No end in sight of RSU-CESAR feud

RSU bought this sign to mimic a popular Toronto Pan Am Games sign in Nathan Phillips Square. (Katie Raskina/Ryersonian Staff)

RSU bought this sign to mimic a popular Toronto Pan Am Games sign in Nathan Phillips Square. (Katie Raskina/Ryersonian Staff)

The $5,000 RSU sign that once sat in front of the Student Campus Centre (SCC) is now hidden away in an alley behind the building.

It’s only one of several casualties of the “bad blood” between Ryerson’s two student unions — the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU)  and the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR).

Both CESAR and the general manager of the SCC objected to the sign, according to CESAR president Denise Hammond. She said the sign doesn’t properly reflect the role of the SCC as a space shared by both unions.

“It sends an incorrect message about the student centre,” she told The Ryersonian. “CESAR asking for removal was because of our concern that the RSU fails to recognize CESAR as a students’ union and our role and importance in the student centre.

“It is not the RSU’s building and the placement of their sign (that) sends the wrong message.”

The sign was part of the RSU’s $25,000 rebranding effort, launched by members of the RSU executive.

RSU president Andrea Bartlett told The Ryersonian that her staff got positive feedback after the sign went up. She took issue with CESAR’s claim that it sends a confusing message.

“I think it’s confusing to students that we have a building that’s called the Student Campus Centre,” she said. “We’re just trying to make students aware that this is a place you can come for student-related issues, where the student union is.”

Bartlett said that the RSU has met with staff from the university’s facilities department to get approval to move the sign to another place on campus. Until then, it will remain on a small paved lot accessible through a narrow alley just west of the SCC’s Gould Street entrance.

“If I just put the sign wherever, then I run the risk of having facilities come and take the sign,” she said.

“I asked whether it would be OK to put it in Lake Devo or somewhere else on campus that was visible. They were happy to facilitate the idea of moving it into different places.”

Conflict over the sign is only one episode of strained relations between the two unions.

Staffing and training delays in the members’ services office and equity service centre are the fallout from a dispute over hiring.

A contract outlining staffing at the SCC gives CESAR a say in all hiring, as reported by The Eyeopener.

According to Bartlett, this is the first year CESAR has involved itself in the hiring process, while CESAR maintains the agreement has always governed its shared use of the SCC with the RSU.

Bartlett told The Ryersonian the RSU was having trouble working with its own staff as a result of the disagreement and accused CESAR of amending the contract right before her executive took office.

Bartlett said she sent Hammond an email stating the RSU would not hold up its end of the agreement and that CESAR is not permitted to participate in the annual training session for part-time workers in the members services office and equity service centre.

The tension between the unions has also affected 100 Ryerson students whose health and dental opt-out cheques are delayed because CESAR refuses to forward their information to the RSU until a new privacy agreement can be established between the two unions.

Every year, some undergraduate students accidentally fill out their opt-out information on CESAR’s website. In the past, CESAR has simply forwarded the information to the RSU so the students’ opt-out cheques can be processed.

CESAR wants assurances the students’ information would be secure, since the RSU has changed insurance brokers. Until this year, the two unions dealt with the same company.

Hammond told The Eyeopener their concern was the privacy of the students’ information and that they would pass it on once a new data share agreement was signed.

Bartlett said signing a new agreement with CESAR is unnecessary and that the RSU had consulted with both the registrar and legal offices who told them a new agreement wasn’t necessary.

“I would like to think that it’s not CESAR’s personal differences with myself and the leadership of my team, but that’s the way that it’s looking,” Bartlett told The Ryersonian.

The main fault line between the unions may be ideological, with CESAR much closer to the left-leaning Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the politics of the previous Unite Ryerson RSU executive. Bartlett’s new RSU executive has questioned the usefulness of CFS affiliation.

“The sign is probably the least of our worries with the issues that we’re unfortunately seeing with CESAR right now,” Bartlett said. “It is what it is. That’s what happens when people don’t see eye to eye with each other.”

CESAR did not respond to a request for comment on the feud.

With files from Latifa Abdin

This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Nov. 4, 2015.

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