By Keith Capstick
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) will not be mandated to take a public opposition to tuition increases any time soon.
After a week filled with positive momentum, the Reignite Ryerson movement was met with disappointment when their motion was deemed “out of order” at Monday’s Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM).
The group’s motion called for the RSU “to publicly and consistently express their opposition to the Ryerson administration’s disregard of many student’s financial difficulties.” The motion was ruled to be out of order by the chair of the meeting because it wasn’t submitted within 30 days of the meeting. All motions proposing bylaw amendments have to be submitted within this time frame.
Martin Fox, a third-year psychology student who is a member of Reignite Ryerson and moved the motion, wasn’t pleased with the ruling.
“We knew when we submitted this motion that this wasn’t this particular group of student union executives’ cup of tea,” Fox said. “[But] we were not expecting it to be thrown out entirely because of bureaucratic maneuvering.”
Members of Reignite vocalized a willingness to amend their motion to have it heard but were ultimately refused any amendments by the chair.
“To me, they were just trying to sort of avoid having a vote on it,” Fox said.
Last week, Reignite held their first public meeting and on Monday Cormac McGee, the RSU’s vice-president education, held a town hall to discuss tuition fees which saw Ryerson’s interim president Mohamed Lachemi in attendance. Both meetings were comprised of vocal members of Reignite, as well as executives and board members from the RSU.
The town hall and Reignite’s public meeting saw both sides participate in active debate over what Ryerson students’ stance on tuition fees should be and where they should go to voice their concerns. This communication culminated in the unified opinion that both sides need to set deadlines and create concrete plans.
At his town hall, McGee committed to drafting a letter to students. He also said he would start the process of generating a package to bring to the province to fight for accessible education, which he hopes the school will participate in.
“I think this meeting was different because we showed up at Reignite last week and it diffused a lot of perceived tension there,” said McGee. “My goal for this meeting wasn’t to protect the administration … I think this is a great place to start working together between the RSU and Reignite, I think we can actually get something done and down on paper.”
Some Reignite members said they’re pleased with McGee’s willingness to work together but also believe that work needs to continue externally “on the ground with students,” in order to further their campaign.
As part of this “on the ground” approach, Reignite provided a letter to all 24 members of the Ryerson Board of Governors at their meeting last week reaffirming their demands of the administration.
“We’re mindful of the fact that if the administration hasn’t seen the letter that we posted [originally], that it was important that we made that direct contact with them at this meeting,” said Awo Abokor, a fourth-year biology student and vocal member of Reignite at the SAGM.
For the first time since their initial Facebook posts, Ryerson’s administration addressed Reignite’s demands in an interview with The Eyeopener.
“We know that tuition fees are a challenge for students — we don’t deny that,” said Lachemi. “A response to something that is on social media is not to me an appropriate way to communicate with students.”
After the SAGM, McGee said he was also disappointed and hopes that by the next meeting, the two sides have done enough work together that it’ll be unnecessary to pass a motion asking for the RSU to take a firm stance on tuition.
“It’s crappy the way the system runs and this isn’t the first time motions have been thrown out,” said McGee. “We’ve had some really productive conversations over the past week and I hope that the work we do moving forward means that this sort of motion doesn’t have to come up again.”