Student union wants its authority restored and its funds released while the case is being decided by the court
A judge will decide next week whether the RSU should continue to represent students while its lawsuit against Ryerson is before the courts.
The RSU appeared in Superior Court of Justice Friday, asking for an injunction that would require the university to honour its 1986 operating agreement, release the union’s withheld student fees and recognize the RSU as the official student union serving full-time students. Around 40 people attended the hearing, most with connections to the RSU.
The RSU is seeking the injunction as an interim measure while it waits for the court to hear its lawsuit against the university. The union sued Ryerson University for $2.7 million in damages over the termination of its operating agreement on Jan. 24.
Lawyers for the RSU argued before Justice Markus Koehnen that under the 1986 operating agreement, the university is not able to unilaterally terminate the agreement, and even if the court rules that the university could, Ryerson should have provided notice. The union’s third argument was that the termination has resulted in irreparable damage to students and the RSU.
The RSU’s lead lawyer, Alexi Wood, said that if the court doesn’t grant the injunction and release the withheld funds it could result in the RSU ceasing to exist and could compromise its ability to continue fighting its case in court.
Ryerson’s lawyer, Geoffrey Hall, argued that an injunction would put the Ryerson-facilitated process for electing a new student government on hold. Results for the March 4 and 5 election for a new student government structure were released just over an hour before the injunction hearing began. Elections for executive positions in the two new governance structures are set for April.
Hall said that this would prevent students from being able to elect a new government before exam season in April and would reverse the progress that has been made so far.
Hall argued that Ryerson was justified in terminating the 1986 agreement under common law, citing concerns over transparency and turmoil within the current RSU administration. He said that stalled negotiations, failure of the RSU to present a full financial audit and the impeachment of multiple executives were factors that harmed the university’s faith in the RSU.
Wood countered that the impeachment of executives showed that the RSU’s governance structures were working and the union was holding those in power accountable.
Hall argued that Ryerson terminating the operating agreement did not harm Ryerson students because the university is still providing funding for key services and a new student government is already “being put in place by Ryerson students themselves.”
“The issue is not if there will be a student government, it’s who runs it,” he said. “While [the] RSU doesn’t like it, the fact they might not be the one administering the student government doesn’t mean there won’t be a student government, doesn’t mean there won’t be services.”
Wood said that the process for creating a new government structure was inherently damaging as it was “imposed on students,” and is “inherently undemocratic.”