By Jake Scott and Jackie Hong
Supporters of both slates running in the upcoming Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) election clashed in a cacophony of clapping and questions at a pre-election debate for executive candidates on Feb. 2. The auditorium at the Student Campus Centre was packed with supporters for both Unite Ryerson and Transform RU, with each side erupting in cheers every time their favoured slate was addressed.
Candidates for vice-presidents operations, equity, education and student life and events as well as president attended. Josh D’Cruz, who is running for vice-president operations, was the lone independent candidate.
The debate was moderated by Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Fatima Sajan. Candidates were given three minutes for a speech about themselves followed by three questions asked by audience members. The first three people to the microphone at the end of each speech were allowed to ask a question, except when in favour of gender parity. As a result, students ran to the microphone in hopes of asking a question.
According to debate rules, questions had to be for both candidates but some attempted to circumvent that. During the question round for vice-president education candidates, a student who said her name was Laura began questioning Unite Ryerson candidate Zidane Mohamed about his Facebook posts condoning the shooting deaths of two police officers.
Current RSU President Rajean Hoilett cut her off by saying questions had to be be directed at both candidates, but Laura shouted back that she wasn’t finished asking her “question.”
Sajan reiterated Hoilett’s point, at which point Laura asked Transform’s, Cormac McGee and Mohamed to explain their characters. Mohamed, who had already apologized for his posts during his speech, repeated his apology in his answer.
Question askers were not always random members of the audience. Ryerson Engineering Student Society President Urooj Siddiqui asked vice-president operations candidates how they planned to balance decreased student group funding and increased fees. Siddiqui is running for a Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science director’s position with Transform RU.
Another verbal scuffle broke out during the bonus round when a student asked Unite Ryerson presidential candidate Pascale Diverlus and Transform RU vice-president operations candidate Obaid Ullah how they would proceed on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. The campaign, which aims to put political and economic pressure on Israel in response to its “apartheid” against Palestinians, was adopted by the RSU following a vote at last semester’s semi-annual general meeting.
Diverlus began to say that educating students more on the issue was important when an audience member shouted, “It’s anti-Semitic!”
Sajan asked the audience member to escort herself out.