By Raneem Alozzi, Sherina Harris and Emma Sandri
The Eyeopener obtained photos of financial statements which show purchases—some upwards of $2,000—with a credit card under the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) president’s name.
“We’re disappointed that they were released without any context or explanation,” said RSU president Ram Ganesh in a statement to The Eye.
The purchases that were made allegedly amount to $250,000, according to student groups director Maklane deWever. DeWever said at a Board of Directors (BoD) meeting on Jan. 24 that he saw the credit card statements along with Faculty of Arts director James Fotak, who confirmed he also saw the statements.
Purchases included $2,280.89 to the club EFS Toronto, $2,507.18 at a Cineplex Rec Room in Toronto and $1,375.21 at Nick’s Sport Shop. There were also purchases of $190.97 and $117.52 to Long & McQuade in Toronto, $347.34 to Haze Lounge Inc. in Mississauga, $696.90 on an Airbnb and $613.60 to Bar Everleigh Toronto, among others. At the board meeting, Ganesh said the card could be used by any part-time or full-time RSU staff member.
The statement also showed a purchase to Credit Risk Management Canada in Stratford, Ont. for $3,053.88 in October. According to their website, the company provides debt recovery solution and credit investigations, along with other services like financial care contact management.
In a statement to The Eyeopener, Ryerson University said protecting the interests of Ryerson students is of primary concern to the university.
“Given the seriousness of these allegations, President Lachemi has written to the RSU Executive to request a meeting to discuss this matter,” read the statement.
Because the RSU is a separate entity from the university, they cannot conduct a formal investigation into the matter.
The statements obtained by The Eye show Ganesh’s name and the RSU’s address. A portion of the credit statements was later published by the Rhino Party on their Facebook page.
The Eye previously reported RSU president Ganesh decided to divide the $20,000 typically held by the RSU’s general manager (GM) into two $10,000 credit cards, which he and vice-president operations Savreen Gosal had—breaking financial policies and bylaws. The RSU’s GM was fired during the first day of their term. Dharshini Jay said the RSU has not submitted receipts for any of their purchases since they came into office in May. Ganesh said that both cards would be streamlined into Jay’s card in January.
The Eyeopener reached out to all of the five RSU executives for comment. Karolina Surowiec, vice-president equity, said she would comment after the financial statements were reconciled by the Feb. 1, the deadline set by financial controller Jay. Vice-president education Salman Faruqi declined to comment and referred to Ganesh’s statement. Vice-president student life & events Edmund Sofo did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication, but attended the meeting.
Gosal, who also had a credit card connected to the RSU’s account, did not reply to The Eye’s request for comment.
“Regardless, we’re going to meet our deadline of Feb. 1 to hand in our reconciliations to give the students a more wholesome picture of the current financial standings,” Ganesh said.
In addition to a $786.75 purchase made at a LCBO in Toronto, there was $168.40 spent at LCBO Orillia on June 2. The next day, the card was used at Cedar Rama near Orillia—the Casino Rama restaurant—for a purchase of $136.64.
Jay said in the meeting the RSU needs to get approval for purchasing alcohol, which she said they did not receive. A purchase of over $5,000 on alcohol would have needed to get approval from the board, she said. Board members said they were not consulted about these purchases.
“I know it’s illegal to sell alcohol in Ontario without a liquor license,” said deWever. “So what events are you having where you are giving away liquor to students for free?”
According to Ganesh, the financial statements were not yet reconciled and that he could not provide explanations for the purchases until they were, meaning the receipts are still needed to confirm transactions are accurate. He cited high turnover at the union as one of the reasons for the delay.
The BoD meeting did not meet quorum and therefore deWever’s motion—the discussion of which prompted him to reveal what he had seen in the credit card statements—was not voted on.
If passed, deWever’s motion would have required Jay to meet with board directors and members and share financial information at their discretion.
Towards the end of the meeting, Niall Hickey, a director from the Faculty of Ted Rogers School of Management, resigned.
“I’m disappointed in the lack of transparency from the executives to the board which was the reason I resigned,” Hickey said in a statement to The Eye. “It’s not fair to us and it’s not fair to the students we represent.”
Updated Jan. 25, 5:00 p.m.: The article was updated with a statement from Ryerson University.