By Matt Kwong
A RyeSAC executive has refused to take the cash handout that gave two execs free on-campus residence.
Weeks after RyeSAC President Dave MacLean and Cristina Ribeiro, vice president student life and events, accepted a housing allowance that covered their living costs in Pitman Hall, Vice President Education Rebecca Rose said she won’t accept any offers to help her pay rent.
Instead, Rose said she’ll pour the money back into RyeSAC as donations to under-funded areas. “I can’t in good conscience take that money,” she said. “It doesn’t feel right.”
Rose’s first housing handout, which arrived on Oct. 15, showed up on her bi-weekly RyeSAC paycheque as an additional $813.07 tacked on to her salary.
The decision to snub that cheque-a 65 per cent subsidy on her current living costs-was made after hearing students complain about being shut out of residence while RyeSAC execs roomed for free. “A lot of them were concerned,” she said. “If somebody comes up to you and says, This was my money for rent, but it’s going to you,’ that’s a weird feeling.”
Rose said she’s not in any kind of financial peril and doesn’t need the subsidy, adding that her rent is around $300. “I’m pretty stingy and I’m not a big spender, and my parents also help with my tuition,” she said. Aside from the 40 hours a week at RyeSAC, Rose doesn’t work another job. “She’s standing up for good governance,” said Sam Rahimi, vice president external at the University of Toronto’s student council.
Like U of T, Rahimi said, Ryerson is largely a commuter school. “Execs are supposed to make the school more accessible, but if students can’t live there, the whole move just seems a bit perverse,” he said. MacLean and Ribeiro took free residence spaces after a July 28 board meeting approved a recommendation to let RyeSAC reps and frosh be more readily available to each other.
“The key question is: Do we want RyeSAC to be a 9-5 presence, or a 24-hour presence?” said Simon Rossiter, the chair of the committee that first proposed the residence benefits. He said the idea of offering free or cheap housing to RyeSAC execs allowed some to quit a second job and commit more time to RyeSAC responsibilities.
“If Rebecca can afford to [donate the cheque], then more power to her,” he said. Vice President Finance and Student Services Derek Isber also received his first cheque to cover 65 per cent of his rent on Oct. 15.
The handout allowed Isber-who estimated that he budgets $700 a month for food and living costs-to quit his job doing maintenance at a tennis club. Tyler Smith, vice president external of Canada’s highest-paid student union at Alberta’s Mount Royal College ($35,000 a year for execs), said Rose’s decision not to take the money sounds unrealistic.
“How could you work for 40 hours a week [at] a full-time job for $300 a week?” he said. “You can’t live on that; especially not in Toronto…If I were [Rose] I might change my mind.”
But Rose said she’s sticking to her principles. “You have my word completely-I won’t be keeping a cent of the subsidy.”