By Emerald Bensadoun
Voting for the annual Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) elections begins Feb. 13 and goes until Feb. 15. The Eyeopener asked the candidates running for executive positions about their plans, policies and politics.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
The vice-president equity is responsible for policies and initiatives related to equity, diversity and inclusion. The candidates for this position are the incumbent Camryn Harlick, running with Elevate, and Karolina Surowiec running with Unify. The Rhino Party is not running a candidate in this position, but says it will support whichever candidate wins and looks forward to working closely with equity centres.
The Eye: What are the biggest equity-based issues at Ryerson right now?
Harlick: I don’t think any form of discrimination can be put on a scale of “biggest issue.” However, I think this campus has huge issues of transphobia, anti-Blackness, racism and ableism both in and out of the classroom. I want to implement mandatory equity trainings with faculty, staff and security so folks are trained in equity so they can call out microaggressions and aren’t perpetuating it themselves.
Surowiec: The biggest issue is students not feeling represented on campus such as Indigenous students and as of recently trans people, but the biggest equity based issue is that students don’t know about the equity service centre or what equity even is.
The Eye: What’s your experience working with equity-based campaigns or organizations?
Surowiec: I’m a supporter of equity based initiatives and events. I like to come out to events but I haven’t had the chance to work on any equity-based campaigns, which is why I’m running—so I can do so. I’m aiming to create opportunities for students to feel included in the equity service centres. Students have come to me and expressed concern and grief over how the equity service centres has excluded them, and I’m running to change that.
Harlick: When I was 16, I started my own organization called G.R.I.P.P (Gender Representation in People and Public), which funded two trans individuals and led me to speak at over seven high schools and elementary schools about trans inclusion. Since starting at Ryerson I have worked for RyePRIDE, a centre for queer and trans support. I have volunteered for all six equity service centres and worked on various campaigns with the centres including the End the Ban campaign, dedicated to ending the blood ban against queer folks, Our Love Is, a campaign focused on intersectional love, consent, and many more. I ran the first ever LGBTQ+ Tri-Mentoring group. This year in my term so far I implemented all-gender housing in residence life, transgender fitness programming, and brought over $100,000 worth of new funding to the Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line (SASSL) and the Good Food Centre (GFC). I also ran a successful campaign on colonization. The campaign had successes—the implementation of Indigenous language courses, annual Pow Wows and adopting orange shirt day as a campus wide initiative.
I’ve also won awards for my activism including the Annual Karin Zook Pride Award for LGBTQ Activism from the Childrens Aid Society of Canada, the Annual Pride Award for Trans Activism from the Children’s Aid Society of Canada and the Post Secondary Activism award from LGBTQ+ Youth Line.
The Eye: How do you plan to further truth and reconciliation with Ryerson’s Indigenous communities and how do you plan to keep admin accountable to their TRC recommendations?
Harlick: This is an issue im super passionate about. As an Indigenous student on this campus I’ve seen firsthand the struggles and barriers Indigenous students have to face. I plan to partner with the Indigenous Students’ Association and Indigenous Students Rising to advocate for more Indigenous student spaces on campus, lobby with the university for mandatory Indigenous content in courses, and hold the university accountable on their TRC recommendations by meeting regularly with admin and Indigenous leaders on campus to follow up. I also want to advocate for more racialized and Indigenous counsellors to start working on intergenerational trauma, for instance residential school legacy impacts. This year I have held administration accountable to these recommendations and would love to continue to do that work for a second term.
Surowiec: Creating open dialogue between two parties, the Ryerson Indigenous communities and Ryerson administration. It’s your role as vice-president equity to enable dialogue and ensure all students voices are heard and I would love for [these communities] to be able to voice their concerns, and facilitate conversation.
The Eye: What are some specific plans or programs you’d like to implement during your term?
Harlick: I would love to lobby the university for mandatory equity training for professors, staff and security so we see less microaggressions and discrimination in the classroom. I want to partner with the Muslim Students’ Association to implement emergency hijab kits, similarly to the program the Dalhousie Students’ Union started and had great success with. I will lobby the university for more racialized and Indigenous counsellors. I will advocate for mandatory Indigenous course content, and I hope to continue the work I’ve already started this year, like expand the Sexual Violence Survivor Support line into a full fledged equity service centre with support staff and safer sex supplies, and continue to advocate for trans only fitness programming.
Surowiec: The “Chill Zone” which would give an accessible space for students a way to unwind on campus, helping with any stress, anxiety, or tension that may generally be associated with school and mental health. As a financial math student I’m constantly stressed so I’d like all Ryerson students to have a place to destress. [Unify’s] subsidized menu initiative can help students who are on a budget. Ryerson is known as a commuter school and we as students pay tons of money for transportation so why pay more for food. Expand Ryerson Chaplin Association to support faith groups. Me and my team are very diverse in culture and in religion and it’s something important to all of us and many students on campus. This would help those students out, and ensure the outreach of the 6 equity services centres to all Ryerson students. Many students don’t even know we have these services and that is a problem. Every student could benefit from at least one service.