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Notices of removal were served due to concerns over the lack of hours worked and internal conflict
Four RSU executives are facing impeachment after notices of removal from office were served at the Nov. 27 board of directors meeting.
Notices of removal were served to president Vanessa Henry, vice-president of equity Naja Pereira, vice-president of education Kwaku Agyemang, and vice-president of operations Augustine Onuh.
Student groups director James Fotak moved the notices for Pereira, Agyemang, and Onuh alleging that they have broken Ryerson Students’ Union bylaws. Meanwhile, vice-president of marketing Victoria Anderson-Gardner moved the notice for Henry, alleging that the president had been creating a hostile space for students.
“My feelings for [submitting the notice] are very strong, mainly because personally I do not think that Vanessa is suitable to be president for the students’ union,” Anderson-Gardner said. “Students’ unions are supposed to be for the students … but she has been not for the students in my opinion.”
Concerns over hours worked
The notices of removal from office come after a motion moved by Henry at the Nov. 13 meeting to hold executives accountable for hours worked or face impeachment. Henry moved the motion after the executives were asked three times to work their 40 hours per week commitment. (Henry said they failed to do so.)
Discussion around the notices of removal on Nov. 27 took place in-camera and wasn’t open to the public. However, Agyemang said that the notices were submitted due to concerns over the lack of hours worked. He also said that the situation did not accurately reflect his work in his role because he has to attend meetings and conferences off campus and outside of the office.
“Dayforce is a bit difficult, [in] my role especially. I’m constantly having meetings outside of the office — meeting with the university, conferences — and so those hours are not accounted for on Dayforce,” Agyemang said. Dayforce is a biometric clock that uses fingerprints to log employees’ and executives’ hours. The Eyeopener reported that Dayforce was implemented to “digitize” the union and “reduce” the amount of paper used.
Agyemang also said that executive director Reanna Maharaj “docked” his hours from 254 to 90, a difference of 164 hours. However, Maharaj said that his statement was “completely incorrect.”
“For conferences, executives were required to submit the agendas, so that I could input the amount of hours worked at the conferences. The only hours that were not accounted for was ‘social hours,’ in other terms hours where the individual was not required to work or represent the RSU and when they were sleeping. The board had deemed this ‘personal time,’” Maharaj said.
Onuh denied the Ryersonian’s request for comment. Attempts to reach Pereira were not answered.
Internal conflicts within the executive team
Anderson-Gardner cited an incident from a recent event as the main reason why they moved a notice for Henry.
At Generations of Resistance, a collaborative brunch between Henry, the RSU SHIFT Centre and Ryerson University during Social Justice Week on campus, Anderson-Gardner said that a non-Indigenous student sang “Colours of the Wind,” a song from the Disney film Pocahontas.
According to Anderson-Gardner,the performance upset the Indigenous students present at the event. They said that Henry published a statement on the union’s Facebook page after the event regarding the song choice, but neither the executives nor the board were consulted. (The statement has since been taken down.)
There was conflict between Anderson-Gardner and Henry in regards to how the situation should be handled. Both also made allegations of racism and oppressive behaviours against one another.
There are also allegations of conflict between Henry and the executive team. Agyemang said that he would be “shut down” whenever he wanted to raise bylaw or mismanagement concerns to Henry. Henry said that she is just being “professional” and that she continues to treat executives with the “utmost respect” in the office.
A conflict between some of the executives and directors led to a tense board meeting on Nov. 27. Both Anderson-Gardner and Agyemang said that they left because they felt the way the directors conducted the meeting was unprofessional and made the space unsafe.
In response, Henry said that Anderson-Gardner made assumptions about the board meeting. She said, “[Anderson-Gardner] was not in the room when their hours were being discussed, yet they made assumptions about how we were going about their hours. You can’t know what’s being said in the room if you’re not present.”
The notices are the first step in the impeachment process laid out in the Ryerson Students’ Union bylaws. An amendment passed at the Annual General Meeting earlier this year states that a resolution to remove an executive must pass a “two-thirds majority vote of the members of the board present both in person and those calling in remotely” with advance notice given no later than “one board meeting prior.” The new bylaw also says that abstentions will be counted as “neither an affirmative nor negative response,” and will not be considered an impeachment vote.
An emergency board meeting has been scheduled for Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. A location for the meeting has not been confirmed.