Photo: Jess Tsang

So you got in. Here’s what you don’t know (but should)

In Features /

By Sean Wetselaar

The Unions

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) is the group of students responsible for representing full-time students on campus. In practice, though, most students on campus have very little idea of who they are. Our first tip for incoming Ryerson students: don’t be like your predecessors. Pay attention.

Last year, students paid the RSU $65.43 in an annual levy. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, you should remember that there are around 30,000 full-time students at Ryerson, and that each RSU exec makes nearly $30,000 a year.

There is serious funding behind the student union, so try to actually take advantage of the services they provide.

These include the health and dental plan (which you should opt out of online if you have other coverage), the used book room, and CopyRite, all run out of the student centre. They also provide a free legal clinic – you can book an appointment on the RSU’s website – and a tax clinic.

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is a national lobby group representing full-time Canadian students. They doggedly pursue lower tuition fees and many other initiatives echoed by the RSU.

That’s no coincidence – our union is a local of the CFS, so it’s not unusual to find projects trickle down from the national umbrella group.

This also means that as students, you are indirectly funding the CFS (the RSU pays them to remain a member). So we have the same advice for the CFS as we do for the RSU. Pay attention – you’re a stakeholder.

The Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) is the continuing-ed equivalent of the RSU. It’s been plagued by a series of administrative and political scandals in the past years, but they have ushered in a new executive this year. Time will tell whether that move resolves the beleaguered organization’s struggles.

And finally – almost every program has its own course union.

These are often self-organizing entities that run events and represent their member students.

Course unions pay fees to the RSU, though in some cases they make decisions independently of the students’ union (like RESS – the Ryerson Engineering Student Society).

The Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) recently had a referendum to create the Ryerson Communication and Design Society (RCDS), which will be funded by a levy from FCAD students (on top of the RSU levy they already pay). RCDS hopes to run networking events and fund student projects, among other initiatives.

The administration

Ryerson, at the highest level of the organization, is run by the president, Sheldon Levy, and the vice presidents. The current vice presidents are: Julia Hanigsberg for administration and finance; Adam Kahan for university advancement;

Wendy Cukier for research and innovation; and Denise O’Neil Green, who is in charge of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Don’t care about these people either? You should. Each vice president is the final authority in their department, and though a lot of your meaningless problems won’t ever reach their desks, the administration makes decisions that will affect your life as a student.

The administration isn’t all highly-paid executives, though.

It also runs almost all aspects of the school – from the colour of Gould Street (they apologized for that) to the kind of food you eat.

You don’t have to memorize every department and its corresponding employees to make it through your time at Rye, but it’s worth learning where some of the staple offices are (OSAP offices are on the bottom floor of Jorgenson).

If you are interested in how decisions get made about your school, there are two bodies that make decision on policy at Ryerson – non-academic problems are dealt with by the Board of Governors and academic issues go through the Senate. Want to have a say? You can – there are student seats on both bodies, so if you want your voice to be heard (your voice, not the voice of some rep), you should run.

The DMZ

It has nothing to do with Korea, but it might be one of the biggest attractions the modern iteration of Ryerson can provide.

The Digital Media Zone is Ryerson’s incubator for startups and young entrepreneurs, and it may have drawn more attention than almost any other branch of the school since it was founded in April 2010.

You don’t need to be a student to get your startup sanctioned by the DMZ (though some of the entrepreneurs are) – the only requirement is that your idea passes the Zone’s rigorous application process.

Some notable success stories include 500px, an award-winning photography website, app and community; SoapBox, a crowdsourcing community tool that organizes and prioritizes ideas (it’s currently being used by

Ryerson and Indigo Books and Music, among others); and Bionik Labs, a medical engineering and research project that has helped build full-arm, pneumatic prosthetics and a system for walking rehabilitation.

In the past three and a half years, the DMZ is ranked as the fifth best incubator of its kind in the world, and the top space in the country. For years, Ryerson has trumpeted programs that give you hands-on experience, and the DMZ might be the single best example of that. If you’re an incoming or current student, and you’re interested in the tech field, this is your big in and a chance to surround yourself with the up-andcomers in your industry.

The food

Ryerson has a spotted history with its food services. For a decade, food on campus was run by Aramark, a massive organization that also, notably, provides food to the American prison system.

Surprisingly, students decided they weren’t satisfied with food fit for inmates, and when Aramark’s contract came up for renewal in 2013, the RSU and other students started an uproar over the quality and cost of on campus food.

Aramark was booted off campus, and replaced with new food provider Chartwells. While Chartwells is another large company with no local stake in the community – something the RSU fought hard against – it has upped the standard of food on campus.

Some schools – like Guelph – are known for the variety and quality of their food. It’s pretty clear that Ryerson is a far cry from achieving that quality of campus food, but if you’re dissatisfied don’t forget that we’re surrounded by dozens of restaurants with tons of variety.

The ombud

If you’ve got a problem that can’t be resolved by the school or the unions, the next step is to take it to Ryerson’s Ombudsperson, Nora Farrell.

Her job is to handle complaints that can’t be fixed elsewhere, and she’s completely independent of everything at the school.

So, if you’ve been screwed over or need a hero, look Farrell up. She’ll be your Batman.

Leave a Comment