CESAR executives are keeping quiet about the sudden resignation of four executive members and
internal harassment claims inside the union’s doors. News Editor Rebecca Burton reports
In just over one month, the sudden resignation of four executives has landed the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) in turmoil.
Of the five newly elected executives at the Nov. 15 board meeting, four resigned over a four-week period in late January and February. The members included former president and director of membership and communication Dominic Wong, director of events and workshops Sanjid Anik, and director of campaigns and equity Kayla Altman. Wong’s replacement, Jason Harman, was also gone before the month’s end.
The remaining executives are keeping tight-lipped on the subject as they claim the reasons are personal and decline to comment on specifics. But internal minutes show evidence of conflict including harassment claims among members. The claims target two executives still a part of CESAR: Ugochukwu Asagwara, director of academics and policy and Shinae Kim, director of finance.
Yet no clear evidence has emerged to explain why four main executives suddenly left.
“We don’t necessarily make it a habit of letting the world know what’s going on within the organization,” said Asagwara.
In most recent years the organization fell short as it tried to repair its operating deficit. The organization received $608,180 in students fees last year, $418,612 of which went towards salaries and benefits. Last year’s executives implemented a set of new by-laws that dissolved the current board of directors and instituted a five-person executive with no president.
Wong was among the first to resign, but remains involved in the board. “As far as my resignation, I am just trying to stay out of it all and move on,” said Wong.
Internal conflict is evident in the minutes from a Jan. 18, 2011 board meeting, when Wong expresses concern about a lack of effort in recruiting new members.
Altman offers a response by saying she has spoken to two students so far. But Asagwara replies with, “we’re all grown ups here. Dom’s presenting his report, you (Altman) do not have to respond, the question was not asked to you.”
Asagwara had a motion put against him to decide on disciplinary action for displaying unprofessional behaviour and workplace violence against another executive at the previous Nov. 18 board meeting. He was also given a oneyear warning for inappropriate conduct in the office for raising his voice.
“There was a miscommunication with the office that led the board to mandate certain training for certain executives and for the board at large,” said Asagwara. “We can say the miscommunication was between Shinae [Kim] and I.”
Minutes highlight that only Asagwara and fellow executive Kim were specifically required to attend mediation training. Kim and Asagwara would also attend a mediated discussion with a neutral third party. A total of $1,500 was allocated toward workplace harassment training, a new figure that had not appeared in the last three years.
Asagwara admits that training has still not happened.
“At this time I wouldn’t feel safe or secure talking about my experience there,” said Altman, another executive to resign since assuming her position in November.
Kim submitted a motion for disciplinary action to be taken against Altman during a Jan. 18 meeting for “displaying unprofessional behaviour in the office and contradicting sections of the by-laws.” But the motion was never approved.
Altman has since been banned from entering the CESAR offices.
“I wasn’t really given the option to stay,” said Altman.
Anik was the last of the three directors to resign, but he was unavailable for comment. After Wong’s resignation, the position was assumed by Jason Harman. Harman has since resigned as well. In an initial meeting with Ortiz, he responded to Harman’s resignation by saying, “there have been some issues going on with him too.”
Ortiz later denied he indicated there were issues with Harman. CESAR is currently attempting to draw in new political members. and hopes to have the names of next year’s executive by April 15.
“Financial policies have been put in place so there is no financial mismanagement within the organization,” said Asagwara. “It’s a work in progress but we hope to get there before we make a transition at the next election.”