Vice-presidents cite mental health concerns, blame ‘unhealthy’ environment at student union
Two executives resigned ahead of Tuesday’s emergency board meeting, citing mental health issues as a result of their involvement with the RSU.
Vice-president of equity Naja Pereira and vice-president of marketing Victoria Anderson-Gardner resigned on Tuesday. Resignation letters were emailed to the board prior to the meeting.
Anderson-Gardner resigned due to mental health concerns and recommendations from their psychiatrist to leave Toronto.
“It saddens me that I have to leave, but it is due time. I hope the board remembers that they are supposed to work for the students, and not for themselves,” Anderson-Gardner said in a statement read aloud by vice-president campus life Joshua Wiggins.
In a public statement published on Facebook Tuesday evening, Anderson-Gardner said that the board’s treatment towards their trauma was insensitive and “reflects why so many Indigenous students and staff members are pushed out of Ryerson.”
Pereira said in her resignation letter that she resigned due to the “unhealthy” and “damaging” environment at the RSU. She also said that the decision to resign was made after “seeking guidance” from a medical professional.
Vice-president of education Kwaku Agyemang was not impeached at Tuesday’s emergency board of directors meeting as the motion did not reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
Vice-president of operations Augustine Onuh’s impeachment motion was tabled to the next meeting due to time constraints. Both executives were served impeachment notices due to allegations that they did not meet the 40-hour work week mandated in the union’s bylaws.
“It is not fair for an executive to be impeached without the support [from the board],” Agyemang said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “Make sure you’re working your hours. Make sure you’re coming in. Make sure you feel supported.”
Agyemang declined a request for further comment. Onuh has not responded to the Ryersonian’s requests to comment on this story.
Workplace harassment allegations
The motion to impeach Onuh and Agyemang also included allegations of workplace harassment.
“Whereas the VP Operations of the RSU, Augustine Onuh, has been found by the Oversight Committee to have violated Operational Policy 41.7 on Workplace Harassment and the committee has consequently recommended removal of office,” the motions against Onuh and Agyemang read.
Both denied the allegations and said that they never had an opportunity to address the oversight committee. Both also said that the oversight committee did not follow proper procedures and policy while handling their cases. Agyemang raised concerns about the possible conflicts of interest by having board members handle complaints.
“Why is the board handling my [human resources] issues?” Agyemang said at Tuesday’s meeting. “What if I have a conflict with someone on that committee? What if I don’t feel safe?”
Onuh said at the meeting that he did not recall the incident regarding the workplace harassment allegations. He also said he did not have the opportunity to “defend himself.”
Student group director James Fotak responded to Agyemang’s statement at the meeting and alleged that Agyemang was spreading “false narratives.” Board member Zaynab Dhalla said the oversight committee followed proper procedures while handling Onuh’s case.
According to the RSU bylaws, an interim appointment will be made by the president to fill the vacant executive positions. A two-thirds majority vote from the board of directors is required for an interim appointment to pass. The board did not appoint anyone at Tuesday’s meeting.
The next board of directors meeting will not take place until January. A date and location have not been announced.
Editors’ note, Dec. 18: An emergency board meeting will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at the South Bond Building, room 312.