By Jonathan Fowlie
RyeSAC’s top money man accused the student government of being “corrupt, nepotistic and shortsighted” in a letter issued to the Ryerson community Monday afternoon.
Sajjad Wasti, RyeSAC’s vice-president finance and services, attacked RyeSAC’s handling of several contentious business dealings, saying they were tainted by the organization’s connection to the Canadian Federation of Students a national student lobby group.
In explaining the letter, Wasti said his criticism was at the four student executives, general manager Brad Lavigne and operations manager Rob Emerson.
“Rife with Machiavellianism, it is apparent that students’ interests are being completely sidelined by personal political objectives,” read the letter.
Wasti also alleged that connections to an “entity” — the CFS — is threatening RyeSAC’s individuality and causing Ryerson issues to be “overshadowed by an external agenda.”
RyeSAC President Darren Cooney responded to the letter yesterday saying he felt the allegations made by Wasti were inaccurate. He added that he was shocked, angry and hurt by the letter.
“Some of the accusations that he’s making are so shocking you don’t know how to respond,” said Cooney. “If you do the background research and consider them, they’re totally false.”
Despite Cooney’s denial of the accusations, the issues at the heart of the letter have split the four-member student executive in half.
“I back [Wasti] a hundred-and-fucking-fifty per cent,” said Crystal Adair, vice-president of student life and events.
“He’s right when he says that people’s personal and political agendas interfere with [ryeSAC’s] decisions … My resignation has been on the table since the health and dental plan change — for the exact same reasons as Sajjad mentions.”
Vice-President Education Ken Marciniec agreed with Cooney that the allegations in the letter are false.
“I don’t understand [Wasti’s] criticisms,” said Marciniec. “I didn’t see this coming at all. Usually things are done with a process.”
In the letter, Wasti points to three major examples where he feels the CFS connection to RyeSAC has had a negative impact.
Wasti believes RyeSAC will rent the only retail space in the new student centre to Travel Cuts — a travel agency owned by CFS — without properly considering proposals from other, independent, organizations.
“Whoever gives us the best deal should get the space,” he said in an interview on Monday. “[But] somehow our allegiance to the CFS means that we are tied to Travel Cuts.”
Wasti said he raised questions about the plan with the RyeSAC executive but was ignored, and the issue was glossed over. Two days after that unofficial meeting, Travel Cuts staff members were in the RyeSAC office, discussing the details of the arrangement.
Cooney said yesterday that the space has still yet to be assigned. “We haven’t even decided whether or not we want to support Travel Cuts or not,” he said. “I made that clear to [Wasti] last week.”
The minutes from an August 28 meeting of the Student Campus Centre Building Committee, which Wasti sits on, said “the committee agreed that they would establish a set of criteria with which to judge Travel Cuts and any other proposals for that area.”
The second deal Wasti pointed to was the Fido cellphone deal, which saw RyeSAC post advertisements from Fido and the CFS-approved Student Phone Store across campus.
When Microcell Telecommunications, the parent company of Fido, announced it may not be able to meet its debt obligations in August, Wasti said he felt uncomfortable about continuing to advertise the phones to students.
“I can’t speculate [the company is] going to go down the drain,” he said, “but there’s a high chance, so why do we want to risk it for students?”
Wasti said he felt RyeSAC management was not taking his concerns seriously, so he decided to tear down the posters himself.
Cooney said Wasti’s concerns would have been heard if he had gone through the proper channels. “I gave him a process to go through for Fido and it was not followed,” said Cooney. “It’s really about the process here.”
Marciniec said Wasti’s actions might have been related to his stock holdings.
“He unilaterally went and just removed all the materials because he was frustrated with the company, with Fido,” said Marciniec.
Wasti bought 200 shares of Microcell in March, but denied the company’s poor financial situation motivated his actions.
“That’s not one of the reasons,” he said. “Personal preferences should never become policy.”
He said he was never aware there was a clear process to handle the deal, there was no Fido contract on file and he had no information on who had originally agreed to the deal.
Wasti also cited RyeSAc’s decision to switch the health and dental plan. RyeSAC paid $35,000 to settle a lawsuit with Gallivan and Associates after switching to a CFS-sponsored provider.
Wasti said he didn’t speak up earlier because he has been bullied and intimidated by the management at RyeSAC.
“There are people here who are much more experienced than I am, and they know how to play the ropes better than I do. There’s lots of bullying going on. There’s intimidation.”
In the past six months, Wasti said he has been included in what he called the “corruption,” but has finally decided to speak up.
“The [RyeSAC board] asks us questions and we try to create a spin on the spot. The board has been crippled because of the lack of information we have been providing them,” he said. “I will admit that I have done this as well.”
In reaction to this claim, Cooney said the RyeSAC executive has “agreed to focus on the positive aspects of some of the projects out there,” but that he has never seen any bullying.
When asked how this problem could have been avoided, he said “Perhaps we could have explained how decisions are made in a student government a lot earlier.”
At press time, Wasti said the letter had not received the reaction he expected, but he was hopeful it would get people asking questions.
“There’s nothing big yet, which I’m surprised at,” he said. “The motive behind this letter is to generate interest and to tell people what is actually happening.”
“I expect at least a few changes. I expect at least a debate to open up.”
With files from Jordan Heath-Rawlings