U of T students’ union says RSU lacks equity

The University of Toronto's Students' Union building on the St. George campus in Toronto (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The University of Toronto’s Students’ Union building on the St. George campus in Toronto (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

Backlash from the Ryerson Students’ Union’s (RSU) firing of two senior staffers, Gilary Massa and Dina Skivrsky, is resurfacing.

A statement issued by the University of Toronto’s Students’ Union (UTSU) on Jan. 14 condemns the RSU’s firings of Massa, a new mother on parental leave and Skivrsky, her temporary replacement.

The RSU executives justified the layoffs as reconstruction of the union but UTSU president Ben Coleman thinks they could have been more equitable with the entire situation. UTSU’s statement said its willingness to engage with the RSU has been “severely undermined.”

“We hope that if the RSU demonstrates an institutional commitment to the principles of equity and good allyship, our two unions will be able to resume working together fully for the benefit of all students,” reads the statement.

Coleman said they’re open to supporting RSU initiatives like the current petition, “Stop Paying to Work,” which is fighting against unpaid internships. However, he said events like concerts are examples of what the UTSU would not support until the RSU demonstrates that the union is committed to equity.

“It’s not a complete shunning of these people,” said Coleman, “It’s more something you would do to someone you respect who you think has made poor decisions.”

Andrea Bartlett, RSU president, said she was shocked to read the statement because she thought the two unions worked well together. “There’s nothing in the plan for this semester in terms of collaborations (between RSU and UTSU) so it won’t impact Ryerson Students,” she said.

Coleman said that the point of the criticism is to support the RSU to be “more focused (on) creating an organization that has diverse staff.”

He also criticized the RSU’s reaction to the backlash they received after news of the firings spread across Twitter and Facebook. The confrontation between Bartlett and former vice-president equity, Pascale Diverlus, was recorded and posted online. Security was called on Diverlus for what Bartlett claimed to be “harassment” and intruding of her “safe space.”

Coleman said “safe space” has a meaning that originated from the LGBTQ community, so Bartlett’s use is “disrespectful to the history of the word.”

As well, the RSU’s claim that students were simply “pulling the race card,” according to Coleman, was just the RSU “using (its) privilege to (its) advantage.”

Early last month, the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) announced a boycott of the RSU’s printing service in protest against the RSU. A few weeks later, the Feminist Collective made a statement by withdrawing its application to seek club status under the RSU.  

This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Feb. 3, 2016.

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