By Heidi Lee
Some independent candidates say they’re running in this year’s Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) election with goals to restructure the union.
A total of 10 independent candidates are running in the 2022-23 RSU election, compared to zero independent candidates last year.
Marina Gerges, a third-year biomedical engineering student, said she decided to run for president because she “wants to be in the action” and doesn’t want someone she doesn’t know to represent her as a student.
“It’s my first time doing anything like this and I made the decision very quickly,” she said. “I was constantly on the Ryerson Reddit and as I dived a bit deeper, I found so many problems with the RSU.”
“[Just] because we haven’t had a qualified team doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to have one.”
“I don’t think there is anything we can’t show students. We are not a secret society, we are running a students’ union”
If elected, Gerges promises transparency and to give student media access to all meetings and non-confidential documents.
“If we are doing a good job, I don’t think there is anything we can’t show students,” said Gerges. “We are not a secret society, we are running a students’ union.”
First-year politics and governance student Ozi Molokwu said she thought it would be “really cool” to introduce a few fresh faces to the RSU.
Molokwu, who is running for vice-president student life and events, said she has a good amount of experience in event organization and student engagement.
“I was chosen as first-year representative for the African Students Association,” she said. “I’ve got good energy, good skills and I just bring a whole different perspective to the table.”
With classes being offered online for the past two years, Molokwu said she has “a feeling that students feel very disconnected from the university because of COVID-19.”
“From the perspective of a first-year student, it’s been extremely difficult to formulate friendships or business connections, and keep it for a long period of time.” If elected, Molokwu said she wants to ensure students feel as if “Ryerson is their home.”
Molokwu added that she is not entirely independent as she is running with her friend Olivia Okoro, an international student representative candidate.
Okora is a first-year electrical engineering student. In Okoro’s candidate bio, she stated she hopes to bring together the international student community, making everyone feel welcome and loved.
“She also wants to be a listening ear for their problems and help make a change in the community,” the bio reads. “She understands as an international student how challenging it is to fit in, so she is here to be the rock for the international students at Ryerson University.”
Second-year RTA media student Gus Cousins said that although running independently as a Creative School director in such short notice is not easy, he is lucky to have his campaign members to support him.
Cousins, who has heritage from Carry The Kettle Nakoda Nation in Saskatchewan, said his campaign consists of six people, all friends in his program.
“The reason I decided to run realistically was looking at years past with the RSU, and it has been…let’s not sugarcoat it, it hasn’t been very good at all,” he said.
“Let’s just have someone run as an independent, who isn’t part of a large group, who doesn’t have any motives other than they want to change for the better”
Cousins said he doesn’t agree with the RSU’s past scandals, so he brought the idea of running in the RSU election to his friends who were all on board.
“Let’s just have someone run as an independent, who isn’t part of a large group, who doesn’t have any motives other than they want to change for the better,” he said.
Cousins said most stories he’s heard from students about the RSU have to do with them not fulfilling their promises or fulfilling them poorly.
“There are certain events the RSU wants to hold, this is when they’re going to happen. And then when the date comes, they’re severely, severely underfunded, not advertised— similar to what this current RSU election is.”
“Individual candidates like myself, are really, really pushing them to stick to their obligations and their promises,” said Cousins, adding that if elected, he would hold the 2022-23 team accountable so they would stick to their promise.
Biomedical sciences student Shirin Kalavi, who is running for the faculty of science position, said she was originally going to be a candidate for vice-president education but changed her mind after realizing science students need an advocate.
“I think we need someone to represent science students in the RSU meetings because I heard that over the past years, lots of board members who never spoke up in the meetings.”
She added that science students have a heavy course load, yet many have little to no resources or are unaware about available support.
“As a responsible person, I want to be in that meetings, I want to talk about the problems that we have [as science students].”
Kalavi said she thinks many science students don’t know who their faculty director is.
“Your department director is your first point of contact, but if you don’t know who they are, or don’t know their email, there is never an opportunity to contact them,” said Kalavi. “We need some workshops to guide students [about] what to do if you’re having a problem.”
Here are the 10 independent candidates running at the 2022-23 RSU elections:
President: Marina Gerges
VP student life and events: Ozi Molokwu
Creative School director: Gus Cousins
Faculty of Arts director: Aya Bakir
Faculty of Community Services director: Alisha Kweon
Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Sciences director: Sucess Daka
Faculty of Science director: Angie Awadallah
Faculty of Science director: Shiri Kalavi
Ted Rogers School of Management director: Niraj Vaya
International students representative: Olivia Okoro