By Alanna Rizza and Sarah Krichel
An investigation into a 2016 Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) concert that saw nearly $80,000 of student money transferred into personal bank accounts of student politicians after students demanded refunds has come to a “dead end,” according to the current student union president.
6 Fest, which included performances from French Montana, DJ Diplo and Pusha T, was held in October 2016. The concert date was delayed by three weeks to Thanksgiving weekend—leading to about 1,800 people requesting refunds.
In January 2017, The Eyeopener reported $79,996.81 intended for refunds was transferred into the personal bank accounts of Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) employees and the business account of current RSU president Ram Ganesh. Ganesh was not employed by the student union at the time.
A portion of the money went into the personal bank accounts of Harman Singh, the RSU’s vice-president student life and events at the time, and Ali Yousaf, who was a finance committee member then and RSU vice-president operations in 2017-18.
The RSU board passed a motion in 2017 requiring Singh to complete a report, outlining the management of funds for 6 Fest. The report was never submitted.
“There’s no room for us to legally pursue this without wasting a lot of students’ money,” said Ganesh, nearly two years after information about the bank account transfer surfaced. “If we did pursue this, it would lead to nothing.”
According to Ganesh, the student union’s lawyers said if the RSU pursued legal action against Singh, it would cost $50,000 to $60,000. Ganesh said even if RSU won the case, Singh “has no assets that the RSU can repossess.”
Singh could not be reached for comment in time for publication.
Robert Centa, a managing partner of Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP, which represents the RSU, declined to comment on 6 Fest.
“You will have to speak to the RSU about this matter,” Centa said.
Back in 2017, former RSU president Obaid Ullah said the refunds were supposed to be made through e-transfers from those bank accounts as they thought it was the “best solution” to get all of the refunds done.
Ganesh said when he became RSU president earlier this year, there was an “investigation” into 6 Fest. He said this included a $20,000 forensic audit, which found paperwork tracking money for 6 Fest was still missing.
Ganesh said the RSU’s lawyers told him that Singh is no longer responsible for paying back any money that might have been mismanaged.
“So we could be spending $50,000 to $60,000 for nothing, just to prove a point,” said Ganesh. “It’s a dead end.”
Last year’s RSU president, Susanne Nyaga, said while she understands it’s costly to take Singh to court, she believes it’s imperative since 6 Fest put the RSU in a $1.1 million deficit.
“Students deserve answers,” she said. “It would allow the RSU to regain trust instead of continuing this trend of protecting friends.
Lauren Emberson, former vice-president student life and events from the 2017-18 school year, agrees with Nyaga—she told The Eye that she’s “extremely disappointed” in the outcome.
“The purpose isn’t necessarily for legal action, the purpose is to figure out the best way forward that serves students,” she said. “And my disappointment is [that] we don’t get to figure out what that is.”
Emberson said all the refunds have now been reconciled.
After she was elected, she said she and other board members went through a spreadsheet of students who hadn’t received refunds—they left cheques in the RSU office for pickup. Students, she said, had until October 2017 to pick up their cheque. She added the board members also went through Ganesh’s and Singh’s bank statements as the board wasn’t getting any information on the matter.
“It shouldn’t have been done that way, but at the end of the day there’s no money in Harman’s account that’s unaccounted for,” she said. “It was the wrong thing to do, but it’s accounted for now.” Emberson said that for those who didn’t pick up their cheques, “that’s on them.”
“It’s no secret that [Ganesh] also played a role in the organization of 6 Fest so I’m not surprised that he is choosing not to pursue it further,” Nyaga said.
Clarification: A previous version of this story did not clarify that Lauren Emberson, former vice-president student life and events, was in favour of the audit.