By Keith Capstick
This year’s Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) executives started September off with a bang. But back in May when they were transitioning into their new jobs, they were plagued by a communication disconnect that they are still working to make up for.
The RSU by-laws say that each outgoing vice-president or president has an obligation to “train and advise” the incoming executive for their position, an obligation that both Andrea Bartlett, this year’s president, and Cormac McGee, this year’s VP education, do not feel was met by their predecessors.
“I had a one-hour coffee meeting in Oakham Cafe and the only other transition I got was a one-page document … I did request in April that we start being included in things and was given a hard no,” said Bartlett. “I definitely don’t feel like we got adequate training whatsoever.”
McGee told The Eyeopener that he was told by Jesse Root, the outgoing VP education, that his transition “would not be prioritized,” and had no meeting with Root before taking office.
He said that when he first entered office in May, all of the emails in his inbox, which are the property of Ryerson undergraduate students, had been deleted and after repeated attempts were unrecoverable.
“When I opened the VP education email there were no emails at all,” said McGee.
But Root felt like deleting the emails was essential to preserving the work that he and his team had worked on: specifically the “Freeze the Fees” campaign that he spearheaded — where he petitioned the school with an alternative budget that would allow them to freeze tuition.
“Yes I did [delete the emails] … as you know Cormac spent a significant amount of time and energy organizing against the work of the RSU and specifically me as the VP education through his involvement in Rise for Ryerson,” Root said in an email. “I did not want to jeopardize the work of the campaign on campus by giving him information about how we organized the campaign. I did however pass information about the Freeze the Fees campaign onto organizers on campus.”
Bartlett told The Eyeopener that after having her staff take a look at last year’s financial records, she found this year’s government was left with less money to spend.
“I was recently advised, given our financial audit for the 2014-15 year is almost complete, that we will likely be starting the year off in an approximate $100,000 deficit,” wrote Bartlett in an email.
Upon entering office in May, Bartlett said that there were numerous contracts for various RSU programs already signed for the fall semester without her consultation, and that when she reached out to find the quotes from vendors or information about how the deals took place, she was unable to find any information. A specific example of this was the agendas the RSU gives out during orientation every year.
“The agenda contract was probably one of the most frustrating ones because that was signed with no consultation of the executive and I was able to make one phone call and find a quote for $10,000 less for the exact same specifications,” said Bartlett. “My biggest frustration was having all of these contracts signed with no consultations or meeting minutes to prove that they were approved by the previous board.”
But, because the contracts were already signed, the RSU would not be recovering that money.
Root maintains that he and his staff resourced the RSU executive director of communication and outreach from last year, Gilary Massa, and Corey Scott, the RSU equity and campaigns organizer, to help with the transitions, and that he believes this was enough to transition the new slate accordingly.
Bartlett went on to explain that when she leaves office in May, she’ll be transitioning the next president much differently.
“Being brought in earlier [is important]. The only thing that it hurts is ourselves, maybe getting access to files and information right away. There are certain things like understanding the structure, the process and the people that can be done a month in advance.”