Transform RU won the Ryerson Students’ Union election last year on a platform that included financial transparency and communication. Now that a new election is upon us, how did the 2015-16 RSU live up to its promises?
For one, the union introduced mental health bursaries for students who require support in accessing mental health services. They also introduced online opting out of health and dental insurance, lobbied groups to eradicate unpaid internships and introduced online voting in RSU elections.
RSU president Andrea Bartlett followed through on her promise to work with the City of Toronto to develop a safety plan for Ryerson. She said that she met with Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, university officials and campus security to put forward her ideas for Ryerson-wide security policies and procedures.
“You know it’s difficult to implement change; it’s not going to happen overnight. Looking back on things, I don’t regret anything and I’m really proud of the work that my board members and my executives have done,” Bartlett said.
The 2015-16 RSU executives have also seen plenty of controversy, including the laying off of former executive communication and outreach director Gilary Massa while she was on maternity leave.
This is also a slate that shortened the amount of time election candidates can canvass and lobby for their platforms – allegedly due to student complaints about the last election’s two-week campaign period.
Failure to consult students on the RSU’s continued relationship with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) may be the biggest disappointment of this mandate.
Early in her 2015 campaign, Bartlett stated that, if elected, she would work on creating a more mutually beneficial relationship between the RSU and CFS. She noted that if the RSU was to leave the CFS – as some students have called for – consultations would have to take place with members of the student body.
She points at the benefits of being in a member union in the CFS, like occasional financial intervention in the case of a student group that footed a large legal bill.
However, there is no evidence that suggests the RSU’s relationship with the CFS is more beneficial than in previous years. Students still have little understanding of where their annual fees – funded by their tuitions – are going. Bartlett said the RSU doled out close to $500,000 in CFS fees this year.
But she said she had more important things to worry about than leaving the CFS.
“There were a lot of inefficiencies, a high degree of turnover in the office itself, so I focus on cleaning up internally before I’m even thinking about anything like defederating,” Bartlett said.