By Keith Capstick
A previous Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vice-president, who tried to create the same general manager’s position as the RSU created last semester, chairs the board that initially approved the union’s “restructuring” model.
The Eyeopener reported in 2008 that Abe Snobar, former vice-president student life for the RSU and current chair of the RSU board of directors, was looking at the time to create the position in reaction to 17 grievances in one year that slowed the union’s labour relations.
The RSU board of directors didn’t explicitly approve the general manager’s position itself, but did approve the initial plan to restructure the organization’s framework, according to RSU president Andrea Bartlett. This eventually lead to the position being created.
Snobar does not believe his past affiliations have impacted his ability to serve his role as chair objectively.
“I don’t have any decision making power I just have the responsibility of facilitating that meeting and ensuring that everybody is being heard and that all rules and motions are passed in accordance with the laws,” Snobar said.
Snobar did say that his past experience with the RSU provided him with an understanding of the complexity of the organization, and helped him chair the board.
“I had the responsibility when I was a board member to chair many meetings. I am familiar with the by-laws and Robert’s Rules of Order, not only as a member of the [RSU] but as a [former] member of the Ryerson Commerce Society (RCS),” Snobar said. “And I was a big hand in amending and changing the by-laws for the commerce society to almost what you see them today.”
The chair of the board, and of the RSU’s AGMs, is responsible for making sure the meetings run smoothly and to uphold the union’s by-laws on all motions. On matters of interpretation, the chair is the one responsible for doing the interpreting, although the board is allowed to appeal their decisions.
RSU by-laws say that the chair of the board will be appointed by the president. By-laws also state that, “Cases not provided for in the by-laws of the Students’ Union shall be governed by the current version of Robert’s Rules of Order, the interpretation of which shall be made by the Chair.”
Bartlett said that she wasn’t aware of Snobar’s previous attempts to create this position, and when asked if she believed the chair’s responsibility was to interpret the rules of order objectively she said, “yes.”
The general manager position, now filled by Natasha Campagna who was previously student engagement and business development coordinator at the RCS, was pointed to in a number of controversial statements about the legitimacy of the RSU terminating the executive director of communications and outreach position that resulted in both Gilary Massa — who was on maternity leave — and Dina Skvirsky — who was filling her position — losing their jobs.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 1281 released one of those statements on Dec. 21, condemning the firing and told The Eyeopener that the new general manager’s position merely shifted the roles of the previous position held by Massa and Skvirsky.
Bartlett said the creation of the new position and the old one’s termination “had nothing to do with the people that held the role.”
Vajdaan Tanveer — a member of Reignite Ryerson and vocal adversary of the RSU — said Snobar’s past affiliations pose a conflict of interest and has experienced difficulties interacting with Snobar at multiple meetings this year.
“The chair’s obviously biased … he himself was an executive of the RSU years ago and had very controversial incidents,” Tanveer said. “We felt as though we were hard done by the chair.”
Reignite’s motion for the students’ union to take an official stance on tuition fees was thrown out of the SAGM by Snobar, which Tanveer says shows Snobar’s allegiance to the RSU executive.
“He ruled [our motion] out of order immediately without giving it the oppourtunity, like he did to other groups, to slightly amend the motion,” Tanveer said. “It’s about the history and the other connections he has to the RCS.”
Bartlett said that if she was asked to be chair in seven years, she’d be comfortable interpreting rules and acting objectively.
“I would be distant enough from the immediate issues but still know about the organization,” wrote Bartlett in a statement. “Once you operate under Robert’s Rules, it’s something that you remember and become accustomed to.”