Budgets, beats and boardrooms

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 By Jake Scott


The alternative budget crafted by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) was met with confusion at the Board of Governors (BoG) meeting and opposition on March 30.

The content of the RSU’s presentation to the BoG was somewhat unexpected, according to Ryerson President Sheldon Levy.

“We were actually expecting this presentation to be at the next meeting,” said Levy after the presentation.

But the RSU received an invitation to speak at the BoG on March 26 and had given administration the slides shortly after, according to RSU Vice-President Education Jesse Root.

Root said that the purpose of “this meeting was to talk about the context of high tuition fees.” During the BoG meeting they used specific examples from the alternative budget to explain their points.

“We gave them that presentation within 24 hours of them inviting us to that meeting in the first place,” Root said. “I found that an attempt to delegitimize me a little bit, which I didn’t appreciate.”

Following Root’s presentation, Ryerson’s Deputy Provost Paul Stenton, said that a tuition freeze would cost the school $73 million over 10 years. Root said that the BoG could email him to discuss anything in the alternative budget that they disagree with.

“I’m happy that they were at least listening … I think ultimately we’ll see what their reaction is when and if governors take up my  invitation to talk with them about the budget,” Root said.

Before the presentation the RSU rallied supporters to follow them into the BoG meeting. They had music and megaphones, but they weren’t the only ones.

A counter-rally was organized under the name “Enough is Enough” to protest the Freeze the Fees campaign. This ran parallel with Freeze the Peas, a satirical rally held on March 27 that was also a food drive.

“We donated a bunch of canned goods and we had students come in and collect and it’s a pretty big donation for the Good Food Room,” said Obaid Ullah, incoming vice-president operations for the RSU.

It was rally against rally as a small battalion of engineers took the centre of Lake Devo for their protest dance party. Both the RSU and Enough is Enough rallies blasted music to drown the other out.

People stopped and stared in confusion as both sides dueled with decibels. When both the RSU and the Enough is Enough rally played Uptown Funk at the same time, the audio war ended.

“They’ve been out protesting and not been giving information as to why they have such an issue with the alternative budget … [It’s] making a mockery of student poverty,” Root said.

“The fact these things don’t matter to them [and] they can’t just stay out of the way and recognize that these are issues for a lot of students on campus is really frustrating.”

Root said he believes that the actions he’s seen from students is alarming, especially regarding incoming RSU executives.

“My challenge to them again, as I’ve said publicly before, is if these issues don’t matter to you, that’s fine, and in fact, great … but please stay out of the way when we’re trying to advocate on our members’ interest,” Root said.

He said he worries that the incoming RSU slate will undo the work that he and the rest of the current executives have done this year.

“Cormac [McGee], who’s going into my position, has said that the only way he’s ever gotten anything, and this is what he said in the debate, was through sitting down and asking for it,” Root said.

“I’ve been sitting down and asking for this stuff for four months, eight months, nine months, however long I’ve been here …  things only started to happen when we did other things like rallies.”

McGee, the incoming vice-president education for the RSU, agrees with the sentiment of the current RSU, but not the execution.

“If I was VP education and I developed an alternative budget I wouldn’t be yelling in the streets about it. They went to the finance committee and got accepted … I commend that, they seem pretty professional from what I hear,” McGee said.

“I don’t know if the budget is being taken seriously or it’s just giving them a platform that they can say that they spoke on … Professionally I think the admin would be smart to look at the budget and forget about the other bullshit.”

The RSU will be addressing adjustments to the alternative budget at the annual BoG budget meeting in April.

With files from Jackie Hong and Keith Capstick.

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