By Brennan Doherty
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) rejected the last appeal by the Men’s Issues Awareness Society (MIAS) to become an officially sanctioned student group.
RSU president Andrea Bartlett said that the group cannot appeal any further.
MIAS, which styles itself as “a space for Ryerson students and affiliates to discuss the issues facing men and boys today,” first applied for campus group status in October. The RSU’s Board of Directors has consistently rejected the group — the latest attempt to establish a men’s issues organization on campus.
“What we’re doing is really raising issues that have never been [talked] about or usually disregarded,” said Kevin Arriola, MIAS’s president.
Arriola said the verdict didn’t surprise him.
“I knew I was coming into a kangaroo court, so I’m not really surprised with the decision. Now we have to think about the next step,” he said.
Despite lobbying efforts by the Canadian Association For Equality (CAFE) — a Toronto-based men’s rights group — to influence Monday’s decision, Bartlett said the vote would ultimately be out of her hands.
“While I have received numerous calls and emails from the membership of CAFE urging me to reconsider the decision, the decision is one of the committee,” Bartlett wrote via message before the meeting. She said she arranged a one-on-one meeting with Arriola before, but he’d refused unless several journalists were present to record their conversation.
Arriola was questioned by several directors at the meeting about his group’s commitment to equity — which the RSU said isn’t consistent with their policies.
“We are definitely approaching [men’s issues] from an equity standpoint,” Arriola said. He added the group’s egalitarianism means equity “is kind of implied.”
Several directors said that MIAS’ recognition as a student group would make female staff and students at Ryerson feel unsafe.
“When there are women who are attending these spaces because they want to see what’s being talked about, how will you ensure that there are no voices that are targeting or oppressing anyone else?” said Cassandra Myers, equity correspondent for the Board of Governors.
Arriola has consistently denied that there are any safety issues associated with MIAS.
Alyson Rogers, co-organizer of the Ryerson Feminist Collective, was relieved to hear the group’s appeal was denied.
“I thank the RSU Board of Directors (BoD) for making a really good decision for women on campus, feminists on campus, sexual assault survivors on campus and really just student safety in general,” she said.
MIAS’ first application to the BoD in October was rejected, according to the RSU transcripts, because the group’s constitution was ambiguous and duplicated functioning of existing equity centres. Arriola was repeatedly questioned by directors on this.
A working relationship with CAFE — which several RSU directors consider a hate group — has also hindered Arriola’s efforts. In December’s meeting, Arriola promised the RSU he wouldn’t invite anyone from CAFE.
“We are willing to work with you guys,” he told the committee. “We won’t have CAFE here, anyone who ever speaks to CAFE [we] will eliminate them from the pool.”
CAFE hosted both of MIAS’ off-campus events, and backs Ryerson-affiliated men’s issues groups in an upcoming human rights case against universities opposing them. “We have a chance here to win a precedent that will open the door to unimpeded campus events and debates across campus,” they wrote in a fundraising post.
Arriola was tight-lipped about the details of the case. “We’re just still not sure about that,” he said.
Rogers was especially concerned about CAFE.
“People organizing with these beliefs is of course a concern for us. Yeah, it is concerning. While this vote is good, there’s still more work to be done around misogyny and sexism on campus.”
Ultimately, Arriola said that his group will keep fighting for recognition, holding events at CAFE’s headquarters off-campus.