The RSU will establish a temporary pandemic response committee until the end of the year, or until Ryerson fully reopens, it decided at Thursday’s board of directors meeting.
The pandemic response committee will gather feedback from the membership on what services and advocacy campaigns they would like to see the RSU implement during the pandemic. The committee will also research how other students’ unions are operating during the pandemic and propose events, services and campaigns that should be implemented.
The committee will be an open committee with the ability to go in-camera — closing the meeting to the public — if an agenda item requires confidentiality. The motion was put forward by David Jardine, who is a student representative on the Ryerson board of governors and a member of the RSU board of directors.
“People have been starting to see stuff happening in other schools,” said Jardine at Thursday’s board meeting. “The other day a school came out with COVID-19 testing for students, and I just don’t think Ryerson is doing a lot of things for students. I think the RSU could play an important role in lobbying for that.”
Ryerson currently does not have COVID-19 testing on campus. Students, faculty and staff at Western University are able to access COVID-19 testing on campus if they meet certain criteria, according to an announcement made on Oct. 5. COVID-19 testing on campus would make the entire process more accessible for students, said Faculty of Arts director Alexandra Nash.
“I had cold symptoms so I decided to get COVID testing for it two days ago. It’s not easy. It’s not really accessible to get,” said Nash. “If you find a time slot, you still have to get yourself to a hospital if you have symptoms, and there aren’t many of those around.”
The committee will also improve the RSU’s reputation among its membership, Jardine said. “I think this could be an act, not only to do the right thing, but also very good for the RSU’s reputation to establish ourselves as a (union for the students). We want to build upon the success of the COVID grants and the Good Food Centre,” they said.
The board also dealt with more day-to-day items unrelated to the pandemic, ratifying Abdul Saleem as the first-year representative on the RSU board of directors for October 2020 to April 2021.
RSU will not physically reopen, unused funding will roll over, says president
The RSU will not reopen physical services to students on campus, despite pressure from CUPE 1281 to do so. This means that the five full-time employees that were laid off in July will not be recalled. Services like the Good Food Centre and the Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support will not be reopened due to COVID-19 health regulations, said president Ali Yousaf.
“We are elected members of the RSU. None of us here are representing CESAR or the (Canadian Federation of Students). We’re just going to make the decisions for our organization and our members,” said Yousaf. “I’m not here to please the CUPE union, CESAR or the Canadian Federation of Students. I’m here to represent RSU students.”
Jardine asked Yousaf about whether or not the money earmarked for the Good Food Centre will roll over to next year. Yousaf said that the unused funding for the food centre will be transferred over to the next fiscal year.
RSU will advocate for more accessible menstrual products across campus
The RSU will also launch a pilot project to address period poverty experienced by Ryerson community members. Period poverty is a phenomenon when someone cannot afford menstrual products due to financial barriers. The RSU will install dispensers in the SCC building as part of the pilot project. The RSU executives will lobby the Palin Foundation for this initiative to be funded and adopted in the SCC. The RSU executives will also lobby Ryerson University for this initiative to be adopted in bathrooms across campus, which will be funded by the university.
Steph Rychlo, one of the RSU’s Faculty of Community Services directors, emphasized that the dispensers should not be excluded from gender-neutral and male washrooms on campus. According to reporting in Teen Vogue, transgender and non-binary people are often excluded from period poverty campaigns due to gendered language used by advocacy groups.
The motion was already approved by the RSU’s equity and social justice committee and is now being proposed to the board to address period poverty on campus, said TRSM representative Homra Ghaznavi.
“As a students’ union, it is our responsibility to basically make sure we are helping the students in the best way possible,” said Ghaznavi.