Five faculty directors resigned from the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) board of directors (BoD) Monday, citing a lack of change and misalignment of values.
The directors who resigned are Sandra Bahoua, Anthony Esguerra, Nav Marwah and Michelle Park of the faculty of business management, along with Michael Foppiano of the faculty of engineering and architecture.
They posted a statement on their personal Facebook accounts, explaining they could “no longer fulfil (their) commitments with the current executives in power.”
“Over the course of the year, we quickly realized that inflated egos, office politics, administrative incompetence, and fiscal irresponsibility would prove to be obstacles in our efforts for pushing our mandate,” the statement said.
RSU bylaws state the president and the executive committee recommend students to fill vacant BoD seats. RSU president Ullah said he would be seeking approval of the board to approach current election candidates running for the director positions. They would be asked to see whether they would like to fill the missing seats on the current BoD.
Ullah calls the directors’ statement — which brought up alleged issues of communication, transparency and 6 Fest refunds at the union — “unfortunate.”
“I empathize where they are coming from,” Ullah says. However, he said most resigning directors never approached him about the union’s dysfunction.
“It is a different thing between saying that RSU is messed up with the refunds and to decide that the RSU is wrong as a whole. So it was unfortunate to see people jump to conclusions without bringing it up.”
The directors’ announcement came after a Feb. 3 BoD meeting where a motion to impeach Harman Singh — the RSU’s vice-president student life and events — was not passed.
The motion cited several concerns over financial matters, including approximately $80,000 that went through personal bank accounts — one of which was Singh’s own — to facilitate e-transfers for 6 Fest refunds, which are still incomplete months later. The total refund cost is approximately $30,000 over the original estimate.
Marwah, one of the resigned directors, said the BoD was misled about the progress of 6 Fest refunds and overall budget.
“We were constantly told, ‘Yes it’s looking good,’” Marwah said, adding executives were repeatedly asked for reports on the event.
“They knew at that time, from what we know, that they were over-budget. They chose not to tell us. And my personal opinion is by chance that they’re not releasing the report until after elections are done. And that’s a coincidence?”
Singh is running for RSU president on the Spark slate in this year’s RSU election. Ullah is also on Spark, campaigning to represent the faculty of engineering and architectural science on the board. Neal Muthreja, the RSU’s current vice-president operations, is running against Singh for president on Ohana slate.
“I thought I had a lot more of the board’s trust,” Singh said after the Feb. 3 meeting, adding that he thinks politics influenced the board members’ decisions.
“It shows the true colours of people.”
“The question is not, ‘Why did Harman take this money?’ The question is, ‘Who gave Harman that money?’” Ullah said. Ullah and Muthreja both signed off on the approximate $30,000 transaction to Singh on Dec. 16.
After delays for reports on 6 Fest financial information, Foppiano said he retrieved financial records from October, showing the RSU’s 6 Fest budget was in a $650,000 deficit. That was a different number from what Singh claimed during a meeting the same month, where Foppiano recalls Singh said the 6 Fest budget had been balanced.“It’s either gross incompetence or a lie,” says Foppiano.
Singh refuted these claims at the RSU BoD meeting on Feb. 3. “From what I can recall I never once said that the budget is balanced. When asked about the budget I said it looked good. It looked OK. It might be off by a bit,” said Singh. Ullah also said the directors have always had access to the information, and “it’s their responsibility to reach out or not.”
However, several directors have brought up issues regarding transparency at all BoD meetings, not just about the 6 Fest refunds. Park said board members and some executives “weren’t in the loop or aware of the information really throughout the entire year,” making communication about issues within the union difficult.
Although Ullah agreed there’s a “lack of infrastructure” for communication within the RSU, he said allegations that the union hasn’t been transparent are misleading. “People are saying we’re not transparent, that we’re not involved.
They also forget where we started two years ago,” said Ullah, recalling that the union did not aptly communicate with the press or publish financial budgets, audited statements and financial documents before his Transform slate swept the 2015-2016 RSU election.
Ullah said he and staff will meet and get “professional help” for the union.
Esguerra said their resignations will bring a critical lens to “what is wrong with the (RSU’s) operations right now.”
Take a look at the Facebook posts from each former BoD member below.
More to come.