By Keith Capstick
I’m not here to talk to you about Drake.
I want to talk about the people we elected—the people who brought him to Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) concerts twice and who won’t stop talking about it.
In recent weeks, The Eyeopener published multiple stories and conducted interviews where elected student officials have attempted to deflect their financial contributions toward Ryerson’s new annual carnival—6 Fest. To do this, they’ve repeatedly used the phrase “corporate sponsorship” to reroute students’ (and reporters’) questions. They’re insinuating that by going out and accumulating external funds for these events, as opposed to using student levies, they’ve eliminated the negative impact they might have on students and their money.
To be clear: if you’re elected by students—in your faculty or within your students’ union—everything you do should be with their best interests in mind (whether they hand you a cheque or you go solicit it from Coca-Cola). This is particularly true of students’ unions.
The RSU’s 6 Fest operated on a $1.5 million budget, $600,000 of which was fundraised through “corporate sponsorship.” RSU executives and their full-time staff are paid by students’ money, and of those full-time staff members, I’m told by a source inside the RSU that at least five had their entire jobs put on hold for the event. In this year’s operating budget, each executive was slated to make $35,000 during their one-year term—a $5,000 raise from years past—so let’s not pretend all of those hours spent bringing in money for these events doesn’t cost students.
I don’t mean to take away from what looked to be an awesome show. The collective Drake-not- showing-up woes from students seems a little excessive to me, as Ryerson has clearly had some of the best student concerts I’ve ever heard of over the last two years. All I’m asking is that Ryerson’s student leaders make their stance clear. Say to me, “we think using student money for these events is what students want.”
All that said, there’s a larger, more mind-numbing trend to critique. With all these concerts and festivities and “6’s” everywhere and Drizzy on our agendas, Ryerson is certainly becoming more visible. But is it for the better?
Since Transform—the first opposing slate to compete in an RSU election in almost a decade—won the 2014-2015* RSU election and Impact winning the following year, Ryerson student leaders just can’t stop branding themselves. It’s trickled down through the RSU and into the students’ societies, which are also funded by student levies. There seems to be this overarching idea that it’s okay to spend money on whatever you want as long as it’s furthering the name of your student organization, even if it doesn’t align with the average student and what they want out of their student experience.
The Ted Rogers Student Society (TRSS), for example, contributed $50,000 to 6 Fest and the Ryerson Engineering Student Society (RESS) threw in another $5,000. Both told The Eyeopener that students’ money didn’t go towards these contributions because the money was raised through “corporate sponsorship.” In recent weeks, that phrase has been a bigger buzzword than “innovation,” which is really a strong sentiment around Ryerson.
Brands are good. It’s rad that the RSU wants to make a name for itself downtown. It’s cool that people recognize us as the school with the concerts and the university Norm Kelly tweets about. But let’s just remember the students that put us in our nice comfy offices. Let’s remember that person who doesn’t care about Drake, or your brand, or your logo, or your conference and just wants some coupons that help them get lunch.
I just want a cheaper burger okay?
*CORRECTION: In a print version of this story published on Oct. 19, we incorrectly stated that Transform won the 2013-2014 election. The slate actually won the 2014-2015 election. The Eyeopener regrets this error.