by Amanda Marie Quintino
and Alison Northcott
Ryerson Students’ Union executives, acting as members of a committee they said is the “only legitimate body” to manage Oakham House, passed a motion Monday to tell all senior management that “their services are no longer needed.”
Though it may sound like an euphemism for “you’re fired,” RSU President Rebecca Rose insists the Oakham House Management Committee isn’t letting anyone go. At least not officially.
“The people were not hired by the Oakham House management board,” Rose explained. “So we have absolutely no jurisdiction to let them go, we can merely tell them that, for what we manage, we no longer need them.”
Rose said their jurisdiction is Oakham House, which includes the Ram in the Rye.
But Palin Foundation Chair Ron Stagg and Ryerson Centre President Liz Devine said the Oakham House Management Committee does not manage any part of the SCC — and that includes Oakham House.
“At the moment, there is only one legal entity in those buildings (Oakham House and the Student Campus Centre) that has any kind of authority,” Stagg said. “Both RSU and CESAR are legal entities but they in themselves don’t have any authority. Only the Palin Foundation has any authority right now, and they’re trying to take it away by claiming the Oakham House Management Committee still exists.”
According to Stagg and Devine, the committee was dissolved last Wednesday.
“The Oakham House Management Committee no longer exists,” Devine said.
“They can call a meeting, they can do whatever they want, but the contract between the Palin Foundation, RSU and CESAR is cancelled.”
It was cancelled, they said, because the committee was no longer serving a purpose since their mandate adheres only to management of Oakham House and has no responsibility for the SCC.
“The Oakham House Management Committee was sitting in name only because it hasn’t functioned for over a year,” said Stagg. “Getting rid of the committee was a housekeeping thing…It’s not needed anymore, we can’t calculate any more loss because now the two buildings operate together.”
During a meeting of the Palin Foundation last week, Stagg put forward the motion to dissolve the fractured committee, which was formed in 1996 to manage the day-to-day operations of Oakham House. A majority voted in favour of this motion.
Because the committee no longer exists, Devine and Scott Clark, the Ryerson President Appointee, didn’t show up to the meeting Monday morning, during which senior management staff were relieved of their Oakham House duties. A motion to appoint current RSU executive director Mike Verticchio as “acting facilities manager” was also passed at the meeting.
Stagg said he thinks the students’ unions are attempting to run things directly, and believes Verticchio’s new position is meant to replace Rob Emerson’s, the SCC’s general manager.
“We’re talking about real people with real lives, with real jobs,” said Devine. “It’s not a very kind thing to do to people that are working their butts off to keep this place up and running. It’s important that these people know that their jobs are secure,” she said, referring to senior management staff, such as Emerson, who are caught in the middle.
“You come to realize…that your job is always threatened,” Emerson said. For now, he said, he will continue to perform the duties laid out in his contract. “My employment contract is signed with the chair of the Palin Foundation, that’s who my direct supervisor is,” he said. “Until I’m told otherwise, that’s who I take my direction from.”
Stagg and Devine maintain that none of the motions made at Monday’s Oakham House Management Committee meeting are legitimate, because the committee itself is not legitimate.
“There’s no legal authority to call that meeting,” said Devine. “They can have an Oakham House Management Committee meeting every day if they want, but none of it will be valid.”
Rose disagrees. “We have been informed by our lawyer on several occasions that the Palin Committee cannot terminate the contract on its own. It needs to be mutually terminated,” she said.
But Stagg said he has legal documents that state otherwise.
“I have a lawyer’s opinion that says very clearly that the Palin Foundation has the right to end the (Oakham House Management Committee), so as far as we’re concerned that committee has no authority to do anything. It’s not legitimate.”
The groups will convene again Sept. 30, this time with Ryerson President Sheldon Levy.
“What I’ll be asking is: How do we go forward?” Levy said. “It’s an important issue to be resolved. I’m trying not to be (a mediator). All I can do is try to work with them.”