By Jake Kivanc
Voices were raised as debate over the proposed name of a new Russian-language student group and the sensitivity of its subject matter headed up the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU)’s Board of Directors (BoD) meeting last night.
With a relatively short list of items on the agenda, the BoD meeting started off with a pitch from a prototype student grouped called USSR — which stands for Union of Students Speaking Russian — and was immediately met with criticism over its likeness to the old Soviet acronym.
Critics among the board noted that allowing the group to be named USSR could be insulting and disrespectful to students and faculty who had some kind of personal or emotional investment in war crimes committed by the now-defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The group’s organizers say they created the name specifically to invite Russian-speaking students from any culture or background, rather than focusing solely on Russian students, which they said would be alienating.
Some board members said that the name should be stricken or changed before allowing the group to gain official status. An amendment was then proposed to approve the group on the condition that any grievances with their name by students or faculty could be brought to the RSU, who would then urge the group to reconsider their name.
RSU president, Andrea Bartlett, argued that it would not be fair to simply impose the will of the board upon the group and that it was better left up to the natural process of campus affairs.
The board ended up voting to approve the group.
Another new student group called NutraRights, which focuses on improving access to healthy and nutritious foods for low-income students, was also given the green light by the board.
Some of the other motions at the meeting included RSU funds for new furniture in the Student Campus Centre, a review of the executive reports and a rundown of upcoming mental health initiatives by the board, all of which were voted forward without issue.
The topic of both on-campus Islamophobia and the recent anti-semitic graffiti were also raised at the meeting. The board noted that they are taking both of the issues seriously and are creating a task force to handle anti-religious hate speech.