By Graham Pollock
Never mind lagers and ales, controversy may be on tap at the Ram in the Rye this week after questions were raised about its hiring practices.
The campus pub has been hiring employees who are not enrolled at Ryerson to cover daytime shifts and bolster its large staff. While pub management defends the policy as essential to meeting its scheduling needs, the farming out of student jobs has raised some eyebrows around campus, including those of Ryerson Students’ Union President Muhammad Ali Jabbar.
“I definitely see that to be a problem,” Jabbar says. “Tuition fees have gone up this year and most of the students are feeling a burden financially and they need help.”
“These jobs should not be going anywhere else except students.”
The Eyeopener contacted pubs at six major Canadian universities including Dalhousie University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Western Ontario and found that each restricts its non-managerial positions to students.
Rob Emerson, general manager of the Student Campus Centre, says that it is simply a matter of efficiency.
“We decided a few years back, that it was more efficient to have a small base of non-students working for us,” Emerson says.
The problem with placing restrictions on who can be hired, according to Emerson, is the difficulty it would introduce to the scheduling of shifts.
“Our schedule frequently looks a bit like a jigsaw puzzle,” Emerson says, emphasizing that non-students are simply used to fill the holes.
Emerson says Ryerson students are given priority for employment at the Ram in the Rye, adding there are no formal restrictions on who can be hired. He points out that the vast majority of employees are students and stresses that the pub makes every effort to fill its vacancies from the student body.
“The Ram in the Rye is here for the campus community,” he says. “It makes good business sense to have as many employees from the community as possible.”
Of the roughly 85 workers making up the current staff, Emerson told The Eyeopener that three full-time workers are non-Ryerson students, five part-timers are non-Ryerson students (although two are alumni) and two employees are students elsewhere.
“We’re talking a handful of employees only,” Emerson says.
But as far as Jabbar is concerned, it’s a handful too many. He argues that campus jobs should not be open to the general public.
“I believe that students should be working on campus,” Jabbar says. “I think there should be jobs, and if jobs are available, students should be given preference.”
Jabbar doesn’t think that a university with more than 20,000 undergraduates should have trouble filling a few serving jobs.
“I could send him probably 300 applicants myself,” Jabbar says.
A shortage of applicants hardly seems to be the problem, though. Despite the pub’s apparent difficulty with shift availability, Emerson claims that the Ram in the Rye has no trouble filling its staff roster. Jobs are largely advertised through posters around campus.
“We don’t often find the need to be overly extensive with our advertising, and have never had difficulty filling the positions we have available,” Emerson states.
He also notes that the pub does not actively seek out non-student workers through external advertising.
Not surprisingly, the policy doesn’t sit well with some Ryerson students.
“If the work can be done by students, then it’s very unfair,” says first-year architecture student Eyitope Ajayi. “I think all the staff should be students.”
Binh Ta, a first-year business management student, believes the pub has an obligation to give back to the people that fill its tables night after night.
“I don’t think all decisions should come down to business,” he says. “It’s the campus community that supports the pub, and it should return the favour by supporting the community.”
Unlike many other campus pubs the Ram in the Rye is not owned and operated by the university’s student union, and therefore has no formal obligation to fill its positions internally.
— with files from Josh Visser