This year’s RSU election saw broken bylaws and allegation of procedural missteps
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) 2021 election wrapped up on March 19, with Siddhanth Satish elected as president and his slate, Adapt, sweeping all seats on the executive team. However, the election disputes have not stopped there.
This year’s election process has been riddled with allegations of broken bylaws and procedural missteps that have led to confusion and concerns regarding the validity of this year’s election results. The Ryersonian has created a comprehensive timeline of all the events that have transpired during this election season to catch you up to speed.
DRO & CRO appointed
Feb. 5 to Feb. 19
Jenna Rose was offered the position of chief returning officer (CRO) for this year’s elections on Feb. 5. Rafay Malik, the deputy returning officer (DRO), was offered their position on Feb.19. The RSU did not provide either of them with training but they did offer them online resources. Both the CRO and DRO are paid positions that are employed by the RSU and were selected in part by the current RSU president, Ali Yousaf.
The function of the CRO is to organize and oversee the election. The DRO assists the CRO in organizing, promoting the election and ensuring election rules and guidelines outlined in the bylaws and policies are followed.
March 8 to March 11
During the nomination period, potential candidates had to submit their nomination forms and gather the allotted amount of signatures from full-time undergraduate students.
For executive committee positions, potential candidates had to gather 50 signatures. International student representative and faculty director positions had to gather 30 signatures. The signatures were due at 5 p.m. on March 11.
All Candidates Meeting
The all candidates meeting serves as an information session for the candidates on RSU election bylaws, important dates, campaigning, funding, voting, and was not open to the public. During the meeting candidates were instructed to keep their cameras on at all times.
Election appeals committee meeting
The RSU election appeals committee (EAC) met to review the cases of four disqualified candidates on Sunday, March 14.
The EAC are appointed by the CRO and their function is to hear out disqualified candidates and ratify the CRO.
However Sam Rowan, a former member of the EAC, said that this was the first time the EAC met and that members of the committee received no prior training on how to conduct the appeals process.
Rowan also stated that there were five student members on the EAC when bylaw 6.37 states there should only be four student members. Rowan resigned from the committee after the appeals meeting as he did not feel comfortable continuing in his positions due to lack of transparency and disorganization within the EAC.
Following the meeting, all four candidates were disqualified from running in the election for various reasons.
The campaign period for Adapt and For the Students opened and at this point, candidates were allowed to make their promotional content public on social media and actively campaign.
RSU sponsored candidates debate
At the RSU candidates debate, students running for the five executive positions were allotted time to speak about their platforms and field questions from students, the DRO and the CRO.
The Ryersonian live tweeted the debate. The full list of candidates who participated can be found here.
March 17 to 19
Online voting started on March 17 at 8 a.m. and ended on March 19 at 6 p.m.. During this time, teams Adapt and For the Students both broke bylaws by messaging course related group chats and individual students, asking them to vote for their slates over various social media platforms.
The Ryersonian revealed these details at later dates in separate articles.
Ryersonian breaks the news of an unfair disqualification
Maria Guardado, one of the disqualified candidates, told the Ryersonian that she felt her appeal process was conducted unfairly. She attributed this to false evidence and claims that her disability was not taken into consideration during her appeal.
Guardado was initially disqualified because she turned her camera off during the all candidates meeting and she had created a promotional Instagram account that counted as pre-campaigning.
During her appeal, however, new evidence was brought forth by the DRO, of Facebook messages between Guardado and an individual named Kamron Kam, where Guardado tells Kam to vote for her in the upcoming election.
Guradado did not have a chance to review or prepare a rebuttal to the new evidence prior to the meeting.
Voting ended at 6 p.m and election results were released shortly after, announcing Adapt had won all executive positions. Satish, the presidential candidate of Adapt, beat David Jardine, the presidential candidate of the For the Students slate, by a vote of 1,017 to 653.
Eyeopener breaks the news about team Adapt’s election misconduct
The Eyeopener broke a story of alleged misconduct by the Adapt slate. According to The Eyeopener, Adapt candidates messaged three of their editors, with whom they had no prior connection with and asked them to vote for the entire slate and provide proof of confirmation of voting with a screenshot.
After The Eyeopener article was released, an anonymous Facebook account under the name Sylvia Skyline posted screenshots alleging the For the Students slate sent messages in a class group chat encouraging people to vote.
David Jardine responded to the allegations almost immediately, citing their team decided to send the messages only after seeing Priyanshi Mistry, and Bilqis Meer, Adapt slate Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) candidates, had sent messages, instead of filing a report against them to the CRO.
Jardine claimed that in the screenshots that were posted, earlier messages sent by Mistry and Meer were unsent leaving only the message from the For the Students executive candidate, Ashan Mahendran.
Further allegations against the Adapt slate surfaced on Reddit, from multiple users, all alleging that members of the Adapt slate used their personal information, which had been provided to the RSU for other purposes, to ask for votes.
The Eyeopener confirmed these allegations in a later story on March 26.
CRO responds to the allegations
The CRO told the Ryersonian in an email that section 6.69 of the RSU election bylaws, the section which reads “Candidates are explicitly forbidden from campaigning via any form of electronic mail,” does not include personal messages such as texts or direct messaging on social media. The exception being within group chats related to courses.
Rose clarified that if the messaging could be deemed as “inappropriate,unsolicited,unnecessary or annoying,” by the recipient, this could result in demerit points.
Her assessment of the rules does not clarify whether or not the allegations against the Adapt slate are unfounded as they sent unsolicited messages to individual students, however it does condemn the allegations against For the Students and the Adapt slate as they both sent messages to course related group chats.
Rose also confirmed that they were never ratified by the EAC which, according to bylaw 6.40, is mandatory. “As the CRO, I’m responsible for assembling the election appeals committee, but at the same time, the election appeals committee is supposed to ratify the CRO. There is no logistically sensible way of doing this.”
In her term, Rose says she plans to have this ‘outdated’ bylaw and others changed.
Adapt VP breached student privacy through RSU equity service centres
Multiple students have accused Vaishali Vinayak, current vice-president equity and incoming vice-president operations, of contacting them through their private information they gave to RSU equity groups and urging them to vote for the Adapt slate in the RSU election according to The Eyeopener.
Students contact information was allegedly breached from the RSU’s Food Box program, which supports students facing food insecurity,and requires users to provide their full names, phone numbers, and address for delivery, and RSU’s Headspace app membership registration form.
Vinayak denied the allegation and in an email to The Eyeopener and said the allegation that stemmed from the Ryerson subreddit were inflammatory, adding that she knew those who she messaged on a “personal level.”
The Ryersonian encourages all students who have any concerns of the conduct or behaviour by either of the student parties to contact the chief returning officer at: firstname.lastname@example.org