Voting your money away

Illustration by Dasha Zolota, journalism ’15.

[I]t’s that mundane time of year again: Elections are fast approaching for positions on the 2014 Ryerson Student’s Union (RSU). All across campus, posters have been hung up with care, encouraging students to place their votes on Feb. 11, 12 and 13.

It sounds like a typical election process, but the fact that only one party (Unite Ryerson, formerly known as Students United) is running may very well result in yet another win by default. Every year, this creates controversy, with independent candidates who run outside the Student’s United ending up disqualified—virtually eliminating any competition.

Roughly 38,000 undergrad students attend Ryerson, and yet only two or three candidates are running for each of the 16 positions. Some positions, like the graduate executive chairperson and deputy chair student life, have only one candidate running—who will likely win by default.

In my opinion, the role of student government at Ryerson is, at best, lacklustre and weak.

The RSU claims to fight for three main changes: low student prices, campus life and student’s rights. The elected members have a good platform, and are determined for change. They can talk the talk, but have proven time and time again they can’t walk the walk.

One of the main campaigns the RSU lobbies for is lower tuition—every broke student’s dream. But the RSU hasn’t exactly succeeded in executing this: the Union’s long-winded tuition rallies most likely did not leave an impression on provincial leaders, with university tuition in Ontario at a record high in 2013. Instead, the RSU touted its small gains: their money-saving student Metropasses and discount tickets to Raptors’ games, celebration for only the penny-pinchers on campus.

And of the few things the RSU has done that students truly appreciates, problems are rampant. For one, students love the ability to opt out of the health and dental plan; but this year, the $300 cheques were released later than usual, causing mass frustration among students who don’t have time to stand in a line for an hour.

Sure, the RSU has put on multiple pub nights which have resulted in good turnouts, and the free water bottles, pins and coupons are a plus, but are these duties what a government should be spending their energy and funding on? After all, around $70 from every student’s tuition goes to the RSU every year.

In hindsight, the RSU appears to be more of an event planning business rather than a form of governance.

But the RSU isn’t entirely to blame. It doesn’t help that the students who are voting care so little. Students want to follow the norm and don’t want to deal with any additional stress on top of their already overbearing university life. It may sound brutal, but the ratio of undergrad students to those students who fill the 16 spots speaks for itself. The RSU’s goals are highly unacheivable with such little students on board. Not to bust the “one person can make a difference” cliche, but in this environment it just doesn’t stand true. Either more students need to show interest in campaigning with the RSU, or the Union will be driven to the ground.

Time and money can be better spent elsewhere.

In the end, the RSU did get one thing right: sex sells. As a part of their “Consent is Sexy” campaign, the Union distributed free condoms across campus, packaged with their slogan across the box. Perhaps they’re on to something. After all, if elections were half as sexy as the RSU’s consent campaign–mostly pleasure with a side of politics–maybe student politics would be time and money much better spent.