By Hamida Ghafour and Caroline Alphonso
Ryerson’s board of governors rejected a public review of harassment office during a meeting that ended with RyeSAC president Erin George threatening to boycott the service.
A boycott would mean students using other services, such as the ombudsperson, RyeSAC’s legal advisor or even the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
George’s comments came after the board voted against RyeSAC’s motion on the restructuring of the harassment office Sept. 27.
The evening began with around 30 protesters showing up at president Claude Lajeunesse’s state of the university address in the Commons of Jorgenson Hall.
The silent protesters were upset the university didn’t consult tem before downsizing the manager of the harassment office.
Lajeunesse side-stepped the protesters as he slipped out of the Commons on his way to the board of governors meeting.
This showed OPSEU Local 596 president Stephanie Blake the administration is not willing to talk to the community about the matter.
“There was no public consultation and we feel this is wrong,” she said.
Protesters followed the president to the board meeting, where George tabled her motion.
The controversy — which pits the administration against faculty and students — began after Wendy Roberts, head of the harassment office, was dismissed in early August.
Administration said there was not enough work for her to do, but an ad hoc committee made up of RyeSAC, CESAR, RFA and OPSEU say otherwise. They also want the school to make the harassment office independent.
During the board of governors meeting, it seemed Lajeunesse wasn’t paying much attention to the motion presented by George anyway.
When George presented her motion, he doodling on some paper.
The motion — to bring back a community harassment review committee that was struck twice previously — was defeated 10 votes to eight.
Around the table, most faculty, staff and student members voted for the motion, while administration and business representatives voted against it.
After the vote, protesters left the boardroom, placards in hand.
Then, the board of governors voted that an executive committee of the board of governors reviews the demands of the protesters.
But this committee operates behind closed doors and doesn’t necessarily include the community input the protesters were seeking.
After a long night, George shook her head when asked about her rejected motion.
“I suspected the university would come up with something,” she said, referring to the accepted motion.
Boycotting the office would be an option, George said, if staff, faculty and students are not given any input in the next round of meetings.
If the harassment office is boycotted, it would be a case of history repeating itself. Various campus groups boycotted the office in 1991 after the first harassment officer Carolyn MacLeod was fired under murky circumstances.