By Laura Blenkinsop and Alison Jones
Last January, the newly-minted Ted Rogers School of Management celebrated in style. With chandeliers bouncing light off wine glasses and photo ops with a branded ice sculpture, the Ted Rogers Appreciation Gala made it official. The business building’s move from exposed wires and lockers on Victoria Street to court yards and conference halls put Ryerson on Bay Street and the business school on the industry’s radar.
Among the 350 students dressed to kill was the group of students who organized the gala and shelled out half of the $30,000 to party at the Liberty Grand.
In its five year existence, the Ryerson Commerce Society (RCS) has tried to shed the ‘Rye High’ brand by pouring money into advancing its image. Last year they spent over $250,000, most of which went to parties, merchandising and networking.
“We have established an image among other commerce societies across Canada, so Ryerson would be erased off the map [if there were no RCS],” said Cristina Jakimtschuk, the society’s current president.
This year, the fanfare has leveled and the RCS’s budget is $100,000 less than last year. But with nearly $200,000 to spend and the power to decide who to spend it on, the RCS is still on top.
Three years ago, the RCS’s future didn’t look as promising. The dean and administration considered dissolving the society because they suspected money was being mismanaged.
In 2005-06, the RCS “did not have any proper accounting system in place, they were not transparent,” said Abdullah Snobar, honorary councillor and last year’s RCS president. “Pretty much people were signing their own cheques.” S
hane Fields, who was elected to be the 2006-07 president, sat down with Ken Jones, dean of the business school, to clean up the RCS and start fresh. Snobar said they started to take record-keeping seriously and required two signing authorities on cheques. They also restructured the board, cutting executive positions from nine to five.
The RCS operates similarly to the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU). It runs its own frosh week and prints its own agendas. The only other student group to do this is the Ryerson Engineering Student Society (RESS). But with only $82,786 to spend, RESS’s budget is nowhere near the RCS’s. The RCS represents 7,150 students while RESS only speaks for 4,580 students.
The RCS spent $5,266 on a weekend retreat this August to YMCA Geneva Park in Orillia (the same place the RSU goes for its annual retreat) which set them up on a peninsula that has both hiking trails and high tech board rooms. The RESS paid just over $400 to go to Algonquin park.
The RCS budgets $400 for eight days of energy drinks and pizza for business students during exam time. Last year, they also paid to send 180 people to conferences, of whom 30 were RCS board members.
“It expands the students’ learning experience outside of the classroom,” said Jakimtschuk. “They are able to network with other students across other business schools and to use that information to find a job.”
But some think the RCS isn’t doing enough for students.
Toby Whitfield, RSU VP finance and services said he thinks there are too many etiquette dinners and business events that do not cater to everyone, like those who are interested in sustainable business.
“I think they should focus on building community, the Ryerson Community, they should be doing more events,” he said.
The RCS says their purpose is only to cater to business students.
“We keep it within the business building,” said Cristina Jakimtschuk, President RCS.
“Our student groups are not accountable to outside sources.”
Rob Fraser, vice president of the Nursing Course Union and official delegate to the Canadian Nursing Students’ Association, says his group is working towards the networking and fundraising skills that he said come more naturally to the RCS because of their business background. For him the RCS is something to emulate.
“They are the ones who are pushing into different areas,” he said. “And if they raise the bar, it allows other groups to think about how it can push up what they are doing.”