The Ryerson Students’ Union said late on Friday that it would continue on and encouraged student support despite Ryerson University saying that it would no longer recognize the organization as the official student government.
The university said that it would cut off the RSU because the student union did not fulfill all three requirements set out by Ryerson last January in the aftermath of an incident involving the misuse of student union money.
The RSU said the termination of a 34-year-old agreement between Ryerson and the student union “undermines the authority and democratic rights of students”, adding that it “does not accept this termination as valid under the agreement.”
The student government said in a statement it anticipates talking to students at an upcoming general meeting on Feb. 3 and encourages students to get involved in upcoming yearly elections.
The RSU is a separate entity from the university, with its own Board of Directors elected from among the students on a yearly basis and corporate structure.
In January 2019, The Eyeopener unveiled alleged financial mismanagement to the amount of $250,000 by former RSU executives that took place over an eight-month period that started in May 2018.
The questionable spending included bills from LCBO locations, a shisha lounge and Casino Rama, The Eyeopener reported. It led to the impeachment of former president Ram Ganesh.
Ganesh’s successor announced in March 2019 that PricewaterhouseCoopers would tackle a full forensic audit of the expenses. It was recently completed and the students’ union earlier this week filed a report with Toronto Police.
In its statement earlier on Friday, Ryerson University said that it had “tried, in good faith, to negotiate an agreement that ensures that a model of good governance and accountability forms the basis for a partnership that puts the student experience first.”
“Despite the university’s best efforts to be an accommodating and collaborative partner, the RSU has failed to meet the conditions set out in January 2019,” Vice Provost, Students Jen McMillen said.
The university made the decision last year to withhold the ancillary fees collected from students instead of transferring them to the RSU unless three conditions were met: a forensic audit was carried out, the audit was shared with Ryerson and a new operating agreement was negotiated.
Ryerson claims the forensic audit the RSU just completed was not shared with the administration. A new deal to replace the now-cancelled 1986 Operating Agreement has not been worked out.
Despite not fulfilling all of the requirements set out by Ryerson, the RSU insisted it “has always been willing to engage with the [u]niversity, but refuses to make concessions to the [u]niversity that will jeopardize students.”
Decision undermines ‘democratic rights’: CFS
The Canadian Federation of Students’ provincial division said Ryerson University’s decision “undermines the democratic rights of students and student organizations that represent them”.
In a more formal statement released on Friday evening, CFS argued that autonomy was key for a student union to “effectively represent their membership”.
“Internal challenges are best addressed through the democratic structures that exist within students’ unions because they are the processes agreed upon by the union’s membership,” the organization said.
They added that the RSU has demonstrated it took the allegations of financial mismanagement “seriously” and had taken several actions to address the problems.
The statement did not mention the university’s statement that the student union did not follow through the three demands set out by the administration.
The CFS went on to argue that there are mechanisms in place internally so that the greater student body can hold student organizations accountable, explaining that students are empowered by elections, general meeting and referendum to solve issues that arise.
“Ryerson University’s move to terminate their agreement with the Ryerson Students’ Union is a paternalistic overreach that undermines these democratic mechanisms,” the press release says.