By Joe Friesen
Presidential hopeful Dave MacLean has refused to apologize for the controversial remarks he made regarding the funding of student protests despite the fact that his numbers don’t add up.
In last week’s Eyeopener, MacLean criticized the RyeSAC executive for allegedly spending $300,000 on protest in 2001-2002. Closer scrutiny of RyeSAC’s financial statements shows the sum to be closer to $500 for this year, according to RyeSAC President Darren Cooney.
But MacLean remained adamant that the spirit in which he made those remarks should be taken seriously.
“This $300,000 is a number I just threw out to show that we’re spending a lot of money,” he said. “We should be giving money back directly to the students.”
MacLean defended his assertions by saying that Ryerson students pay $150,000 a year to the Canadian Federation of Students, a body he describes as “a protesting organization.”
However, the approximate $13.00 fee Ryerson students pay yearly to the CFS is altogether separate from the $55.53 RyeSAC member fee.
MacLean said he does not take issue with the CFS specifically.
“I have absolutely nothing against the Canadian Federation of Students,” he said and praised the organization for defending student interests.
However, MacLean wants to see the executive spend more on helping students in need and less on political campaigning.
“Instead of protesting to freeze the fees, why don’t we decrease the fees with the money we have,” he said.
That, according to Board of Governors representative Alex Lisman, amounts to ineffectual, short-term thinking.
“You can’t address a genuine problem with a Band-Aid solution,” said Lisman. “It just doesn’t work.”
Lisman said organized political campaigns such as last year’s lobbying of the board of governors, which helped prevent tuition increase for professional programs at Ryerson, have been of more beneficial to students than the allocation of council funds for bursaries.
In his defense, MacLean points to the fact that increasing financial pressures have led more and more Ryerson students to apply for RyeSAC bursaries and the vast majority are being turned down.
“It is ridiculous that we’re only spending $7,500 to give out bursaries this semester to 700 applicants,” he said.
“There’s a 2.1 per cent chance you got a bursary if you actually applied. You might as well go play the lottery.”
MacLean is careful to say that he is not yet campaigning for the presidency, yet he said he would propose a massive increase in the number of bursaries available through RyeSAC.
His plan calls for all of Ryerson’s contingency fund to be invested in high yield bonds which would generate, by his estimate, $400,000 per year in interest.
At the moment, RyeSAC earns approximately $55,000 per year from its investments.
Cooney said it is highly unlikely that MacLean’s plan could ever be implemented because the reorganization he is proposing would threaten council’s economic security.
“I think that sort of plan would jeopardize the new student center,” said Cooney. “And after 30 years, we can’t do that.”
Cooney also pointed out that former vice-president finance and services Sajjad Wasti, who was responsible for drawing up this year’s budget, is now going to be MacLean’s campaign manager.
“MacLean is criticizing a budget that was created by his own team,” said Cooney. “At the very least it’s tragically ironic, at the very worst it’s some sort of conspiracy to create a campaign tactic.”
The real issue, according to MacLean, is not the controversy over his creative interpretation of the real issue, says MacLean, is not the controversy over his creative accounting but the character assassination campaign being organized against him by Darren Cooney and Alex Lisman.
“I guarantee that Cooney will never ever support me for anything,” said MacLean. “It’s this whole political agenda thing that causes such a problem.”
While MacLean claims to have no political agenda, Lisman said it has been clear for some time that MacLean’s personal agenda is dominated by dreams of the presidency.
“That’s the only thing he’s been concerned about this year, making sure to get himself elected,” said Lisman. “I don’t think he has any vision.”