RSU executives on the board haven’t made good on several campaign pledges
When members of the current Ryerson Students’ Union board of directors ran in the elections last March, they promised to bring more transparency and accountability to the organization. At the time, the RSU was already reeling from a high-profile scandal — former union president Ram Ganesh was facing impeachment after $250,000 in suspicious credit card spending was revealed.
But those promises of more accountability and transparency were quickly broken. An investigation by the Ryersonian has found that the current RSU team has already broken multiple bylaws and policies in the first half of the school year.
Late budget approval
The RSU board of directors, which is made up of six RSU executives and 35 other board members, did not approve its current budget until Sept. 18 — nearly three weeks past the deadline outlined in the student union’s bylaws. Bylaw 2.10 says that the board must approve the RSU’s annual operating budget no later than Aug. 31 of the current fiscal year.
In an interview with the Ryersonian, RSU vice-president of operations Augustine Onuh said that the termination of former general manager Ren Niles over the summer caused the union to “backtrack.”
Onuh cancelled an interview to speak further about the budget and subsequent requests for an interview have not been answered.
Insufficient notice for the semi-annual general meeting
RSU bylaw 8.18 mandates that a semi-annual general meeting needs to happen in the fall semester every year and that the union must give 30 days notice. While the union has now scheduled a meeting for Nov. 27, it didn’t give the required notice until the Nov. 13 board meeting — less than half the time required. A Facebook post announcing the semi-annual general meeting date was published on Nov. 21.
Semi-annual general meetings are a platform for the board of directors to communicate changes and updates to the union’s operations. It is also a time for members to vote on bylaw amendments and communicate opinions to the union, which must notify members of all proposed amendments 30 days before a “meeting of members.”
At the Nov. 13 meeting, RSU president Vanessa Henry acknowledged that by setting the meeting date so late, “…we are breaking a bylaw date.”
But Henry argued that even though it is short notice, pushing the semi-annual general meeting until after the winter break would be delaying student concerns too long.
“And it doesn’t make sense to have two meetings in the winter semester considering that we are not going to reach quorum. This is the only time that students actually get to voice their concerns to us, so even if we don’t get quorum for this one, at least we’ll have it for the next,” Henry said near the end of that meeting.
The union has not uploaded its meeting minutes from meetings in August, September or October. The Ryersonian submitted an access to information request to obtain unedited copies of the September and October minutes from executive director Reanna Maharaj, who added there are no minutes from August because that month’s meeting did not reach quorum.
No budget updates
The Refresh slate promised to provide live twice-per-month updates of the budget, but those updates aren’t available on the union’s website. Henry said in an email to the Ryersonian that the website is currently “under construction.” Joshua Wiggins, RSU vice-president of campus life and events, also told the Ryersonian that vice-president of marketing Victoria Anderson-Gardner, Onuh, and Henry are “working on updating the website concurrently.”
It is not clear when the website will be fully updated, however. “Our website is always undergoing new changes to keep up with all the new events and initiatives going on,” Maharaj said.
Delayed student strike support
The RSU didn’t support or endorse the student strike until a week before the strike, despite a motion being passed in the annual general meeting last April. The Ryerson Student Strike Committee said in a Facebook post from early October that the RSU executives have “refused to provide” clear answers on whether they will support the strike.
The RSU, along with the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson, sent out a survey to students on Oct. 9 asking students what kind of action the union should take in response to Premier Doug Ford’s budget cuts. In the draft minutes from the Oct. 22 meeting obtained by the Ryersonian, the motion to support the strike did not pass. At the time, the board opted for a day of action instead. The RSU, CESAR, and Ryerson Graduate Students’ Union released a joint statement of support for the strike on the RSU Facebook page on Oct. 30.
“We’re planning on publishing the results. The main thing is to go over with the privacy officers to make sure the [results] are accurate,” RSU vice-president of education Kwaku Agyemang said. “We just need to cross reference. We know that some students could fill out the survey twice. We want to make sure the results are legible and accessible for students.”
Results from the student strike survey have not yet been published. Maharaj denied a request by the Ryersonian to access the data. She said that she was informed by Agyemang that the results were “confidential” and could only be shared within the board.