By Xavier Eeswaran
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.
Vice-president student life and events
The vice-president student life & events is responsible for planning events on campus such as the Week of Welcome, as well as running campaigns relating to student life on campus. The candidates for this position are Edmund Sofo with Unify, Sophie Lafleur with Elevate, and Parul Verma with the Rhino Party.
The Eye: What’s your major criticism of how the vice-president student life did things this year? How would you do things differently?
Verma: In my understanding, the Sundown festival was not feasible this year but the current RSU executives went ahead with a concert which had well-renowned performers. Later, I was told that it happened without the [vice-president student life’s] approval and I believe they should have come forward with it. I realize the president signs off the decisions but it was her job to stop this especially since the RSU is still recovering from the financial fiasco that was 6 Fest.
Instead of trying to host concerts that drain out the money, I would focus on more university and student-centric events that help the Ryerson students whilst simultaneously not drilling a hole into the union’s pocket. I believe that being a commuter school, it is hard enough already to stem community spirit in students and organizing concerts that only cater to the need of a section of the student population doesn’t help.
Lafleur: To be honest, I don’t have any major criticisms whatsoever.
I think we have different platform points. First off when it comes to student groups and course unions where there’s mandatory training that these folks have to attend to and so I’m really looking into seeing how we can maybe turn it into an e-training module or doing things online just because I think the turnout isn’t always that great. I really want to work I’m on that. I believe we have the same points when it comes to approachability, being accountable and clear communication in terms of student groups and course unions person.
I really want to work on expanding the food variety on campus. I think that the cafeteria could do a better job in terms of accommodating students with dietary restrictions or dietary accommodations. I live and work on residence right now and the biggest concern I get from students is from student who are vegetarian and vegan having to eat the same meal every day because there’s not too much to work with food wise.
Sofo: The one gripe I have is the lack of communication with the two staff members and rest of the executive team. As an informed student it was my understanding the lack of communication in the RSU executive office negatively contributed to the actions of the former VP Student Life and Events. The students were subsequently left unrepresented in matters of student life and experience. Just as anyone willing to innovate, one must understand their past to effect change in their future. Team UNIFY executives want to establish a transparent and healthy office which effectively eliminates the problems which plagued the former VP student life. By enacting this change we as students are able to move forward in bringing our student experience to new levels.
The Eye: Should the RSU organize events that aim to attract non-Ryerson students, like 6 Fest? Do you plan on organizing an event?
Lafleur: The RSU is for the students, run by the students, so I really think that when it comes to events we should really be planning events based on what our students want to attend. Will there be a concert? Yes, there will be as there is every year, but we have to think about making these concerts affordable and holding the RSU accountable.
Verma: As I mentioned before, I am not in favour of them with the RSU’s ever-increasing deficit. I do not plan on organizing one either.
Sofo: I think The RSU should aim to create experiences which bring everyone together. It is
important for a student union to be the beacon for student engagement and therefore a
staple event like a concert is subsequently a great opportunity. A grand event never
fails to energizes the participants as well as the greater community of Toronto which we
are part of. I remember being a high school student hearing the amazing stories of the
great artists that came to Ryerson. I want to bring this energy back into the campus
once again. Ryerson is one of if not the largest commuter schools in Canada. By
providing an immersive experience whereby students can come together in fellowship
with each other under the unifying power of music, we will make memories which our
fellow students will cherish long after they graduate and flourish.
The Eye: What are some specific plans or programs you’d like to implement during your term?
Verma: I plan on treating all events that are organized like projects and implementing a project management approach by setting targets and achieving them and giving out goals. This helps to realize the feasibility of the plans being undertaken and allows [the organizer] to reach the goals faster.
Lafleur: Something that I’ve been talking to a lot of folks about is doing more professionally-related events. Sure we put on a lot of fun of events, but we all are here in the end to get that degree, to get that job. I really wanna work on collaborations with course unions and societies on having more industry nights. So not just networking, but skill nights too for students. The students don’t have to be specifically in the faculty that is hosting as well.
I really want to see what I can do when it comes to career and professional development of students. I want to see the RSU collab together with all our resources and see what we can do for the students.
Sofo: As Vice President Student Life and Events, I want to keep student experience top of mind. I want to enhance all three aspects of the portfolio which include student life, school events and student groups by adding a corporate relations folder to the portfolio.
Firstly, I would like to be work with the VP operations to increase campus group funding. By increasing the amount allotted, it will allow student groups to properly fund their creativity. I would like to have a Ryerson wide awards night and gala in order to acknowledge and praise the accomplishments of Ryerson students. A new initiative I want to propose is a multi- faith committee which is comprised of one representative of each faith group on campus in order to orchestrate collaborative events to bring people together. Sitting with students from different faiths talking about their similarities and providing different perspectives planted the seed for this committee. A governing body with its main goal of collaboration would bring something unique to the Ryerson student body that it has never seen before. These are some plans I would like to implement in my term as VP Student Life and events.
The Eye: The last vice-president student life resigned citing professional and personal differences. How does that factor into your decision to run for the office?
Lafleur: I held a director position this year on the board so I really got to get a taste of what happens in the meetings and the biggest thing I noticed is how the effect of not seeing eye-to-eye on things and having a split slate has on things. I really believe in trust and support my team one hundred per cent but let’s say things become as divided as last year, I really hope that we can help all the executives come together on solving issues because we are all here for the students.
Verma: It certainly makes you wary of the toxic environment that some students have created, but every year is a fresh start with hopefully new students coming into the office [who] strive to make it better. It’s saddening how RSU executives, who are supposed to work together to help better the Ryerson community, waste their time targeting each other on online platforms like Facebook instead.
Sofo: The decision of the last VP does nothing but fuel the flames of my passion to serve the students. The role of student life and events is one where patience, understanding and compromise is key to provide the students with what they need. No person is an island, working together towards a common goal is key in group work and as a student leader, understanding this concept is paramount for success. Team Unify has been working in conjunction since day one meshing different ideologies, philosophies and actions to create a vision of uplifting student experience on campus. As your candidates, the students can expect this team to work efficiently and effectively to push the experience to new heights.