Comment By Mohamed Omar
What’s the difference between the Ryerson Students’ Union’s operating budget and a video of farting chimpanzees? The video is on the Internet.
The RSU’s budget, which outlines the organization’s financial priorities and includes information on its employees’ salaries and how much money it can spend on, say, its crusade against bottled water, is not.
Instead, if you want to see what kind of evil plastic container your cash (you are the RSU’s breadwinner, remember?) is fighting against, you have to book an appointment with Andrew McAllister, the union’s vice-president operations.
Why is it not online? After two months of emails to McAllister – he now holds the record for most emails received from the news team
– countless voice messages, and visits to the RSU’s office, I found out. I even booked a meeting with McAllister.
President Rodney Diverlus, who agrees that members have the right to look at the budget, told me the RSU doesn’t post it online for two reasons.
One, they don’t want students to look at all the confusing, alien numbers and start coming up with conspiracy theories about the union’s finances. Instead, they want to sit down with them instead and address any concerns or questions they have.
“It’s very standard in terms of the kind of nature of work that we do as a students’ union. We never would want to put our budget on the website because it would mean anybody could take things out of context and to say ‘this is the salary for this particular staff person’ and ‘this particular staff person has this,'” Diverlus said.
Two, the budget itself, according to Diverlus, is a very “political document” that contains sensitive information the union doesn’t want leaked beyond Ryerson’s borders.
“In our budget there are pretty confidential numbers on there: there are numbers for staffing, there are numbers for legal, there are numbers of how much we actually spend in terms of office work, our campaign priorities, our events,” he said.
We asked the RSU to black out the sensitive information and got no answer, even though previous editors at The Eyeopener said copies of the budget were easily accessible.
If the RSU’s justification for not putting it online is that students will find it confusing and cause problems down the line, then maybe they can put some of those dollars to work and simplify it. The University of Toronto’s student union did it and so did McMaster’s.
Students who are paying for the executive, paying for the full-time staff, paying for the cooks, managers, secretaries and food trucks for the RSU have the right to gaze endlessly on a computer screen, alone and without supervision, to see how their cash is being spent.
Until then, to recap, if you want to see how your dollars are at work, as soon as Andrew McAllister has time for you – he’s a bit busy – you are allowed to see the budget with your own eyes, “jot down whatever you want,” and ask any questions you might have.
That way, when you see the budget live and in the flesh, you won’t be able to type up your findings and publish it on your blog, or feed it to the crazy media who will probably report on it, rendering the RSU’s argument utterly useless.
I’m going to watch some farting monkey videos. See you on Thursday, Andrew.