By Sarah Krichel
The Ryerson Arts Society (RAS) is starting the semester with a new president following Nikita Jariwala’s impeachment.
After Jariwala was called to resign as president from the RAS on Dec. 1, the board voted on appointing their vice-president finance, Axel Smith, as president.
The motion for Jariwala’s resignation came as a result of breaches of the RAS constitution, a lack of teamwork with board members and her “unilateral decisions,” according to Daniel Lis, RAS vice-president external affairs.
“It’s our job to hold our president accountable,” Lis said. “It’s why we run for office—to hold each other accountable for the best standard for our students.” The board voted overwhelmingly in favour of the resignation, with 11 for the motion, two against it and three abstaining.
Lis said the constitutional breaches included failure to appoint certain representatives within the society, as well as wrongly promising funding for course unions neglecting proper procedure. Normally, this process would require a formal application from course unions with the vice-president finance’s approval.
The Eyeopener reached out to Jariwala, who declined an interview but provided a statement.
“I want to thank those of you that supported and believed in me throughout my journey. I’m grateful to have even had this opportunity. My best wishes have always been and still are with the [RAS]. For those that are seeking more information, I would encourage them to attend the SAGM,” the statement read.
The originally scheduled RAS Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM) was to take place at the start of November, but it was postponed because Jariwala did not follow the proper procedure of giving two-weeks notice to the general public about the meeting. The SAGM will now take place on Jan. 26.
Lis said postponing the SAGM was a difficult but necessary decision due to the “general state of disarray in the society,” as a result of two vice-presidents resigning.
Tajdeep Brar, former vice-president events, resigned in December following disagreements within the society.
Elizabeth Plukhovska, a third-year criminology student, told The Eye via messenger that some of the RAS executives made derogatory comments towards her and her girlfriend at an RAS event. She alleged that she heard Tajdeep Brar, former vice-president events, saying to other RAS executives that there were “hot lesbians inside and how he wanted to holler at [them].”
When asked about the accusations, Brar initially declined to comment, however, after publication he reached out to The Eyeopener with the following statement:
“I sincerely regret not having provided a statement, but I had been advised to not say anything based off what I had been told the accusations against me were. However, the accusations made against me in The Eyeopener are completely different than what she had originally stated, and I am currently assembling evidence to this effect. The original accusation that she had made to the RAS was that a tall brown man, whom she apparently did not see at the time, had said something to the effect of ‘Look, even the Lesbians came out’ towards her and her companion. I will state that I absolutely did not make this comment. I am not a homophobe or a sexist. I did not file a human rights complaint before, though I had been advised to do so, but I have filed one now regarding this issue,” he wrote.
“I would also like to point out that Elizabeth Plukhovska did not follow the correct procedure in this matter,” he added.
According to Lis, Jariwala had taken the alleged incident to “certain offices” that could bring about reputational consequences for Brar, but there was no transparency with the board regarding the issue. Lis added that Brar did not know about the issue until three weeks after the initial allegations were made.
Lis said the “general dissatisfaction” with the way the situation was handled was part of Brar’s reason for resigning. “He could not continue to have faith in the way RAS was being run.”
Former vice-president operations James Dittburner took over as interim president on Dec. 1 and resigned on Jan. 1 due to “fatigue,” according to Lis.
Ryerson students have expressed negative opinions about the society in general. On the RAS’ Facebook post informing the general membership of the president’s impeachment, students wrote the society is “an absolute mess” and that it should be shut down.
Plukhovska said that there was zero transparency with the general membership as to why or how the president was impeached.
“I feel it’s not a secret that the RAS has kind of fucked up this year, considering this situation was made pretty public,” Plukhovska said. “It just needs a new team to know how to manage things.”
Lis said that with their new team, he is hopeful things within the society will be improved this semester. “We’ve refocused our vision and we have a collective team that can work together. We can give the students what they called for and we can move toward a transparent society.”