By Prapti Bamaniya and Edward Djan
Some student leaders say they’re hoping newly elected Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) officials will do a better job representing students than their predecessors.
In his statement, Wells called on students to “unite to hold the RSU accountable and elect officials who are putting the interests of our community ahead of their own.”
In an interview with The Eye following the election, Wells said the diversity of incoming representatives gives him hope for the future of the RSU.
“It was incredible the amount of independents that we had win in this election. I think that it might actually lead to some positive changes within the RSU,” he said.
Wells shared another statement on Feb. 4, the night election results were released, to congratulate independent presidential candidate Marina Gerges on her win, calling it “a victory” and proof that “each vote does count.”
Wells told The Eye he believes Gerges being elected as an independent could prevent issues like the reduction of student services or the lack of student advocacy, but he cautions more needs to be done to avoid previous mistakes.
“It’s been a battle between slates for years and years so I’m really excited that hopefully an independent RSU president-elect will come in and give a new vision, a new light to the RSU,” Wells said. “There’s got to be systemic change within the RSU organization itself. Implementation of new election policies, new bylaws, just more safeguards to keep the union accountable.”
“Hopefully an independent RSU president-elect will come in and give a new vision”
Gerges beat incumbent president and ‘Forward’ candidate Siddhanth Satish as well as ‘Revolution’ candidate Ahmed Ali by a wide margin, with Gerges receiving more votes than her two other competitors combined.
Wells said he felt compelled to write his initial statement after years of inaction.
According to Wells, the RSU failed its duty to advocate for students during the pandemic, especially when it came to accommodating students’ preferred mode of delivery for classes.
“There’s been no accountability, no transparency and all the other societies including the TRSS have been having to work overtime to compensate for what the student union is failing for our students,” Wells said.
The Faculty of Community Services Society (FCSS) said they felt the same way in a statement first released on Feb. 4. It said some of this year’s candidates “are not whom we want to represent us, and are not doing their due diligence to serve the X University community,” due to bylaw infractions, lack of funding to CopyRITE and the amount of time the RSU took to support the student society in their campaign to allow them to collect levies.
The FCSS archived their statement following the election to continue their neutral stance on student politics.
Daniel Barkin, executive director of marketing communications at FCSS, told The Eye that while he is “really happy” after learning of Gerges’ victory, he believes the RSU needed an independent president sooner.
He said despite slate name changes year-to-year, the RSU still had “the same corruption” and people running it.
Like Wells, Barkin said he believes the appointment of independent candidates is just a start and that the RSU as an institution requires change.
“Clearly there are problems and as we’ve seen in the past—the RSU breaking their own bylaws quite often. The RSU needs to reform and make more meaningful mechanisms in their policy to further steer away future teams from breaking their own policy and bylaws,” said Barkin.
“The RSU needs to reform and make more meaningful mechanisms in their policy”
Zaima Aurony, student representative for the Faculty of Arts on Ryerson’s senate, also published a statement to students about her “severe disappointment” with the “unfair and disturbing activities happening with the RSU election.”
In her statement, Aurony said she sees the same people from the same group of friends run and win in elections with different campaign names.
She included a Google sheet, created by another Faculty of Arts student, that tracked the composition of the Board of Directors in previous years and their associations with Ram Ganesh.
Ganesh was the 2018-19 RSU president when the union spent at least $250,000 on personal expenses using credit cards under his name, as previously reported by The Eye. She also noted how often party names change, but candidates within the parties stay the same.
Aurony said after she realized how much influence she had as senator and seeing other statements on social media vocalizing opinions on the elections she decided to release the open statement.
“Usually it’s very hush hush…a lot of the times people are scared to do anything or they don’t publicize it.”
Aurony said she hopes to see a fair election process in the future that emphasizes transparency towards the student body. “That’s the bare minimum,” she said. “I really want to enforce that people know what’s going on.”