|Mental health, gender-neutral spaces and accessibility issues dominated budget discussions between administration and the student union today.
Janice Winton, vice president administration and finance, announced that students can expect gender-neutral change rooms over the summer months.
Heather Lane Vetere, vice-provost students, said that she is looking into potentially hiring more counsellors to address the volume of students that seek the mental health services, particularly during peak periods such as exam weeks.
She also said that all of the school’s counsellors have taken training that can assist under-represented groups that experience discrimination and other forms of oppression. All the counsellors have participated in a workshop that teaches participants about First Nations culture and history, said Lane Vetere. Other training focuses on treating issues faced specifically by Muslim women.
Increasing the number of gender-neutral spaces and improving accessibility on campus was the other main priority the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) addressed.
Winton said in addition to the creation of gender-neutral change rooms, the school is collaborating with Ryerson’s Trans Collective to create appropriate signage to be used for approximately 40 washrooms that have been designated as gender-neutral. The signage, which was approved on Monday, will inform students of the location of single-stall washrooms and encourage inclusion for transgender students accessing the washrooms.
Winton said that an audit is currently being conducted by the university to understand any accessibility challenges associated with using washrooms, elevators and building entrances. The audit will begin in March, with the results available in September, she said.
The discussion informed students about what the administration is doing in response to the proposals tabled by the RSU last month.
The proposals were made based on the results of surveys conducted by the RSU in January to find out what issues students felt should be addressed in the next budget.
“There are different ways that students can interact with the budget process but it’s not always the most accessible for students,” said Cormac McGee, RSU with vice-president education and moderator of the event.
McGee added that students are often too busy to attend town halls, or unable to understand the budget process.
At the first budget town hall in February, 14 people attended and only one asked a question.
The RSU’s recommendations aim to help shape the direction of consultations made between the school’s administration and various stakeholders in drafting a budget for next year.
Mohamed Lachemi, Ryerson’s interim president, and Christopher Evans, interim provost and vice president academic, also participated in the discussion.
Lachemi underlined that most of the school’s budget is set by government policies and assured the event’s attendees that the No. 1 priority of the government — and by extension the school — is to provide better education.
Vajdaan Tanveer, third-year politics and governance student and organizer of Reignite Ryerson, a group that is known for it’s advocacy efforts for a zero-fee tuition model, said that the lack of publicity around the budget town hall meetings and the way in which they were presented discouraged students from attending. He said that at previous town hall meetings, students shared personal concerns only to be brushed off by administration.
“The university needs to really re-evaluate how they interact with students because it is becoming more and more inaccessible,” Tanveer said. “Prioritizing students would mean that you would give us real answers for our problems. You would tell us what is being done, what could be done and if nothing can be done, then why?”
Consultations over next year’s budget will continue until the end of March, when a budget will be created. In April the budget will be handed over to the Board of Governors for their discussion and approval.