By Carys Mills
Toby Whitfield already had a full-time job when he took on the responsibilities of two more.
Whitfield is VP finance and services of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), but with the RSU lacking one full-time executive and a staff member, he has been left to pick up the slack.
Muhammad Ali Jabbar, RSU president, has been in Pakistan for about a month visiting an ill relative. Presidential responsibilities Whitfield has taken on include attending meetings as part of university relations and management of RSU full-time staff.
Gareth Henry, former equity and campaigns officer, resigned on March 4. The absence of an equity and campaigns organizer has left Whitfield as the supervisor of the RSU community service groups, which include RyePRIDE, the Women’s Centre, the Working Students’ Centre, RyeACCESS, and the Community Food Room.
“Things are running smoothly,” said Rebecca Rose, vice-president education.
According to Rose, all the RSU executives are used to taking on extra responsibilities. She said Whitfield has received “the most time consuming roles” because he’s the only other RSU executive signing officer. The collective agreement with the union appoints him as staff relations officer in the president’s absence.
“It just means that I’m having to balance things and spend a little more time in the office,” said Whitfield.
However some community group employees don’t agree that his balancing act is working.
“My opinion and common sense says that Toby [Whitfield] can’t do it all,” said Jesse Trautmann, RyePRIDE’s coordinator. “It’s not him personally, it’s too much for one person.”
It’s expected that RSU executives work 40 hours a week. Whitfield said he works more like 60 or 70.
Even with all his additional responsibilities on campus, Whitfield accompanied Rose to the student union election campaign at the University of Toronto for two days last week during business hours and will be at York University this week.
Trautmann said that it appears that the RSU may be choosing to allocate their resources to non-Ryerson priorities.
“We can never find him, he’s never in his office and doesn’t answer calls or emails,” said Karen Warren, a co-ordinator of the Working Students’ Centre. Last Thursday, Warren said she’d sent Whitfield five emails already that week and had yet to receive a response.
As their supervisor, Warren and Trautmann need Whitfield to approve changes to their schedules, posters and newsletters and meet with them about other matters.
“I have friends at U of T so I was there for a few hours on Wednesday and Thursday,” Whitfield responded. “I come in pretty early and leave pretty late, so I don’t think that me being out of the office really affects my job because I work all hours of the day…I’m here all the time and I have a BlackBerry so emails get responded to.”
Part of Trautmann and Warren’s frustration comes from not knowing why Whitfield has become their boss. In the co-ordinator’s absence, the pair said the role should go to Denise Hammond, RSU executive director of communications and outreach. Hammond is currently on stress leave for a week.
As staff relations officer, Whitfield is only responsible for managing full-time staff, not the part-time contract workers.
Whitfield said he doesn’t know how long it will take to find a new equity and campaigns organizer because of the complicated hiring process.
It involves reviewing the position, forming a hiring committee and posting the job internally before it’s advertised outside the university.