Student union executives from York and Ryerson are campaigning for U of T Voice in the ongoing UTSU spring elections.
Melissa Palermo, president of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), Julian Jasniewski, vice-president campus life of the York Federation of Students’ (YFS), and Rajean Hoilett, vice-president equity of the RSU, have all been spotted campaigning over the past two days.
Palermo has been encouraging U of T students to vote for U of T Voice at the Bahen Centre and Sidney Smith. In an email, she explained that as a friend of presidential candidate Yolen Bollo-Kamara and someone who supports her campaign, she chose to take “personal vacation time” to support the campaign.
“We have worked together on campaigns to stop homophobia and transphobia on campus, and on affordable transit in the city and I support Yolen’s vision and the vision of her team,” said Palermo.
Palermo asked that a photo showing her campaigning for Voice in Sidney Smith not be posted for personal safety reasons.
In an in-person interview in the lobby of Sidney Smith, Jasniewski described himself as a friend of incumbent VP internal candidate Cameron Wathey. Multiple reporters have seen Jasniewski at Sidney Smith throughout much of the voting period on Tuesday and Wednesday — encouraging U of T students to support U of T Voice.
When approached by a reporter who identified herself as working for The Varsity, Hoilett originally identified himself as a U of T student, repeating the claim that he went to U of T multiple times and refusing to answer any more questions in person.
Neither Hoilett nor Jasniewski have responded to follow-up emails as of press time.
“These are execs that are receiving salaries from their respective constituents and its not fair to students of Ryerson or York that their appointed executives are being paid to help an election here” said Vip Vigneswaran, campaign manger with Team Unite.
Vigneswaran argued it is inequitable to have non U of T students, who are experienced campaigners, support one slate and questioned whether students would even be aware they were being convinced to vote by someone who does not attend this university: “The average U of T student could have an interaction with these people and be none the wiser and be swayed to vote one way or another.”
U of T Voice campaign organizer Danielle Sandhu — who served as UTSU president from 2011–2012 — said she was proud of the many people who have come out to support U of T Voice. Sandhu acknowledge that Palermo, Jasniewski, and Hoilett had been “helping out” with the campaign.
For many years, The Varsity has received reports that executives from Ryerson and York are campaigning for the slate that includes incumbents. When contacted for comment, the executives often deny involvement.
This year reporters were dedicated to investigate if York or Ryerson executives were on campus campaigning, and to interview and photograph them if they were.
With files from Iris Robin, Emma Compeau, Trevor Koroll & Theodore Yan