By Angela Hennessy
Despite several requests from the graduate executive committee to the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) to hold a referendum for separation from the union, no decision to move forward will be made until next month.
“It is insane how much power the RSU has over graduate students, which are a totally separate student body with much different needs,” said Ebrahim Poulad, chairperson for the graduate executive committee.
“The RSU are proving they are not willing to do their job, which right now is to hold a referendum.
We want democracy.” The graduate committee first put forward the motion for secession in February 2012, but in order for the motion to move towards a referendum, it must be addressed at a board meeting, which so far has not occurred. Though the motion appeared on the agenda of the last meeting, a loss of quorum prevented discussion on the issue.
Currently there are roughly 2,500 graduate students to almost 28,000 undergraduate students in the RSU.
The complaint from the graduate committee is that graduate students are overlooked because they are so drastically outnumbered.
“The RSU are using that power in favour of themselves, and this is not fair,” Poulad said.
“The RSU lobbies for the interests of undergraduates and doesn’t understand what graduate students needs are, such as, easy access to travel grants.” Poulad added that undergraduate students should not have voting power over graduate student issues.
“I think we need to be separated from the RSU because it would be much better for our student economy,” said Faisal Siddiqui, a graduate student who signed the petition for a referendum. “The RSU does not treat us fairly at all and our needs are not being met.”
Separation would mean grad students will no longer have access to RSU services such as the discount TTC metro pass, health and dental plan, funding for grad-specific initiatives, staff resources, or RSU events and programming, said Rodney Diverlus, president of the RSU.
“I want the discourse to shift to be talking about if the average grad student on this campus is seeing a disconnect between services,” Diverlus said.
“[And] how to make sure that grad students can actually take benefit of their membership within the students’ union, as opposed to playing into what I will honestly, bluntly say is a personal issue with some of the at-large executives.” But Poulad thinks the RSU is delaying the process of approving a referendum. According to Article 7 of the RSU bylaws, if any association of the RSU wants to have a referendum, they must first get a petition signed by 10 per cent of the voters. “We have already collected 350 signatures from students saying they want a referendum, which is over the required amount,” Poulad said.
A split could mean the RSU will lose some of its funding, and not all graduate students want to separate.
“I think it is undeniably important to have the support and involvement of undergraduate students who can ensure that campaigns are continued year to year,” said graduate student, Laine Newman.
The next step for the grad committee is going to be decided at a council meeting scheduled for March 25.