Transform Ryerson entered last year’s Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) elections as the first opposition group since 2011. Their slate, founded on promoting transparency, funding student groups and fighting unpaid internships, dominated polls. It’s been a year of ups and downs — here’s how Transform describes the state of the union.
President – Andrea Bartlett
Bartlett said her team has accomplished several things that have been neglected since she started as a student at Ryerson, including a shift to more online services, an amped up Parade and Concert and improved student engagement.
In September, the RSU began a $25,000 rebranding campaign with the goal to differentiate the union. Part of the spending went towards a new logo and the $5,000 sign that sits outside the student learning centre. “The RSU did need a bit of a facelift to welcome itself into the 21st century,” said Bartlett. “Historically, the logo did change every decade … but we were transparent about that this year.”
Last semester saw the elimination of the executive director of communications and outreach unionized position in favour of a new general manager, resulting in two layoffs. Although Bartlett stands behind the decision, she said she wished the RSU had been more transparent about the process. A statement released by the RSU earlier this year said an assessment done by a third party found that restructuring would be more sustainable. Deficits have plagued the organization for years and in a recent blog post on Medium, Bartlett wrote about $90,000 in allegedly stolen funds. “I had all this staggering information that was difficult for me to deal with at the time … we were dealing with financial issues and finding out the difficult reality of the organization,” said Bartlett. Members of RU Connected criticized the layoffs as being “unjust” and said the decision reflected poorly on the RSU.
Bartlett cautioned some people have suggested the RSU should never be run like a business. “I pray to god that the next president doesn’t have that mentality … that mentality is why we’re in this mess.”
VP Education – Cormac McGee
In January, McGee launched a petition against unpaid internships that got more than 2,500 signatures. The RSU met with the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, to discuss a possible long-term investment. “The biggest challenge was getting the province to take us seriously,” said McGee. “The next step is to keep following up, the more ears this gets in the more likely something will happen.”
Martin Fox, from the opposing RU Connected slate, has criticized the consistency of lobbying for unpaid internships. “It wasn’t a sustained effort … perseverance is key,” he said in a previous interview.
VP Operations – Obaid Ullah
This year has seen a shift toward more services online, including the health and dental opt-out process, the wellness portal for mental health and most recently, online voting — which Ullah said was his biggest accomplishment.
The current RSU has been regularly criticized by RU Connected for a lack of transparency surrounding spending and budgets. Ullah said communicating with the membership could be improved next year.
VP Equity – Rabia Idrees
A focus on the topic of mental health has been at the forefront of student issues for years.
Last semester, the RSU launched an online tool — My Wellness portal — as a way to provide additional support to students. 2016 also marked the first mental health leadership awards — a $30,000 scholarship initiative put on by the RSU.
Idrees noted that equity initiatives are always relevant, and that the RSU could have done more outreach beyond fall and winter orientation. Susanne Nyaga of RU Connected has criticized a lack of focus on mental health initiatives, saying that there should be support year-round.
VP Student Life – Harman Singh
Singh played a key role in arranging the 2015 Parade and Concert featuring Drake and Future — an event that had people talking about Ryerson for weeks. He called it “one of the most successful events in recent Ryerson history.”
Rumana Fardaush of RU Connected has said the concert was not accessible. At the RSU debate, Singh was criticized for a less active second semester. Singh added that he wished everyone was wearing a blue shirt for the concert.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said RSU president Andrea Bartlett cautioned the RSU should never be run like a business. Bartlett said that other people have made that suggestion, and that the RSU should be run like a business. The Eyeopener regrets this error.