The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) failed to impeach vice-president education, Siddhanth Satish, and vice-president equity, Vaishali Vinayak, at its board of directors (BoD) meeting Wednesday evening.
Faculty of Arts director Alexandra Nash put forward both impeachment motions and was the only vote in favor of impeachment in both cases. Many directors abstained from voting entirely.
Both impeachment motions focused on allegations that Satish and Vinayak used “their position and privileged access to students’ personal information to contact potential voters and potentially build a voter list.”
Vinayak’s motion also cited allegations that Vinayak “took actions that resulted in students feeling pressured and targeted due to their reliance on equity centre programs.”
Vinayak and Satish, as well as RSU president Ali Yousaf, returned fire with their own accusations about the impeachment proceedings, claiming the allegations were racially and politically motivated.
“This is just a last ditch effort by people that have lost to us in a democratic matter,” Vinayak said.
Alexandra Nash put forward both notices of impeachment on March 31. Nash campaigned on the “For the Students” slate in the recent RSU elections, which was directly competing with Satish and Vinayak’s “Adapt” slate.
Nash repeatedly reminded the board that the impeachment proceedings “have no bearing whatsoever on the election results.” Even if the impeachments had been successful, Vinayak and Satish would still have retained their newly elected positions. Vinayak will soon become vice-president operations while Satish will become president.
Allegations of Racism
In her statement during the impeachment proceedings, Vinayak pointed out that Wednesday’s impeachment proceedings marked the third year in a row that a BIPOC member of the RSU had been targeted with impeachment. Two years ago, executives were impeached for allegations of improper credit card use; last year, executives were impeached for not working the minimum amount of hours.
While Nash believes that her motions were not racially motivated, she says that she cannot entirely be sure.
“As a white person, it’s not my judgment to decide whether or not I’m being racist,” Nash said in an interview Thursday afternoon.
Following the RSU meeting, several students took to Twitter to condemn Vinayak’s accusations of racism. Duaa Rizvi, a third year journalism student, aimed a tweet at Vinayak saying that “the reason anti-south asian racism isn’t taken seriously is because it’s used to dismiss this disgusting behaviour like this.”
the reason anti-south asian racism isn’t taken seriously is because it’s used to dismiss this disgusting behaviour like this.— lil journ journ. (@rizvistan) April 8, 2021
“I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Vaishali has faced racism at the RSU and at Ryerson. Most people have, including myself, so I sympathize with her on that,” Rizvi told the Ryersonian, “but this was not racism.”
‘Lack of evidence’
An oversight committee composed of RSU directors — all of whom served as Satish and Vinayak’s “Rise” running mates in the 2020 election — investigated the allegations leveled against both executives. The oversight committee found no wrongdoing by Vinayak or Satish, citing a lack of “legitimate evidence” to support the allegations.
The oversight committee did not attempt to contact the student journalists that brought forward the allegations or their sources, only emailing Nash to provide an argument in favor of impeachment on Tuesday evening. Nash repeatedly clarified during the meeting that she was not making the allegations herself and that not contacting the individuals making the allegations was “a failure on the part of the oversight committee.”
Yousaf spent much of the meeting demanding Nash provide specific evidence to support the impeachment motions she had put forward. Nash consistently deferred back to the findings of the Ryersonian and Eyeopener, which documented significant evidence to support the allegations.
Because Satish and Vinayak were not successfully impeached, they will retain their current positions for the remainder of their term.
The impeachment proceedings were not the only major motions put forward during the April 7 board meeting. Prior to the impeachment motions, the board of directors ratified the Elections Appeals Committee (EAC).
The EAC is a group of volunteer students that help oversee the election process. The EAC came under scrutiny recently after RSU presidential candidate Maria Guardado alleged unfair expulsion from the election.
The late ratification defies RSU precedence and by-laws — ratification should have been conducted prior to the election’s start. Instead, the board of directors ratified the EAC shortly before ratifying the official RSU election results.
The RSU’s 2021 election is now officially over.