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Equity Centre chaos: blame it on the other guy

By Farnia Fekri

Behind the confetti of orientation week, the Fall term stumbled to a disorganized start for the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) equity centres.

Job postings on the RSU website listed Sept. 8 as the starting date of the academic year’s centre coordinators — but as summer staff prepared to leave their offices on Sept. 11, new hires had not been announced.

Sam* — an assistant at one of the centres — confirmed that candidates were interviewed in late August, and that a week later they (Sam) were told the hiring committee had made their decisions.

In an email obtained by The Eyeopener, equity centre assistants were assured that the situation would be resolved before the Sept. 8 deadline. In another email, coordinators were told the mayhem of frosh week was keeping the executive team from meeting to approve the candidates.

On Sept. 10 — a day before the offices were emptied of staff and two days after new members were supposed to begin work — the contract starting date changed to Sept. 15.

“We were told that, you know, they would reach a decision very quickly [after the interviews], and by the very latest we would know by September 1,” Sam said.

RSU president Andrea Bartlett credited the delay to the union’s lack of autonomy in the decision making — though the RSU pays the centre employees, she said, the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) is also part of the hiring committee.

“I think [it’s] exposing the weakness that occurs when outgoing executives sign contracts on behalf of incoming executives and don’t explain to them the service agreement between CESAR and the RSU,” Bartlett said.

But CESAR’s vice-president internal Rabbia Ashraf blamed the RSU executive team for the delay. “The RSU executive’s insistence on going through a lengthy approval process undermined the recommendations of the hiring committee … giving the impression that the RSU executive have veto power,” she wrote in an email. Overall, the confusion set a bad precedent for the coming year, Sam said, adding, “I feel like the way that our department was treated, and still is being treated … speaks to an executive who doesn’t value equity.”

Rabia Idrees, the RSU’s vice-president equity, said the delay was due to the indecision of the hiring committee, on which she was joined by a CESAR representative and Corey Scott, the RSU equity and campaigns organizer.

“There were a lot of interviews that we did, a lot of people that were good candidates, and there is always a little bit of a hiccup in who we want to choose,” she said. “[These are] service centres for people who fall under a certain identity, so that’s why it is a little tougher to fill these positions.”

According to Idrees, the committee spent days arguing about who to hire. She didn’t want to bring back all of the old staff, she said, because she would “rather give that position to a new student who hasn’t been involved with the RSU at all.”

Idrees instead tried to balance returning staff with new people, to provide “mentorship positions.”

But this strategy hasn’t yet worked for the Racialised Students’ Collective (RCS), which is being run by one (new) coordinator while the hiring committee works to fill the second part-time position.

Former RCS coordinator Vajdaan Tanveer, who worked with the RCS for a year but was not rehired last week, was shocked he wasn’t asked back on Friday — his last day.

“As somebody whose livelihood is dependent on this job, it was definitely something that was a little bit messed up,” he said.

Tanveer said he believes he wasn’t asked back because of his ideological differences with the new government. “I believe that a students’ union is inherently political,” he said. “And this year’s slate is much more focused on doing the social element of it in comparison to doing more political, equity-based work.”

Sam said that this difference has translated to the centres “being told more clandestinely, like ‘Tighten your belts, don’t do as much spending’ … while at the same time we’re doing one of the most expensive parade and concerts ever.”

In fact, Sam and Tanveer said the equity centres hadn’t received word about their individual budgets, sent to the RSU in the summer, even being approved.

Idrees disagreed, and said the budgets were approved in July. *Name has been changed to protect the source from professional reproach.

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