Courtesy: Farahan Riaz

BOG elections: student candidates pay their way

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By Al Downham 

Student member candidates in Ryerson’s 2016 Board of Governors (BoG) election are spending hundreds on campaign materials out-of-pocket.

FUSE — including candidates Victoria Morton, Mariam Nouser and Cassandra Myers — was the winning slate, with candidates earning over 1,200 votes. Yet, they’re unhappy that BoG election policies can potentially shut out low-income candidates.

“This is ridiculous in my opinion,” said Nouser, a third-year mechanical engineering student.

Nouser is vice-president student life at the Ryerson Engineering Student Society (RESS), vice-president external affairs at the Ryerson Muslim Students’ Association and vice-president administration at the Ryerson Mechanical Engineering Course Union.

Morton — the RSU Board of Directors’ (BoD) senate director — said FUSE spent up to $700 on campaign materials including posters, handouts and $150 in chocolate mini eggs, switching from Cadbury to no-name brand to cut costs.

“Among the student leadership role, [the election’s] kind of referred to the Wild West,” Morton said. “A lot of students don’t even consider running because they know they can’t afford it.”

Morton is also a Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vice-president education candidate for the Impact slate and vice-president corporate relations at the Ryerson Communication and Design Society (RCDS).

“We aren’t expecting any reimbursement,” Morton said. “We were able to get the money, we just wish we didn’t have to spend money to work for free to make the school better.”

Morton said slates “didn’t make sense” in the BoG election, that candidates should come from different backgrounds. However, running as a slate helped pool money and voters.

BoG Election Policies and Procedures state funds for posters can be made available to candidates at the discretion of the Election Procedures Committee. There is also no cap on what students can spend on their campaign. Morton says the poster funding service wasn’t promoted prior to the election or during the all-candidates meeting.

Outside of BoG elections, several student unions and societies enforce reimbursement and caps.

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), whose election continues until March 9, has a reimbursement process and raised caps for campaign spending this year.

“There’s no submission of the budget, but they buy their materials, submit their receipts and then they get reimbursed that way,” said RSU President Andrea Bartlett.

RSU campaign expenses cannot exceed $500 for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, otherwise risking eligibility for reimbursement and fines.

Student societies like the RCDS  have varying reimbursement processes and caps on campaign spending. Nouser said she will propose a motion to introduce reimbursements to RESS at its Annual General Meeting in two weeks.

“Even when [students] campaign, it should never be something that’s going to be a hindrance to the person,” said RCDS President Casey Yuen. “[Reimbursement] ensures anyone from any background or financial background is able to participate.”

BoG student member candidate Angelo Robb spent $50 on posters, saying those who can’t afford posters “won’t necessarily have as good as a chance as those who can.”

However, not all 2016 BoG election candidates think administration should reimburse student spending.

“I think it’s better we had to pay out-of-pocket,” said BoG election candidate Banin Hassan, a third-year electrical engineering student. She said she doesn’t support RSU candidates campaigning with lawn signs, photo booths and pancakes. “That’s kind of going to waste in my opinion.”

Hassan said lack of reimbursements motivates students to efficiently spend money and time on effective strategies like candidate-voter interaction. BoG student member candidate Jamie Galloway, for example, said she spent no money on her own campaign.

Morton said there’s too much paper wasted in the BoG election, but moving campaigns towards a paperless, online strategy could decrease student awareness.

“It terms of reality, [posters]  help in elections,” Morton said.

Although they didn’t promote the issue as a campaign point, Nouser and Morton said making the election accessible to student candidates is something their slate plans to advocate for.

“Two of us currently struggle with finances,” Nouser said. “It’s imperative we push for [reimbursement or caps]. We didn’t want to push out loud.”

The winning candidates start their BoG term Sept. 1.

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