By Jackie Hong
The president of the Ryerson Commerce Society (RCS) has sent a petition with more than 1,000 student signatures to the university, the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and its chief returning officer (CRO) demanding an extended election period or a completely redone election.
RCS President Ashisha Persaud said in an email that the petition “[addresses] the unfair and undemocratic election processes that are being practiced during the current elections” and focuses on “discrimination” against Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) students.
The petition calls for the CRO, who is responsible for managing the election, to extend the election period to allow business students to nominate a candidate for a director position created after candidate nominations closed. If that fails, the petition calls for the university to step in, replace the CRO and redo the election.
“This petition basically started when I received complaints from numerous business students that the nomination period had just been extended for other faculties [but not business],” Persaud said in an interview.
Election material had incorrectly listed the number of director positions available for the Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD), Faculty of Science, Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science (FEAS) and TRSM. Nominations were extended for all faculties from Jan. 23 to Jan. 30, except for TRSM, where a position was opened up without extending nominations. Business students said this was unfair because they couldn’t run another candidate for the position.
Persaud said she emailed the CRO about the complaints and received an email back that read “Thank you for your concern,” and made no mention of addressing the complaints. She then brought the issue to the RCS board, which decided to start a petition. The RCS also told societies in engineering and FCAD about the petition, who got their members to sign. About 900 signatures were collected in TRSM alone.
Persaud said she believes the current CRO, Fatima Sajan, is skewing the election toward one slate.
“I think [Sajan’s] just been doing everything to help one side and not the other. And I know this because I’ve heard from election candidates that are in the election that they’ve been treated unfairly,” Persaud said.
Complaints include the CRO not responding to emails from opposition slate Transform RU candidates in a timely manner and rejecting posters because they did not have a stamp saying they were printed on recycled paper. The delay meant Transform RU could not start plastering posters on campus at the same time as Unite Ryerson, the incumbent slate, which had material up at the start of the campaigning period.
A candidate guidelines package obtained by The Eyeopener states that posters must be printed on recycled paper but makes no mention of stamps.
“Is this even a fair election?” Persaud said. “I feel like the election might be rigged.”
The petition has since been sent to the school, the RSU and the CRO, according to Persaud.
Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said the university has heard “a number of complaints” since last week from students who say the way the current RSU election is being conducted is “problematic.”
“We’ve spoken to the RSU and said that our relationship with them is a function of them following good democratic procedures for the election,” Levy said. “We have written to them again to say that we continue to hear concerns, so we have certainly passed on the concerns that students have been telling us to the RSU.”
He said it would be “very difficult” for the university to step in to the election since the RSU is an independent corporation, adding that the RSU is required by the Corporations Act, an Ontario law, to hold fair elections.
“Our relations with them from a legal point of view require them to [hold fair elections] and we have told them so,” Levy said.
Levy would not comment on whether the university will step into the current election, saying that the school will “cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Heather Lane Vetere, Ryerson’s vice-provost students, said she’s heard complaints but has not seen the petition. The university stepping into a student election is “a very unusual situation,” she said.
“It’s not something that normally happens, so if the decision was going to be made, it would be made at the highest level. And then it would be up to the senior executive to determine where they would want that handled. My guess is they’d probably get me involved,” she said.
RSU President Rajean Hoilett could not confirm if the RSU had received the petition but did say that the RSU has heard of it through word-of-mouth.
“We [the RSU] heard about the petition and as a person who’s heavily involved with one of the teams running in the election, it’s not my position to comment on the election’s procedures,” Hoilett said.