By Sherina Harris, Maggie Macintosh and Raneem Alozzi
No one seems to know who the person who put forward a motion to give Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) executives $11,000 raises earlier this year actually is.
Every RSU executive will make $47,000 this year, a more than 30 per cent increase from last year’s team, thanks to an individual who goes by the name Tajinder Kaur—someone both current and former executives and board members told The Eye they don’t know.
Last winter, Kaur sent an email to the RSU, stating they wanted to put forward a motion to increase the salaries of each of the five executive members of the student union: the president and vice-presidents of equity, education, operations and student life and events. Kaur submitted a motion to increase their salaries from $36,000 to $47,000 at the annual general meeting (AGM) in April.
Susanne Nyaga, the RSU president for the 2017-2018 year, received the first email from Kaur. She said they corresponded over email about Kaur’s statement; she never met them in person. Every member of last year’s executive team (except for Ali Yousaf who did not respond in time for publication) also confirmed they do not know Kaur.
The AGM motion compared the RSU executives 2017-2018 term pay to that of the University of Waterloo Federation of Students (FEDS) executives. The motion states FEDS executives are paid $46,532.00 per year to represent more than 29,912 students while RSU executives are paid about $10,500 less than that to represent a few thousand more students.
When contacted to confirm this information is accurate, a FEDS spokesperson said the executives were actually paid $47,689.97 last year and 35,156 full-time students were enrolled at the university.
“Be it resolved that the Board of Directors understand and recognize that there is clear gap in pay amongst the two student unions, while representing the same amount of students,” Kaur’s motion states.
RSU president Ram Ganesh told the AGM the incoming executive team had nothing to do with the motion. The pay raise is a “terrible idea” that people should vote down, he said.
No one voted on the motion that day since the vote was postponed when quorum wasn’t reached.
One month after the AGM, at a Board of Directors meeting held on May 27 during an RSU retreat in Orillia, Ont., the board voted in favour of raising the salaries. The motion passed with an amendment to give board members a $500 raise too. The executive team abstained from the vote.
“Why would anybody want to increase the salary of an executive position? Two reasons: either they directly benefit from it or somebody they know directly benefits from it,” said Ganesh. “The way I look at it, maybe Tajinder’s eyeing for a run here in the future—maybe in the next election cycle.”
The individual likely doesn’t want to come forward because they are scared, he said, adding that he has never met Kaur.
Ganesh declined to show The Eye the email Kaur used to contact the RSU, citing confidentiality concerns. However, he said the motion was sent from a Ryerson account since the RSU only accepts motions from official Ryerson email addresses.
Four of five current executives confirmed they don’t know Kaur. Edmund Sofo, vice-president student life and events, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Of the 63 current and former board members—including those who were on the board last winter—that The Eye reached out to, 40 responded. They all said they do not know who Kaur is. A handful said they had also, unsuccessfully, tried to find Kaur online.
“I think it’s someone’s real name and they always go by a nickname so we might not actually know them formally as Tajinder Kaur,” said Adam Asmar, who was a Faculty of Arts director last year when the motion was submitted.
The convocation records for spring and fall 2018 don’t list anyone named Tajinder Kaur.
The Eye was also unable to confirm Kaur is a current student through the Office of the Registrar because the university requires a student to consent to allow the university to provide a third-party with such information.
The Eye contacted two individuals who go by Tajinder Kaur online, one Ryerson student who declined to comment to multiple requests and another individual who is Facebook friends with Savreen Gosal, one of the current executives. Neither said they put forward the motion.
Gosal said Tajinder is a very common Sikh-Punjabi name and Kaur is a name given to women to ensure equality in the faith.
“As I come from this background, it is common that I would have friends with that name,” Gosal said in a statement to The Eye. “I do not appreciate these racist and arrogant assumptions you are making. Just because I am friends with someone who shares the same name, it does not indicate that it is the same person.”
With files from Emerald Bensadoun.