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A new fund that will help Ryerson University increase accessibility for students with disabilities, Aboriginal youth and international students is being set in motion this month.
Mohamed Lachemi made the announcement on Friday afternoon after his installation as Ryerson’s ninth president and vice-chancellor.
In his speech, Lachemi emphasized a future for Ryerson based on strong, strategic partnerships, innovation and an increased global presence.
“Ryerson will become the destination of choice for creative and original thinkers, innovators and partners,” Lachemi said.
Lachemi said he recognizes that as Ryerson develops, the university may become inaccessible for some people. “This may push Ryerson beyond the reach of some young people,” Lachemi said.
The fund ensures that Ryerson remains accessible for students wanting a university education.
“Ryerson is committed to helping young people take this all important step, especially in challenging times,” Lachemi said.
The fund is in its infancy and Lachemi said that it’s application still hasn’t been developed. Lachemi couldn’t provide details about where the money for the fund will come from or how it will improve accessibility at Ryerson because the fund is in such early stages.
He said the next step is reaching out to Ryerson’s partners and donors to discuss the specifics of the fund.
“I announced it for the first time last Friday, now I’m knocking on doors,” Lachemi said, in an interview with the Ryersonian on Monday.
Last year, international students made up approximately 3 per cent of the total undergraduate population. Aboriginal students made up just over one per cent of Ryerson’s student population last year, according to Cheryl Trudeau, co-ordinator of the Aboriginal Education Council at Ryerson.
Trudeau says that number isn’t precise since some students don’t identify as Aboriginal. The updated number of students with disabilities at Ryerson wasn’t immediately available, however, a 2014 sample conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement found that eight per cent of first and fourth year students at Ryerson self-identified as having a disability.
In an email, Heather Willis, accessibility co-ordinator at Ryerson’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion said the survey has its limits. “The survey only includes students in their first and fourth year who are in full-time programs. With this in mind, it’s likely that the data understates the representation of students with disabilities, for example, the Disability Studies program is a part-time program.
During his speech, Lachemi recognized Ryerson’s reputation as a “city building university” located in an area of Toronto that is ripe for building partnerships.
“We want to be recognized as a global, urban innovation university,” Lachemi said in his speech.
Lachemi plans on continuing Ryerson’s evolution as he has for the past 20 years, expanding to meet the needs of students and society.
“Our work is not done. In fact, it’s just beginning,” he said.