By Farnia Fekri
It was only after the Ryerson Students’ Union’s (RSU) Spring semi-annual general meeting on April 1 was officially adjourned that it really began.
Three motions were voted on before the meeting lost quorum at around 7 p.m., which led incoming Vice-President Operations Obaid Ullah to ask for an emergency meeting.
After a short recess, current RSU executives agreed to have an informal discussion about their executive reports instead.
Rajean Hoilett, Jesse Root, Pascale Diverlus and Dora Adobea spoke about what they’ve accomplished and are in the process of doing as RSU executives. The Freeze the Fees campaign and alternative budget to fight rising university tuition fees at Ryerson, both spearheaded by current RSU vice-president education Root, quickly became the main topic of discussion.
“One of the major concerns I had around the Freeze the Fees campaign are folks coming out and really doing what I interpreted, I think correctly, as making a mockery of student poverty,” Root said in his executive report summary. “The Freeze the Peas campaign, the small rally that happened on Monday with a team of engineers, things like that.
“I don’t personally think that student poverty is funny.”
Students then lined up at the microphones to ask questions and criticize statements made by the RSU and Root.
“When you’re grouping us all together, you’re not giving us a chance to have freedom of speech,” said one student at the meeting. “When you’re saying that … it makes me feel personally terrible.”
Root replied that he was being critical of movements alienating non-privileged students, also saying that “[The Freeze the Fees] campaign was developed for students and by students to represent their concerns.”
In the sanctioned part of the meeting, members voted on the union ending its practice of acknowledging the campus’ existence on Mississauga/New Credit land before meetings (defeated), the union officially supporting and spreading awareness about the struggle of Tamil women (passed) and the union officially supporting the RSU Trans Collective’s bathroom campaign for equal and all-gender washrooms (passed).
“Our Trans Collective has been doing amazing work throughout the past year,” said Vice-President Equity Pascale Diverlus after the meeting. “I’m so, so happy to see that unanimously we voted to continue to support them.”
As for the informal meeting’s tense debates, Diverlus echoed Root’s statement that RSU campaigns begin and grow from continued student interest.
“I’m absolutely certain … that many students on campus support the work that we’re doing,” she said.
At the post-meeting discussion, a student asked about how much has been spent on the various elements of the Freeze the Fees campaign. He was told that these numbers are not yet available.
Rajean Hoilett, current RSU president, called budget transparency both essential and a goal for the RSU after the meeting. “We will be posting our actuals for our operating budget,” he said. “And that will be sort of reported in detail in our audited financial statements at the semi-annual meeting [next year].”