By Carolyn Turgeon
The graduate executives of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) are seeking more control over their finances and decisions.
“We’re trying to analyze and see how other grad student associations (GSAs) do it,” said Osman Hamid, chairperson of the graduate executive committee.
The initiative stemmed from a disagreement at an RSU board meeting on Feb. 27, as previously reported by The Eyeopener.
Since the reported decision to consider separation from the RSU, Hamid said the grad executives have been exploring their options. They have decided they could either form their own graduate student union or gain more control within the RSU.
“We want a change so that [our] representatives have control over the [grad student] funds and how they should be distributed,” said Hamid.
According to him, the RSU makes an estimated $180,000 from graduate student fees. The executives have access to $3,500 of these profits to fund their GSAs.
They can form up to 37 of these student groups but would be unable to fund them all, said Hamid.
RSU president Caitlin Smith, a voting member on the graduate board, said that it is difficult enough to get grad students engaged, let alone form GSAs, but that the RSU intends to advocate for more base funding for grad council at their annual general meeting (AGM).
She clarified that the grad executives only distribute that portion of their profits because other portions go towards services all members use, such as the health and dental plan, members services desk and lawyer and advocacy services.
This is why it’s not used by them for their own activities. She said more base funding would give the council more money for events and speakers.
Personally, Hamid would like the grad executives to gain more autonomy within the RSU by controlling their own funding. Afterwords, they would be able to raise their membership and eventually form their own union.
“That would be a process of evolution that we can go through,” he said. “We’re not going ‘oh my god, we’ve got to leave tomorrow.’”
Hamid said Smith has tried to schedule meetings with them but they’ve all been cancelled. He said the RSU is aware that they have these ambitions as they have access to the minutes of their graduate executive meetings.
“[From the RSU perspective], we’ve presented ourselves and created ample opportunity for discussion,” said Smith.
She said meetings have been cancelled due to scheduling conflicts but she hasn’t been approached by executives. Hamid said the next step will consist of figuring out what services are used the most by grad students so they can dedicate funding to them.