By Thea Gribilas
‘Forward’ slate candidates in this year’s Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) elections have been electronically messaging students urging them to register to vote and to vote for Forward, breaking RSU bylaws.
Five students have provided screenshots of the interactions to The Eyeopener.
The Eyeopener previously reported that last year’s ‘Adapt’ slate, which several Forward candidates were a part of, messaged students urging them to vote for Adapt.
This year’s nomination package states that “candidates are explicitly forbidden from campaigning via any form of electronic mail,” under RSU bylaw section 6.69.
According to the nomination package, which was obtained by The Eye, “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.”
Section 6.35 of the RSU election bylaws state that “failure on the part of a candidate to comply with any paragraph contained within Article Six (6) of this document and/or the Elections Procedure Code may result in disqualification at the discretion of the Chief Returning Officer following a consultation with the Election Appeals Committee.”
In response, chief returning officer Jenna Rose said she is aware of the issue and “depending on the severity of the situation we will be issuing demerit points to the relevant candidates.”
Forward didn’t respond to The Eye’s request for comment in time for publication.
Gurneet Singh Nanhra, a fourth-year aerospace engineering student, said he was contacted by vice-president education candidate, Tarman Kaur about voting for the Forward slate.
Nanhra said he had no previous contact with Kaur outside of her requesting to follow him on Instagram one week ago.
In the messages, Kaur said “when you get a moment can you plz go check this page out and register if possible,” referring to Forward’s campaign website.
Ryerson students do not need to register to vote in RSU elections. The registration link on Forward’s website states by registering on their website, students are giving consent to be contacted by Forward candidates during voting days.
In the messages, Nanhra asked if it was against the rules to message students for votes in RSU elections.
In response, Kaur said “to be honest, we are allowed to message people who are following us,” adding that “it is against the rules to direct message (DM) random people.”
In an email to The Eye, Nanhra said “I have never met Tarman [Kaur] before and just a week ago she followed me on Instagram…I felt a bit uncomfortable as to how they are trying to find a loophole by following random people to prove they know them and then DMing them.”
Sophie Hafner, a second-year Ryerson Television Arts student, received a message from Faculty of Communication and Design candidate Vincent Lecompte.
According to Hafner, she doesn’t know Lecompte.
In the message Lecompte said “I’m running with my team called FORWARD and we’d love to get your vote.”
Lecompte also urged Hafner to register to vote on the Forward website and said to put his initials, VL, in the referral section.
Another student, who asked not to be named in the story, was contacted by Faculty of Community Services candidate Gabriela L’orfano.
In the message L’orfano said to the student that “to prepare [for the election] you can get registered right now using the link below,” adding “under ‘referred’ you can put my initials which are GL.”
Nanhra continued to receive messages on Feb. 2, the first day of voting, from Chehada Asaf, one of Forward’s director candidates for the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Sciences.
Nanhra sent The Eye screenshots of the messages where Asaf asks him to exclusively vote for Forward candidates, saying, “Just vote for every name that has FORWARD beside it.”
The screenshots indicate that prior to Feb. 2, Nanhra and Asaf had no prior contact, at least on WhatsApp, with the top of the messaging chain showing the standard notice the company provides users when they first connect.
This is now the fifth example The Eye has reported of Forward candidates sending messages to people they had no contact with prior to the election.
With files from Edward Djan