By Jake Kivanc
A new oppositional group on campus has emerged with details for a plan to challenge the current Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) slate and university hierarchy via a series of demands for accountability.
Reignite Ryerson, a group that described itself to The Eyeopener as a “community-oriented initiative,” proposed seven demands for the RSU and the university that focus on decreasing tuition and improving awareness around marginalization.
The group, which put out a press release via Facebook, calls out the RSU for focusing on image rather than substantive policy.
“We see a lot of pushing of an image but no substance to the work. What has the vice-president education, Cormac McGee, done to address issues of education?” the statement said.
“Why aren’t we seeing any work being done for the students other than organizing a concert that not all Ryerson students could attend?”
According to Vajdaan Tanveer, a representative from Reignite, the group was created in response to what it sees as a “downsizing” of the equity and pro-student initiatives that have long defined the student union.
“The RSU as well as the administration no longer care about our concerns with regards to tuition fees, quality of education and equity issues. With the current RSU, we feel as though the relationship to the Ryerson administration has resulted in no work being done for students,” Tanveer told The Eyeopener.
The group’s demands focus on the issue of rising tuition, with some of the specifics being a request that the university freezes or lowers tuition for the next academic year and that the RSU takes a specific stance on tuition fees.
The Reignite release also includes a call for a comprehensive report to be drafted on how the RSU will work to help marginalized students in the future and a specific breakdown of all of the RSU initiatives for the next year that the group wants presented at the semi-Annual General Meeting (on Nov. 30).
The creation of Reignite follows what was a landslide election victory for the Transform Ryerson slate, against the long-reigning former RSU group, which ran under the name “Unite Ryerson” last term.
The defeated slate, which had not been challenged by an opposing group since 2011, supported the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and was known for its anti-institutional demonstrations that included the Freeze the Fees tuition campaign.
Zidane Mohamed, another member of Reignite who was the candidate for vice-president education on the Unite Ryerson slate, emphasized that the group did not align with or represent a rebirth of the Unite brand, however.
“We in no way are affiliated with or are rebranding Unite Ryerson. We are focused on a horizontal system that is democratic, there will not be a hierarchy of control. Our focus is on lowering tuition fees and making it so that student equity is number one.”
When asked whether Reignite will have a presence at the RSU’s upcoming SAGM, The Eyeopener was told that students “can definitely expect Reignite to be there.”
Clarification: A previous version of this story said that United Ryerson was backed by the CFS. A spokesperson for CFS-Ontario wrote to The Eyeopener to state that “the Canadian Federation of Students does not ‘back’ candidates or slates in local students’ union elections.” However, Unite Ryerson’s members widely supported CFS policies, and former RSU president Rajean Hoilett — who also served as the organizer for Unite Ryerson during the elections in early 2015 — went on to work as the chairperson of CFS-Ontario after the election.