The president of a new Ryerson group focused on harm reduction says she is searching for answers, after being denied affiliate group status from the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).
Alannah Fricker founded the Ryerson branch of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) in spring 2018. CSSDP is a national organization that works with students to influence harm reduction policies, promote drug safety and facilitate conversation around drug policy education. According to its website there are 18 branches on university campuses across Canada.
After the CSSDP was founded, the group applied to become an associate group under the RSU. This status would give the group access to up to $2,000 in grants, free room booking and participation in RSU outreach opportunities.
Fricker attended two meetings with the executive board of the RSU, outlining her proposal and plans for the following year. However, the RSU said it was not comfortable approving the group “without a proper foundation of research and analysis about [Fricker’s] plans to undertake during the school year.”
Fricker responded, intending to appeal the decision to the RSU board.
Edmund Sofo, the RSU vice-president of student life and events, says the research that was presented last spring is “not as concrete as we would expect of something of that magnitude.” Sofo says there are concerns about “proper planning and organizing.”
In the CSSDP proposal, the projected plans focus on the opioid crisis. Events mentioned include awareness campaigns, distribution of harm reduction supplies, facilitating naloxone and CPR training, hosting movie nights and panels and working with the school to change harm reduction policies, research and initiatives.
According to Sofo, the executive board has not denied any other applicants.
“I really encourage the school to come to terms with the fact that students use and community members use,” said Fricker.
This year naloxone training is provided to Ryerson security and is incorporated into the third-year nursing curriculum.
In order to meet the RSU’s criteria in the upcoming appeal, Sofo said he would like to see the collaboration between the CSSDP and the university, “translated into work.”
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Frickers says she feels the RSU is not being straight with her about its reasoning to disapprove. She said she does not feel the RSU’s concerns are valid.
“It is just disheartening to feel like they are not supportive of our group and of harm reduction,” said Fricker. “I don’t really understand why.”
Sofo says he hopes the group’s appeal, which has yet to be scheduled, meets the RSU standards.
The RSU said they have ratified three student groups since the executive began their term in May of last year. Seven application meetings will be held this week.