By: Keith Capstick
RU Connected is this year’s full-slate opposition in the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) election. Connected is comprised of student leaders, lead by presidential candidate Awo Abokor — who’s been a vocal member of the Ryerson community over the past few years and was also a key organizer in the Ryerson Feminist Collective.
Martin Fox will be the candidate for vice president education. He has been a vocal critic of this year’s executive and the way they approach tuition-based campaigning. Fox put forward a motion at last semester’s semi-annual general meeting asking for the executives to take a public stance for, or against, a tuition freeze. The motion was eventually ruled “out of order” by the meeting’s chair after a heated debate.
RU Connected is running on a platform of increased student space on campus by optimizing existing space, improved transparency with students through what Abokor calls “accountability cafés” and a revival of the fight to remove and freeze tuition fees.
“Most people don’t know what the RSU does, how it works, how it functions and that’s a problem especially as a student where your money goes to how the RSU operates. It’s important to know what the people you vote in are doing,” Abokor said.
The RU Connected slate features a number of the platform points that RSU government reinforced prior to last year’s Transform Ryerson victory. The slate has created a “freeze and end tuition” dialogue that the union fought for for about a decade prior to Transform. RU Connected also features many of the faces that opposed the move to Transform (and supported last year’s “Unite” slate and their campaigns at semi-annual general meetings) like Abokor and Fox.
The slate has been questioned about several highly publicized issues that plagued this year’s RSU government, like the layoff of Gilary Massa during a controversial “restructuring process,” taking an official stance on tuition fees and the continually wonky relationship between the executive and the equity service centres.
Abokor has consistently expressed disagreement with the restructuring if it means someone on maternity leave loosing their job.
“When it comes to restructuring for the sake of saving money, or making sure our finances are right, I think it’s important to prioritize students’ needs. I don’t really know if their needs are firing women on maternity leave,” Abokor said. “We’re growing as a school and as the RSU, but it needs to be dealt with in a way that is transparent.”
She also said that if elected she would consider the reinstatement of Massa, but only with council from the student membership.
When discussing the need for the RSU to take a stance on rising tuition fees, Fox stressed transparency and the importance of working with the momentum students gained with the Ontario government’s recent budget announcement. Fox says the new grant system is a step in the right direction, but if tuition keeps increasing the progress made will continue to diminish. Part of his work, he says, will be to take a firm stance on lowering tuition.
“If the government introduces a grant that covers someone’s tuition, but then they raise the price of the tuition while keeping the size of the grant the same then it’s sort of defeating its own purpose,” Fox said. “I think the government will definitely be responsive and they will understand that the time to make education more accessible has arrived. Tuition increases should be as close to zero as possible, and ideally, zero.”
Susanne Nyaga, RU Connected’s vice president equity candidate, stressed the importance of making sure that the equity service centres need not compromise the services and resources they provide to students for any reason, be it financial or resource-based.
“I think they need adequate funding in order to meet the target audience so the students that need these safe spaces are getting them. That it’s not being cut down and they’re not sitting there fighting about having two awesome events but only having the funding for one,” Nyaga said. “[We] all [need to be] making decisions together rather than a top down approach.”
RU Connected as an entire slate has also declared that they want to work with students and administration to improve mental health services on campus. They said they’re looking to hire two additional counsellors within the RSU. They also stressed a need to create safe spaces where students can discuss mental health issues.
Voting will take place on March 7, 8 and 9 at various public locations on campus and online in your my.ryerson.ca account.