By Keith Capstick
UPDATE: The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) held its alternative budget town hall in the Thomas Lounge of Oakham Cafe March 12 to give students a chance to give commentary on the document before it is finalized and presented to the Board of Governors.
The town hall opened with speeches by executive from CESAR and RSU detailing why they believe the alternative budget is important to students. After, the floor opened up for a 30 minute question and answer period. Both independent economists hired by the student unions were present to answer questions.
No conversation occurred regarding potential changes to the alternative budget.
For months Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Vice-President Education Jesse Root has been meeting with Ryerson financial administration and licensed economists. His goal is to draft an alternative budget proposal to present to the Ryerson Board of Governors (BoG), in hopes of stopping rising tuition fees. This budget will be the culmination of his year long “Freeze the Fees” campaign.
“There’s close to $40 million that we see the alternative budget being able to save and we know that it will only cost $6.3 million to completely freeze tuition fees, and with no academic departmental budget cuts. So we think that’s reasonable,” Root said.
The university sent out a press release March 10 that said the RSU “wrongly calls” the money a surplus. Instead, the release said the university needs the “savings … to build a strong Ryerson for the future.”
Although the RSU has been working for years to make changes to the university’s budget and reduce tuition fee increases, Root says that this year’s campaign is different because it’s the first time Ryerson’s BoG has been willing to listen to their fiscal suggestions as well as their ideological arguments.
“We’ve never been invited to present to the finance committee, we’ve never been invited to present to the management committee and I feel like they wouldn’t have offered those options if they weren’t willing to hear us out,” Root said.
With this in mind, Ryerson President Sheldon Levy says the school is willing to hear any proposal the RSU brings forward, but “at the end of the day the administration comes up with the budget.”
“To be really clear they could give us an alternative budget,” Levy said. “We certainly accept any and all ideas.” With this in mind Levy was still adamant about the fact that the administration decides the budget and will have the final decision regardless of the RSU’s proposal.
Janice Winton, Ryerson’s interim vice-president administration and finance who has been meeting with Root monthly since Janurary, said in an email that
“the [school’s] budget proposal has not gone to the board for final approval. We are always looking for new and innovative ideas to incorporate into our budget.” With Levy’s comments in mind, Root is encouraged by the fact that administration is willing to hear the RSU’s ideas, but remains on the fence about the possibility of substantive action coming from the budget proposal.
“I’m always cautiously optimistic when I hear things like that.
We’ve been hearing these reactions for 10 years now from the university administration, yet year after year we continue to see increases in our tuition and cuts to our academic programs,” Root said.
“Frankly I hope that critics come with questions not with assumptions, which I’m a little concerned about,” Root said.