By Rebecca Burton
Graduate students say lack of action from the Ryerson Student’s Union (RSU) for more funding has them fed up. Enough to consider complete separation from the RSU.
“[RSU] executives shut down ideas that are not good for the whole student body but graduate students have different issues than undergraduates,” said Osman Hamid, chairperson of the graduate executive committee.
The main argument arose at a RSU board meeting on Feb. 27, when the two graduate executives on the RSU board of governors, Hamid and Ebrahim Poulad, said they made a plea for more funding. The two were then allegedly “laughed at” and called “sketchy,” by RSU executives.
Hamid and Poulad wanted to make an amendment regarding the travel grant fund that reimburses students who have already attended a conference or workshop that partners their graduate work. A maximum of $500 is given to students, with only one grant per student per year. Of the $19,000 available this year towards travel grants, an increase from last year’s $16,000 fund, Hamid said the fund is almost depleted. An obvious need for more funding, he said.
Hamid said they also requested to put leftover money from one of their events into the travel grant fund but was denied by the RSU. As it stands, members of the graduate executive committee, the travel grants committee nor the directors on the RSU board are allowed to apply for this travel grant. Hamid and Poulad attempted to make an amendment that would allow members of the travel grant committee to still be allowed to apply for the travel grant. The two felt it was unfair to deny students funding just for becoming involved.
Hamid suggested they remove the member of the travel fund committee from the room during the decision process, allowing the remaining two members to make the decision.
“We need more involvement to make the community strong. But if [students] are smart they won’t step up to the [travel grants] committee,” said Poulad.
The amendment was not approved. But the RSU executives are fighting back saying these decisions were made in haste and letters sent out from the graduate executive contain misinformation.
“It only restricts two students who voluntarily put themselves toward becoming part of the travel grant committee. They are fully aware of this restriction and are still eligible to get any other type of funding from the university,” said Sean Carson, RSU vice-president operations.
According to Carson, the board was discussing the travel fund in order to change the policy to allow students to receive funding prior to their trip. Carson also indicated no suggestions to allow a member to leave the room were made during the meeting.
Allegations saying Carson had used the word “sketchy” during the meeting were “taken out of context,” he said.
“To give yourself money when you sit on the committee is ‘sketchy.’ I oversimplified my language when I should have used the words ‘conflict of interest.’”
Vice-president education, Melissa Palermo, was unavailable for comment but Carson spoke on her behalf. The laughter as indicated by Hamid, was “nervous laughter” after the chair had asked Hamid to stop referring to the defeated amendment when he was meant to motivate the policy, said Carson.
“These letters contain misinformation that need to be clarified,” said Carson.
But Hamid is eager to take the next step to separate from the RSU. “It is not enough money given to graduate students. We are paying membership fees to the RSU. We are just trying to use our own money,” said Hamid.
Terry McAfee, director of business administration, said he is unable to comment on the possibility of creating a separate graduate students union but says the school is currently working on making it more clear what funds are available for students — be it the RSU or the school itself.
“There is not a lot of money given out to travel [from the school] because there are no set funds for this. But we do what we can when we are able to,” he said.
The graduate executive could go about separating themselves from the RSU is still unclear but Hamid will present this idea to the dean of graduate studies and other administration.
“The funding is not to have fun and play games. Graduate students are going to present papers that will enhance their education and the reputation of the university,” said Hamid.