After resigning from the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) as vice-president student life & events, Lauren Emberson wrote an open letter telling students why she left.
Emberson was the first person to resign from a leadership position due to personal conflict in over a decade at the RSU. She said she felt a responsibility to open up about the reasons for why she left.
“It’s never a small thing,” Emberson said. “I think regardless if it came from me or not, people would find out one way or another. In some sense, we are public figures and a lot of the work that we’ve done is very public.”
During her time in the RSU, she said there were toxic incidents that eventually lead to her to sudden resignation.
In her open letter to The Eyeopener, Emberson said, “Work consistently consumed 60 hours of my life per week and some of my fellow executives still told me that I didn’t work enough.”
She also described incidents where people followed her on the street, as well as online conversations where student politicians who disagreed with her shared her location and threatened her physically.
In a statement to The Ryersonian, Emberson said although she feels that this is far from an isolated experience, being so open about her personal experience was a new step, and something that needed to be done. In the end, Emberson said she is happy that there has been no negative backlash after she revealed her personal struggles in the RSU.
“This was taking a toll on my personal health,” she said. “I needed to take a step back, and I don’t think that’s a place anyone wants to step in and say ‘I’m wrong,’ but there definitely are people that are glad I left, people who aren’t necessarily a fan of me.”.
RSU President Susanne Nyaga admits that there is some truth to what Emberson said.
“As someone who has continuously faced anti-Blackness and misogyny from executive members or the board, I agree with her that there is a toxic environment here in the RSU. I think that environment is created by particular individuals who entered the student movement only to work for and centralize a particular type of student, rather than all students,” Nyaga said.
Nyaga respects Emberson’s decision to leave the RSU and says she intends to create a healthier environment for all executive members.
“I commend Lauren for realizing that this position was not for her and stepping down instead of taking up space or using student resources. We need to be critical when we try to silence or shut down people we disagree with. We need to be critical when we are turning to Facebook to bring down each other instead of speaking to one another and talking our concerns out. As one person, there is very little I can do to change this environment. But I would love to see the membership holding folks accountable, pushing for the changes they want to see and making sure their voices are heard,” said Nyaga.
As for Emberson, she said she is already in a “healthier place” after she left the RSU. However, she hasn’t given up being active on campus and continues representing the faculty of communication & design (FCAD) by remaining on Ryerson’s Senate. She said she hopes to stay involved next year to a smaller extent while working on her thesis.