Grad pics pad RSU pockets

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By Mariana Ionova
News Editor

The RSU earns nearly $30,000 each year from organizing convocation portraits for graduating students.

The union negotiates a flat commission with Lassman Studios each year and spends a part of the money on advertising the service, according to Caitlin Smith, RSU vice-president of finance and services. The remaining amount is revenue for the RSU.

“We recognize it as a revenue-generating service in the same was as the Used Book Room,” said Toby Whitfield, RSU president.

Last year, the RSU spent $1,214 on advertising the photography service and kept $28,666 in earnings.

But Smith argued that the RSU runs the service well, providing high-quality portraits for an extremely low rate.

“Our sitting fee and our booking fee are actually one of the lowest,” she said.

Currently, the sitting fee for students is $25, which includes the cost of the proofs and the composite photograph of the graduating class. Buying the larger photos and packages can cost students another several hundred dollars.

According to Whitfield, the RSU has been running the service since the school started using Lassman Studios nearly 30 years ago.

“I think that that’s something that the RSU would want to be involved in as a way to earn some funds for the RSU,” said Lise Payne, convocation events coordinator.

But, while Ryerson chooses to leave graduation portraits up to the RSU, other schools opt to organize the service

themselves and negotiate perks for students in their contracts.

At Trent University, the school’s contract with Miranda Studios, a Peterborough photography studio, includes free composite photos for graduating students in exchange for using the company’s services.

“What we’re getting out of it is that we’re getting the composite for free,” said Joanne Sokolowski, manager of

Convocation and University Functions at Trent University.

The University of Toronto’s advancement office also oversees the graduation portraits as a part of its Alumni Circle. The university uses Lassman studios as well, but its contract with the studio provides students with free sittings and photo proofs.

One of the reasons Ryerson hasn’t followed suit is because its Convocation and Awards office simply has not reviewed how the school currently deals with graduation photos.

“It’s not a conscious decision not to pursue it; it’s just that they haven’t done it at this point,“ said Ann MacKay, manager of Convocation and Awards.

Another reason Ryerson does not oversee graduation portraits is because the university’s Convocation office has only been in existence for three years, according to MacKay.

“[These other universities] have probably had a convocation office in existence for possibly longer than we have, and it’s just something that we haven’t looked at yet,” said MacKay.

But this doesn’t mean it won’t happen at some point when the service is examined more closely, according to MacKay.

“We would probably just make sure that, as long as something is serving the students efficiently, we can easily keep it the way it is,” she said.

“If it isn’t, then we would have to take a harder look at the management of it.”

Photo: Lauren Strapagiel


  1. Great story!! I can’t believe you actually got the RSU to speak about the budget or anything to do with money at all!! However, I really do think that the school paper should be looking into getting the RSU’s legal budget/insurance from the past 2 years as there is probably some really interesting info for students to know.

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