not received a response.
“Rajean didn’t take the opportunity to respond when we reached out to him,” Oliver said. “If he disagrees with what the reporter said, he never communicated that to us and I have no reason to believe that what the reporter said isn’t accurate.”
This is the first year that The Varsity has sent out their writers to report on the campaigning for the union, after yearly reports that Ryerson, York and other CFS-O students are helping to campaign.
Oliver told his reporters to cover the campaign, introduce themselves as a reporter and interview everyone they saw campaigning.
Both Hoilett and Palermo said they used their vacation time to help campaign. RSU executives get two weeks vacation allotted each year. Hoilett said he took about three or four days of personal time to help.
“Yolen is a friend of mine and I’m excited that she’s running for president of her students’ union,” Palermo said. “When she asked me if I could help campaign, I told her I would be glad to take some personal vacation time to support her.”
Both RSU members were seen on Tuesday, March 11 and on Wednesday, March 12 at polling stations around the U of T campus.
But while bringing off-campus support to help campaign is permitted under U of T election rules, misrepresentation is not.
On March 13, the chief returning officer (CRO) received a complaint that presidential candidate Bollo-Kamara and vice-president of internal and services candidate, Cameron Wathey, violated election procedure codes.
According to the CRO’s ruling announced March 14, upon investigation she determined that Bollo-Kamara and Wathey violated an article under “responsibility of the candidates” after a “volunteer misrepresented their status as a student at the University of Toronto.”
Both Bollo-Kamara and Wathey received two demerit points for “misrepresentation of facts.” Hoilett said that he has not heard of anything regarding the CRO report and had no comment.
“Candidates under our rules are held responsible for the actions of the people volunteering for them,” Oliver said. “Whatever incident their ruling’s about was considered to be a misrepresentation of facts, one of the things you can get demerit points for in our election.”
The Eyeopener was unable to confirm if these violations were related to the allegations surrounding Hoilett.
“It didn’t specify the volunteer, it didn’t specify the occasion so it’s not clear in the ruling that it’s referring to this incident,” Oliver said. “Although it’s obviously possible.”