Voting will take place March 4 and 5
Students will head to the polls next week to determine Ryerson University’s new student government structure.
The election comes just over a month after Ryerson terminated its operating agreement with the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), saying it has lost confidence in the union to represent Ryerson students.
Voting is on March 4 and 5. Eligible voters will be sent an email link to vote. Voting will be through a third-party, Simply Voting, and not RAMSS.
Election results will be shared March 6 — the same day Ryerson and the RSU will appear in court for the next stage of their legal action.
Ryerson’s independent committee initially received six proposals for new student government structures. Only four made it through the vetting process. The two proposals that were disqualified did not include enough information about financial accountability, according to Lianne Newman, the student government selection committee process manager.
After the winning structure is selected, an election will be held in April for students to vote on people to fill the roles. The lead process officer, Ian Brennan, from BDO Canada, will oversee that election. The team behind the winning structure was originally expected to host the election, but Newman said many students raised concerns about this.
One-page summaries for each of the four structures are available online.
Ryerson First (RF) — representing undergraduate students
Proposed by students Anoop Dhillon, Tanvir Billah, James Polvorosa, Marta Wisniewski, Mihai Lungu, Harman Sondhi
Ryerson First would give more autonomy, resources and double funding to the equity service centres, course unions and student groups.
Its proposal promises to save $800,000 per year by “eliminating bureaucracy.” The structure would eliminate executive salaries, instead paying a bursary based on Ontario university tuition costs.
Ryerson First’s structure involves a treasurer, general manager, Board of Governors (BoG) and senate.
The BoG would be responsible for big-picture projects. It includes six governors elected by domestic students, one elected by international students, two elected by Ryerson alumni and one non-voting liaison appointed by Ryerson University.
“This is just a method of keeping communication open between the two parties,” said Anoop Dhilon, one of the students who put forward the proposal. “We don’t want the situation that put us in this place to happen again, where we’re fighting each other.”
The senate would create committees and be more responsible for directly representing individual stakeholders. It would include senators representing Ryerson faculties, equity services, student groups, course unions and graduate students. It would also include two senators appointed by campus media.
“We want to eliminate most of the bureaucracy at the top level,” Dhillon said.
The group says it would not issue “student credit cards.” In the past, certain RSU executives and staff held corporate credit cards. The 2018-19 team faced allegations of financial mismanagement after credit card statements were revealed, showing thousands of dollars spent on food, alcohol, clothing and entertainment.
Ryerson First also promises to post expense accounts publicly and make yearly third-party financial audits mandatory.
Dhillon promoted Ryerson First on a Ryerson Facebook group that he created in 2018, including changing the group’s header photo to a campaign material. He said the campaigning rules — which limit class talks and setting up tables around campus, two things typically used in students’ union elections — have made it difficult to campaign in ways other than using social media.
He said he received an email from the lead process officer saying that promoting Ryerson First in the group may be an unfair advantage, but eventually said it was allowed. But “in the interest of fairness” Dhillon said he stepped down as the group’s administrator.
Ryerson Graduate Students’ Union (RGSU) — representing graduate students
Proposed by students Angelique Bernabe, Charlotte Ferworn, Amber Grant, Alicia Kassee, Mahsa Aghamiri, Inioluwa Bankole, Katrya Bolger, Joanna Nguyen, Christopher Scarpone, Tingna Xu and Kevin Zhang
The graduate students’ union structure includes four executive positions: president, vice-president operations, vice-president education and vice-president student life and events. There are seven Board of Director positions representing the seven faculties at Ryerson and one director to represent interdisciplinary studies. The proposed structure also includes a part-time general manager to support executives and directors with general operations.
The RGSU is different from the RSU in that it would represent only part-time and full-time graduate students. This would be a first for Ryerson, which has never had a recognized graduate students’ union, according to Charlotte Ferworn, one of RGSU’s proposers.
In 2017, a board member put forward a motion to create a graduate union separate from the RSU, but the plan was later discarded.
Last year, the RSU planned to restructure its graduate council to give it more autonomy and financial responsibility.
There are only about 2,700 graduate students at Ryerson compared to approximately 37,000 undergraduate students.
“Any system designed to represent both populations would invariably be skewed to prioritize the needs of undergraduate students over graduate students,” Ferworn said. “The [RGSU] recognizes true graduate student representation can only come from a government led by graduate students.”
The RGSU would also implement an annual financial audit and allow board members, and general members, to request additional financial reports.
The RGSU will be the only proposal in the graduate-only election, according to Newman. Graduate students will vote yes or no for the RGSU. All of the other proposals represent only undergraduate students.
Ryerson Undergraduate Students’ Alliance (RUSA) — representing undergraduate students
Proposed by student David Jardine
RUSA’s structure focuses on financial transparency, being fully accountable to students and having useful and reliable services. There would be a president, vice-president equity, vice-president finance and admin, vice-president education and vice-president student life. There would also be faculty directors, community directors and ex-officio directors including residence, graduate, course union and student group representatives.
The structure also involves an executive co-ordinator, student-life co-ordinator, equity co-ordinator, academic advocate, an operations co-ordinator and several other co-ordinator roles.
RUSA says this restructuring and smaller structure would save around $400,000 per year.
Executives would be paid hourly and could not raise their wages on their own, and budgets would be shown to students for feedback before being approved.
David Jardine, who proposed the structure, said they have seen criticisms online that RUSA is too similar to the RSU.
“Yes, there are five executive positions. Yes, there is a Board of Directors. But I would challenge [students] to find a students’ union in Ontario that doesn’t have that general structure,” Jardine said.
“While that [structure] looks similar to the RSU, everything on the inside is changed — from how funding gets requested to how a budget gets made, to how many membership meetings there are.”
Ryerson University Student Collective (RUSC) — representing undergraduate students
Proposed by students Johnson Le, Joshin Marriott, Jacob Circo and Fahim Khan
The RUSC said in an email to the Ryersonian that members of their team have leadership experience with student politics.
RUSC has six executive positions: president, vice-president operations and finance, vice-president events and public engagement, vice-president communications and university affairs, vice-president academics and advocacy and vice-president equity, diversity and inclusion. It also has 25 Board of Director positions.
In an email, a member of the group said RUSC believes in a “holistic student system” that includes equity principles.
“Within this organization, it is our duty to cultivate an environment that advocates, supports and protects students’ integrity, academic progress, and good faith in Ryerson University.”
The RUSC said they are different than the RSU because they will have mandatory consultation processes. This would be a meeting of all “concerned parties” to discuss the “main elements” of the RUSC in an effort to uphold “proper governance over its student membership; especially on the financial structure on accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility.”
The RUSC said it would have committees, precautionary measures, due diligence practices, external financial consultations and would commit to having a high level of student approval on decisions that will affect students all around.
The proposal also includes preventing the dismantling of services, programs or grants that Ryerson students require.
The RUSC also said in an email that it “will strive to be consistent in redeveloping policies and practices, with respect to the Ontario Human Rights Code, HR management policies, governing principles and sanctions to protect students, staff, directors, and all involved parties.”
With files from Katie Swyers