By Heidi Lee, Alexandra Holyk and Charlize Alcaraz
Campaigning for the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) elections began on Monday and runs until Friday, with voting opening tomorrow. Both the campaign and voting period will end on Friday.
According to the slates’ websites, there are approximately 43 candidates participating in the elections, including 10 students running for executive positions and 33 students running as faculty and student representatives on the Board of Directors (BoD). There are two main slates—or groups of candidates with a common platform—running in this year’s elections: “For the Students” and “Adapt.”
The Eyeopener spoke to the candidates from Adapt who are running for executive positions to learn more about their campaigns and plans, should they be elected.
Siddhanth Satish, who is in his final year of hospitality and tourism management, is running for president. He said Adapt‘s vision is to focus on students’ needs during “these unprecedented times.”
“We try to speak in a way to understand what students feel [about] the current situation, what their needs could be and how we could address them,” he said.
Adapt’s platform focuses on three aspects: providing grants and bursaries to students, establishing a COVID-19 plan for a safe return to campus and supporting international students at Ryerson.
Satish said Adapt would collaborate with the university in creating a vaccination centre on campus. He also said Adapt will work to provide students with Personal Protective Equipment vending machines, so students could “take the necessary precautions [that are] available and affordable for them on campus.”
He added that he would like to increase financial transparency within the RSU to be more accountable to the membership.
“We did complete the audit this year for the past [two] years, so that’s beneficial,” he said. “I can always go back, look at the previous audits, [see] how things have been spent and make sure that I don’t make the same mistakes as the previous executives or previous teams have done.”
As for international students, Satish said Adapt would help them with the Post Graduate Working Permit application, subsidize the cost of English proficiency exams and educate international students on how they can obtain Canadian citizenship.
President: Siddhanth Satish
Satish said he aims to “work completely for the students and make sure [he does] what’s best for the students.”
He is currently the vice-president education on the 2020-21 RSU executive team.
With one year of experience on the RSU’s executive team, as well as previous volunteer experience, Satish said he believes he is qualified because he understands how the RSU operates.
“I have been volunteering and working with the RSU for over three years now,” he said. “I have seen how things work in the RSU and have seen what sort of changes can [be made to address] previous mistakes.”
“I have the right mindset and the right idea to make those changes with the initiatives that my team and myself promised.”
If elected, Satish said his first step as president would be assisting other executive members in carrying out planned initiatives.
When asked what he would like to change in terms of the RSU’s current operations, Satish said COVID-19 has created a lot of challenges for this year’s RSU executive team and hopes he doesn’t have to deal with the pandemic in the following year.
“I would try to start off fresh like how the RSU would [usually] function, try to operate all the equity centres with the required staff based on how much the centre demands.”
He said although all equity centres are open, they’re operating on fewer hours with fewer staff due to a lack of student engagement and work.
“If things reopen, then I will try to get more people to function faster and make the process quicker.”
VP Operations: Vaishali Vinayak
Vinayak, a fourth-year global management studies student, said she is looking forward to being second-in-command if elected as the vice-president operations for the RSU.
She currently holds the position of vice-president equity on the 2020-21 RSU executive team.
In her time with the RSU over the last year, Vinayak worked on the RSU Food Box and took over the Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support (C3SVS) after the centre’s staff were terminated. Additionally, she also implemented a full reimbursement process for contraceptives and pregnancy tests.
She said she also increased the Equity Service Centres’ social media presence and plans to continue doing so on a large scale with the entire organization to get students engaged with their representative union.
“I think the first thing that needs to be changed [about the RSU’s operations] is the way we reach out to folks,” Vinayak said, adding that she hopes to develop a website or application that is easily accessible to students and provides alerts surrounding RSU initiatives and announcements.
Vinayak also mentioned that she plans on using newsletters and various social media platforms including TikTok to engage with the union’s membership.
When it comes to planning the budget, especially when taking into account whether or not students will be online or on campus, Vinayak said the main concern is providing students with essentials rather than events.
This year, the RSU offered a COVID-19 relief grant, food relief grant and a grant for students who faced housing insecurity after a fire at the Neill-Wycik Co-operative College. The union is currently working on a mental health grant for students as well.
If elected, Vinayak said the Adapt slate will implement another “expanded” COVID-19 grant and prioritize the creation of 100 part-time student jobs. She also said she wants to work with students in helping them navigate OSAP applications and offer a travel bursary for commuter students once they are back on campus.
“I think I’m a good choice [for vice-president operations] because I have experience, I have skills in policy-making [and] communication skills,” Vinayak said.
VP Equity: Maleha Yasmin
As a fourth-year sociology student, Yasmin looks forward to leading equity initiatives on campus such as addressing period poverty and gender-based violence.
Her plans include implementing free menstrual products for students and establishing a text line for the Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support.
“I do understand during this time…gender-based violence, domestic and sexual violence has seen an increase,” she said. “Survivors do need more avenues of support and I feel like that would definitely…just help survivors.”
Yasmin is also the current coordinator for Ryerson’s Centre for Women and Trans People (CWTP) and former vice-president of operations and events for the Bangladesh Students’ Association. She said her experiences in community involvement “made equity very close [to] her heart.”
“I feel like because of these experiences, I understand how to create a diverse, positive, inclusive space for marginalized students,” she said.
It is a crucial responsibility of a vice-president equity to address and act on students’ concerns. As the “Standing Strong” task force begins its two-month-long community consultations to address the fate of the Ryerson statue on Tuesday, Yasmin said that if she is elected, “the most important thing for [her] to do is reach out to the Indigenous community in Ryerson and see what they need.”
Vice-president education candidate Tarmanjeet Kaur and vice-president student life and events candidate Akibul Hoque were not available to comment.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated Satish is the current vice-president student life and events. Satish is the vice-president education on the 2020-21 executive team. The Eyeopener regrets this error.