Ryerson president may face libel suit

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By Don McHoull

Members of the RyeSAC executive are considering suing Ryerson’s president, a RyeSAC executive and a campus newspaper in the wake of a controversial letter released to the Ryerson community last week.

The letter, which was written by RyeSAC vice-president Finance and Services Sajjad Wasti, contained statements about RyeSAC executives and managers that RyeSAC president Darren Cooney describes as libellous.

Because Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse faxed a copy of the letter to members of the university’s board of governors, RyeSAC executives say he might be included in a libel suit.

“He’s actually perpetuated the libel,” said RyeSAC vice-president Education Ken Marciniec. “If there is legal action then the university, and Claude personally, will be named.”

Cooney said that he thinks Lajeunesse’s decision to fax the letter was an attempt to undermine RyeSAC’s credibility.

“We see that as a direct attack on RyeSAC,” Cooney said. “The student voice on the board of governors is already marginalized, and this will only make it worse.”

Lajeunesse said he was not worried about a possible libel suit against him.

He said he had a duty to provide the Board of Governors with an uncensored copy of the letter.

“We are about to enter into some very complex and highly expensive relations with regards to the student centre,” he said. “The board has to be aware of what some people are claiming is happening within the student government.”

RyeSAC is also considering suing The Ryersonian, which reprinted Sajjad’s letter verbatim in its Oct. 30 issue.

Cooney said he was disappointed and surprised by The Ryersonian’s news judgement.

“It just furthered the spread of what we believe is libel, and a direct attack on RyeSAC,” he said. “Essentially that letter, which was originally sent to several hundred Ryerson community members, can now reach several thousand of them.”

Emily Bowers, The Ryersonian’s managing editor, declined comment.

The main target of any libel suit would be Wasti, who wrote the letter.

Although both Cooney and Marciniec consider the letter to be libellous, they are having it evaluated by a lawyer.

As well as suing Wasti himself, Marciniec said he was concerned RyeSAC might be sued by its own managers, Rob Emerson and Brad Lavigne, because Wasti has libelled them in his capacity as a RyeSAC executive.

“Sajjad has not only criticized our managers publicly, he’s made what I think are obviously libellous statements,” said Marciniec. “He’s opened us up as an organization to a lawsuit.”

Emerson said that he had consulted with a lawyer about the letter, and was still considering his options.

Cooney said he wasn’t sure what would happen if a lawsuit was filed against RyeSAC after Wasti was impeached.

“Would Sajjad still be covered by RyeSAC’s insurance even after he’s impeached?” Cooney asked. “That’s something I’m looking into.”

 

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