By Sierra Bein, Jake Scott and Jackie Hong
It was halfway through the Ryerson Students’ Union’s (RSU) fall general meeting on Nov. 11 when the issues between the RSU and a student representative on the Board of Governors (BoG) became apparent.
During a discussion about a motion to launch the RSU’s new campaign, Freeze the Fees, Tyler Webb, a student representative of the BoG spoke out against a resolution that called for the number of student members on the BoG to be increased from three to six.
Webb did not disclose his position on the BoG. The Freeze the Fees campaign aims to stop tuition increases, and calls for the school to accept an alternative budget to the BoG.
The motion was put forward by RSU Vice-President Education Jesse Root.
“I think it’s time for some shaming. If you’re going to come and vote against our campaign that tries to call you to account, you are going to risk losing … accountability,” Root said after the meeting.
He said two student members of the BoG, Webb and Joseph Vukovic, were present at the meeting. However, Webb said he believes he was the only BoG student representative there.
The three current BoG student members are Webb, Vukovic and Noah Geist.
“There were three votes against [the motion], two of them are our student [representatives on the] BoG, in fact, who the motion specifically targets. So you can understand why they were against it and we’ll be following up with them about that,” Root said after the meeting.
The motion, which also said the RSU will “develop an aggressive campaign,” ultimately passed, allowing the RSU to begin their campaign with an inaugural Freeze the Fees rally on Nov. 17.
The RSU has set up a “tent city” in front of Jorgenson Hall to protest what it said is Ryerson University’s “refusal to work with students and Ryerson community members on a budget that does not include budget cuts and tuition fee increases for the tenth year in a row.”
In a press release, the RSU said students will camp out “until the university co-operates to present an alternative budget to be considered at the Board of Governors Meeting in April.” Webb said he disagrees with the RSU’s tactics.
“It’s representative of … the kind of drastic actions I don’t think are necessary to make change happen,” he said. “I’m a big believer in conversation and moving forward on, you know, equal footing, and that large public statements don’t get anywhere near as much done as … sitting down and working through things.”
Tension has been growing between the RSU and student representatives on the BoG since October.
As The Eyeopener previously reported, the RSU said it was denied the opportunity to speak directly at the upcoming BoG meeting about creating an “alternate budget” that would not include tuition fee increases or service cuts.
The union was told to speak to the student BoG members who would present the proposal on the RSU’s behalf. However, the RSU said the student representatives were reluctant to work with them, stating they were unable to reach them. The RSU launched a brief Twitter campaign to get the attention of the representatives.
“I’m not convinced that their minds are on our side,” Root said. “That’s why we’re feeling we need to rally … because there’s no other accountability mechanisms.”
Webb said that he had been sending emails to Root since Oct. 20 and didn’t receive a response until Oct. 31, three days before the deadline to submit motions to the BoG. He said this wasn’t enough time to make a decision on the motion.
“I’m not going to take anything on faith, I think it’s part of my responsibility and kind of my duty as a board member to kind of sit down with people and understand where motions and ideas are coming [from] before I put them to the board,” Webb said.
According to Root, “tent city” isn’t going anywhere until their demands are met. The BoG meeting will take place on Nov. 27.
“Ultimately, we still recognize that the place of action is the BoG so we’re going to continue to pressure there,” Root said.