The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) rejected a men’s issues group for official status because it was afraid the group would become a campus haven for misogyny and radical anti-feminism.
Kevin Arriola, a fourth-year politics and governance student, applied earlier this term for funding and official recognition for a group called Ryerson’s Men’s Issues Awareness Society.
The RSU told Arriola last week his application was rejected, and on Friday a meeting was held to discuss the reasons why.
Arriola’s group did not have enough guarantees in its constitution to prevent it from turning into a violent men’s rights activism (MRA) group, according to a document handed out at the meeting.
“The (RSU student group committee) asked whether the concern of having this group turn into a violent MRA would be on the radar, and the group had no preventive measures or proactive approaches to ensure that this did not happen with future executives or members,” the document said.
The safety of women and feminist groups on campus was raised over the group’s association with the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), a controversial men’s rights group. The organization has been met with backlash on campus, and required security presence at a few events last year.
Any association with CAFE would be in direct conflict with RSU policies, which oppose “the exclusion, exploitation, and marginalization of women … sexism and discrimination against women … and violence against women in all its forms,” the document said.
Arriola told The Ryersonian his words and intention were misrepresented by the RSU’s response.
“They’ve misrepresented a lot of what I was saying to the point where they’re just saying things that I never said to begin with,” Arriola said.
During a meeting on Oct. 26, Arriola told the committee he had received some advice from CAFE on how to start the group, but insisted they were independent of one another.
“(Our group is) going to be by Ryerson students for Ryerson students,” Arriola said.
In his presentation, he said the group would focus on higher rates of suicide, homelessness and workplace injuries among men. He also cited a high number of boys failing in schools.
During the meeting, RSU members questioned Arriola for almost an hour, repeatedly raising concerns that the group would become a platform for radical men’s rights ideologies — the same accusation a previous men’s issues group faced before it was rejected in 2013.
“We are operating under an egalitarian framework, which is just the general view that everyone should have equal rights,” Arriola told the committee, made up of RSU members and executives.
He said the group had been able to recruit almost an equal number of women and was open to everyone.
“The only thing we don’t allow is hate,” he said.
RSU president Andrea Bartlett told The Ryersonian the group still has an opportunity to form.
“We advised the group to consult with the equity services that exist at the RSU, to find out … a way to make a men’s issues and awareness group on campus so it doesn’t affect the safety of any of our students and doesn’t infringe on any of the policies,” Bartlett said.
But Arriola believes that the RSU would not change its mind even if the group made amendments to its constitution.
“We’re still discussing whether we should even appeal the decision,” Arriola said. “We don’t feel like the RSU is really going to change their mind. We think that the decision may have been made prior to even discussing the group with us.”
Under RSU procedures, rejected student groups can appeal student group committee decisions within 10 days, with the union’s executive making a final judgment.
Arriola said the group will continue to operate on campus without RSU group status.
“We are definitely going to start operating regardless,” Arriola said. “We already have our first meeting planned in November.
“The thing is that the RSU thinks that student voices need the approval of their committee, but we don’t.”
This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Nov. 4, 2015.