The Ryerson Students’ Union is camping in front of Jorgenson Hall, the school’s main administrative building.

Photo: Rob Foreman

Union’s dedication is in tents

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By Mohamed Omar

Believe it or not, university student politics is not sexy.

Occasionally, on television and in the movies, post-secondary student activism is portrayed as explosive, unrelenting, passionate.

Think Channing Tatum running around shouting “Benghazi, man, Benghazi!” But Hollywood-ified depictions of protests that show legions of angry and dedicated students coming out in droves couldn’t be farther from reality.

Here at Ryerson, we have the granny’s panties of student activism.

Our student body unknowingly waves it like a massive white flag.

If any student on campus came up to me and said, “The majority of this campus does not give a twirling shit about its student government,” I would not have much ammo to argue.

If another ran up to me and said, “The voter turnout rate for our student elections has been on a steady incline for the past fi ve years!” then I would call animal services and tell them a drunk badger is spewing lies.

It would be horrendously wrong, however, to accuse the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) — the official, elected student government — of not being dogged in its student activism.

But around its zeal for studentled initiatives, I notice a terrible, demotivating situation.

Here is the current state of the RSU, from where I see it: It’s executive was elected by less than 7 per cent of students on a campus of 30,000.

It must, in all its actions, strive to serve those 30,000 students, with barely any of them giving a parrot’s ass about what’s going on.

In order to get things done at the level of Ryerson’s Board of Governors (which controls finances, property, major projects, etc.), it must have a student representative take its concerns to the board.

There are three student representatives on the board who aren’t helping the union, leaving it virtually impotent in its quest to penetrate Ryerson’s decision-making process.

Finally, the RSU has chosen one of the most monumental challenges a student government can take on: lowering — and eventually abolishing – tuition fees.

The RSU’s explosive dedication to that cause is evident in its current campaign, Freeze the Fees, which kicked off Monday.

The union and its supporters are now camping in front of Jorgenson Hall, where the offi ces of the president and other higher-ups are located. They’re hunkering down until the school accepts, among other things, to see an alternate budget – created by a coalition of students, faculty, staff and others – at its board meeting. This budget would include frozen tuition fees and no budget cuts.

Camping out is not the craziest of protest methods, and despite getting some coverage on CP24 and CityNews, it likely won’t get students rushing to join.

But when you consider the RSU’s declining influence and support on campus, its apathetic-as-a-doorknob student populace, its to refusal say “Fuck it, I’m done” when everyone else has — it deserves to be commended.

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