By Jonathan Fowlie
An effort by the RyeSAC president to impeach a member of his executive met with a crushing defeat on Monday night at the RyeSAC Board of Directors meeting.
After almost five hours of discussion, the board decided by a vote of 15 to six that “there [will] be no disciplinary or corrective action taken on vice-president Finance and Services Sajjad Wasti related to the letter dated October 28.”
In that letter, Wasti accused RyeSAC management of being “corrupt” and “nepotistic” and said, “students’ interests are being completely sidelined by personal political objectives [at RyeSAC].”
“It’s really, really disappointing,” RyeSAC president Darren Cooney said of the board’s decision after Monday’s meeting.
“[The board decided that]” Sajjad’s actions were justified and the board didn’t find any official fault with the methodology he used to express his opinions,” he said. “I was really surprised.”
Wasti said he was happy the board came to the conclusion not to recommend any punishment or disciplinary action.
“The feeling was of confidence in my cause,” he said after the meeting of his reaction to seeing 15 of the 21 hands at the table go up to vote in his defence.
“I feel that the letter was appropriate, and that has just been proven. This is how Ryerson students are feeling. They feel alienated by their own government,” he said.
Much of Monday’s meeting took the form of a casual discussion about how RyeSAC could become more transparent and accountable to students.
That informal tone came to an abrupt end, however, once possible consequences for Wasti were brought to the table. All side discussions quickly stopped as the members returned to their seats around the assembled tables to start what would become a heated debate.
Business Faculty Director Sabahat-Bin Sabih opened the discussion with the motion that no action should be taken against Wasti for sending the letter.
While numerous members sought to change subtleties in the wording of the motion, Cooney was the first to actually challenge its content.
“My heart is beating so fast and I feel extremely nauseous,” he said through clenched teeth.
“I’m disgusted that this [motion] was brought up. Practically every person around this board table has at one point said ‘I know writing this letter was wrong,’ and ‘I know attacking our staff was wrong,’” he said.
“I think this jump we’ve made from many of us talking about this letter being wrong to now that it can’t be penalized in the slightest is just really scary.”
These comments opened a flood of discussion from members of the board — both for and against Wasti’s actions.
“Sajjad letter opened up this debate which we are in right now,” said Giselle Phelps, the board’s student group director. “[He] was working to defend the students.”
“I personally give praise to Sajjad for speaking out,” added Engineering and Applied Science Faculty Director Victor Volfson. “He is setting a precedent and he is making a change and I give him praise for doing so.”
Business Faculty Director Chris Mason said he agreed that the letter did bring up some good points, but that “perhaps a letter of apology should be necessary.”
Other possible means of discipline, such as censure or impeachment, were brought up throughout the meeting as well.
In the end, however, the board clearly stated that it would now bring any disciplinary action against Wasti for writing the letter.
“I think it’s a victory for speaking up for the students,” said Business Faculty Director Dave MacLean.
“This is actually how students feel,” added Wasti. “To be honest, I think logic prevailed.”
Alex Lisman disagreed. “I think this has been a huge waste of time,” he said after the meeting. “All this [time] is being used to discuss information [in the letter] that is biased and is non-factual. I think RyeSAC needs to get back to work and start working for students’ interests.”
Lisman added that he felt that the board’s decision will make it hard to hire staff members and management in the future.
“It allows people to make libellous statements and get away with it,” Lisman said. “There’s going to be no trust whatsoever.”
Cooney was given a chance to speak immediately after the motion was passed. The look of shock still on his face, he paused for a few seconds with clenched jaw and pursed lips. He cleared his throat and almost began to speak, but quickly recoiled and opted to remain silent.
Members of the RyeSAC executive will now go through a mediating process with an external mediator trained in conflict resolution from St. Stephen’s Community House in Toronto.
The board agreed on Monday night that is would consider any possible disciplinary action that emerged from the mediation process.
Wasti said that he is happy to take part in mediation and is looking forward to furthering change within RyeSAC.
“The work has now begun,” he said. “It is now that we start fixing things. I am open to mediation [and] look forward to moving on and changing RyeSAC into a more representative organization.”