February has finally rolled around which means we’re right in the midst of winter, assignments…and the RSU elections. Whether you’re deeply passionate about the politics within the school or you can’t stand to see another election poster in Kerr Hall, the elections are an asset to many student’s experience at Ryerson which is why it’s so important to be aware of what they can do for the school community. After compiling the most commonly asked questions from students, I asked VP Education of RSU Victoria Morton to explain the importance of the elections and the exact purpose they serve.
What is the importance of elections? Why should students vote?
Because the competency and values of your student union can make a difference in your life here. Do you want a student union that prioritizes off-campus advocacy work that may result in changes for all students, such as OSAP reform or tuition fee regulations for international students? Or do you want a student union that focuses on the unique challenges Ryerson students face such as changing our academic policies to get rid of 8 am exams, or building mental health supports? Or, do you want your student union to focus on events and building student group capabilities? None of these are right or wrong, and depending what student union you elect you could genuinely see positive work done in an area that matters to you.
In light of the recent controversies within the RSU, Victoria stresses the importance of voting for individuals rather than slates because although they may be running in a slate, each individual still has different values and beliefs:
Sometimes a slate comes together over a shared, defining set of values (such as strong opinions/plans for hot topic issues), and in those cases a slate can be necessary. From what I’ve seen this year I would encourage everyone to vote for individuals, not slates.
What exactly is it that the executive members will be in charge of within the school?
The RSU and Ryerson University are separate, autonomous organizations. The RSU does not have direct control over Ryerson’s operations but rather holds a lot of lobbying power in pushing for student interests. The university has a lot of stakeholders and contributing factors outside of student needs that determine how they’re run (faculty needs, government regulations, budget constraints, etc). As students are the primary stakeholder at the university the RSU exists to amplify and organize the student voice in the aim of making the outcome of all these contributing factors be in the best interest of students. Therefore, yes each Executive oversees their own portfolio, however they do not have direct authority of Ryerson University in the slightest. The Executives have more authority in regards to Student Life and Student Interests.
What is the process like running for RSU elections?
Difficult. Especially if you’re more introverted like me. Even if you are the most energetic, extroverted person out there, these times get tense. The people who are willing to pause their entire lives to put their face on a wall and be voted on by their peers care a whole lot about what they’re doing and that inevitably brings tension. That said, I’m grateful for every election I’ve been in. The learning and growing I’ve done in every election position I’ve held has well outweighed the election process.
Like all student societies and groups, students voted via a referendum to divert a set amount of tuition funds to go directly into the RSU. Victoria stresses the importance of students voting because they are ultimately electing who decides where their own money goes:
Like any level of government, it’s not an opt-in, opt-out process but rather a stable organization that should be membership directed and elected every year. Executives and Board Members oversee the entire annual budget, as they are elected by the student body. The RSU relies on student votes to make sure the organization is going in the right direction. Your vote controls your money so please vote.
How has voter turnout been in the past few years?
Better in the past two years as there has been more than one serious slate running (prior to that it had been only one team for years and years) as well as the implementation of online voting. Voter turnout tends to directly reflect how many candidates there are running.
Voting is on and will end on Wednesday; you can vote online by logging into your RAMSS account! What are your thoughts on the election? Let us know at @RUStudentLife.