Adapt slate candidates messaged students asking for votes, breaking RSU election bylaws

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By Charlize Alcaraz, Alexandra Holyk and Heidi Lee

In last week’s Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) election that saw the Adapt slate sweep executive positions for the 2021-22 school year, candidates running with the winning slate sent electronic messages asking students to vote for their entire team. This breaks the RSU elections procedure code implemented in the election, which prohibits sending unsolicited electronic messages for campaigning.

Three editors from The Eyeopener masthead received messages from Adapt candidates with whom they had no prior relationship, urging them to vote. The Eye has also verified evidence of elected and non-elected directors and an executive member messaging other students.

According to this year’s nomination package, “Candidates are explicitly forbidden from campaigning via any form of electronic mail,” under Section 6.69 of the RSU election bylaws

The elections procedure code from last year’s election defined electronic mail as “any form of written electronics communication and thus includes direct messages sent via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.” It also states that candidates are forbidden from sending unsolicited electronic messages to prospective voters. 

“The spirit of this article is to ensure that mass, unwanted communications are not received by those who may not want to receive this information,” the code reads.

While the nomination package didn’t clearly define electronic mail, this year’s elections procedure code, obtained by The Eye, outlined the interpretation of the bylaw. It states how each platform—such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter—should not be utilized during the campaign process.

Appendix A also mentions that “sending out unsolicited emails or electronic messages of any type or through any medium” is considered a non-permissible campaign practice.

Section 6.35 of the election bylaws states that, if a candidate fails to comply with Section 6 of the document, this “may result in disqualification at the discretion of the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) following a consultation with the Election Appeals Committee (EAC).” 

WhatsApp messages sent by an Adapt candidate to an Eyeopener masthead member
A WhatsApp message from Adapt FCAD candidate Priyanshi Mistry asking an Eye masthead member to vote Adapt and provide confirmation on March 18, 2021. (PHOTO: Dhriti Gupta)

Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) director candidates Bilqis Meer and Essha Khan, who both lost in the election, sent out messages on Instagram to multiple prospective voters, urging them to vote for the entire Adapt slate. Adapt’s third FCAD candidate Priyanshi Mistry, who also lost in the election, sent similar messages to students via WhatsApp.

“I just wanted to ask if you could take a minute to vote for Team Adapt in the RSU elections,” Meer’s Instagram direct message reads. “If you can confirm after you voted that would be awesome,” she continued. It is not yet clear why Meer was looking for confirmation of student votes.

Instagram direct messages from Meer asking an Eye masthead member to vote for Adapt and provide confirmation on March 19, 2021. (PHOTO: Dhriti Gupta)

Incumbent Ted Rogers School of Management directors Hilla Yaniv and Husnian Khalid also messaged a student on Instagram asking for confirmation of their vote. 

The Eye also verified that incoming vice-president education Tarmanjit Kaur messaged a student on Instagram, with whom she did not have a prior relationship, asking how they were doing. After the student wrote that they had already voted in the elections, Kaur did not proceed with the conversation. 

Individual Eye editors have reported the messages to the CRO and have not yet received a response at time of publication. 

Members from Adapt did not respond to request for comment in time for publication. 

With files from Dhriti Gupta, Rochelle Raveendran, Jes Mason, Norah Kim and Emma Moore

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