The co-operative tone set after a meeting between the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and a start-up protest group has already gone off key.
Anti-tuition student collective Reignite Ryerson targeted the RSU’s vice-president education Cormac McGee in a Facebook post Tuesday, accusing him of sabotaging last year’s Freeze the Fees campaign organized by the previous RSU executive.
McGee was part of a counter student movement called Rise for Ryerson, which actively opposed the Freeze the Fees campaign.
In the post, McGee’s current responsibility for tuition campaigns and access to education advocacy is described as ironic given his earlier association with Rise for Ryerson. A series of questions suggest the counter movement was “shady and combative,” and possibly funded by the university administration.
“Where did Rise for Ryerson get its members from?” It reads. “Where did they get the money to print nice T-shirts and get loudspeakers? Who was actively funding a campaign for raising tuition fees? Did they use student money? Or did they use university money? We still don’t know.”
Screenshots from McGee’s Facebook are included, one with him squatting in front of a fallen Freeze the Fees protest sign with the caption, “It’s time to get some myths and facts straight. Today, we protest a protest.”
As reported in Wednesday’s paper, McGee and Reignite member Vajdaan Tanveer met on Friday. Both told The Ryersonian they were open to working together.
“I’m really a solutions-focused guy and (Tanveer) understood that and is also in that same frame of mind,” McGee told The Ryersonian before the Facebook post was published. “We said, ‘Look we both have our philosophical ideas but we are going to come together to try to find a middle ground.’”
But now he has seen the latest post, McGee says he feels personally attacked and taken off guard.
“(Vajdaan and I) agreed to be straight-up with each other,” McGee said. “I wish this had come up. We never talked about this at all.
“I want to work this out and I don’t understand why this is just a smear campaign against me now.”
Tanveer says he only spoke with McGee on his own behalf and couldn’t speak for the group.
“When I was talking to Cormac, that was a personal conversation that I had with him and I was speaking to him personally … I wasn’t speaking on behalf of the group at that point and I specifically made that clear to him,” Tanveer said.
He insisted the post was not meant to be “adversarial,” but an attempt to add context to the reasons the Freeze the Fees campaign had failed.
“It’s also important for us to let the campus community know that Cormac was part of Rise for Ryerson and that is troubling,” said Tanveer. “So those were comments not made to personally attack Cormac’s character, but it was just a matter of fact that we were highlighting again for the campus community.”
Tanveer says that Reignite wants McGee to prove he has actively worked on the tuition issue.
“Even though he claims there is work being done, what work?” Tanveer said.
He said his group’s precondition for cooperation was an explicit statement by the RSU opposing tuition increases.
McGee said he planned to attend Reignite’s Nov. 12 meeting.
“I’m not going to be there to silence people,” McGee said. “I’m going to be there to figure out how to actually make this possible.
He said he was not in favour of rising tuition, but would be against a tuition freeze if it worsened education quality at Ryerson.
With files from Latifa Abdin
This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Nov. 18, 2015.