Update: Eye confirms RSU credit card statements showing food, club, clothing purchases totalling thousands

In News, Student Politics26 Comments

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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.

The RSU was in Orillia May 27 for a private board meeting at which they voted to increase their salaries by $11,000, The Eye previously reported.

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?”

From left: RSU president Ram Ganesh and RSU vice-president student life & events Edmund Sofo Photo: Alanna Rizza

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.

Comments

  1. As a former three-term RSU board member and two-term RSU VP of Finance and Services I am very disappointed to read this and it’s certainly not the financial process I recall. Articles like this show the importance of student media. Great work by The Eyeopener.
    Two words to any Board member or executive reading this: do better.

  2. I find it really Ironic, that the student union that suspended The Beverage Enthusiasts Society for having alcohol at an event Spent $3500 at EFS bottle service. If I recall correctly in the case of BES it wasnt even Union money, nor was it authorized by the executives. it was just some random person bringing personal alcohol. Yet they still decided to hold the group responsible. While at the same time they where pulling this shit. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    https://theeyeopener.com/2018/10/rsu-drains-beverage-clubs-funds/

  3. You guys can contact Haze. The managers are VERY cooperative and would gladly answer any questions about that transactions you mentioned.

  4. Looking at those expenses, including the $6 Tim Hortons purchase shows that he was using it for his own personal expenses. There’s also the gas bar expense in North York, where he was clearly filling up his car at the expense of the school and many of the purchases are located in and North York, where I’m sure he resides.

    The school should not only expel him, but he should be arrested for theft and fraud and made to pay back the amount to the student union.

    If Ryerson doesn’t come down hard on this, say goodbye to any chance at getting a donation from alumnis.

  5. If true its fraud/theft…pay it back or go to jail just like anyone would have to do if they stole money from their employer…

  6. This report will hopefully open the eyes of everyone at the University. Unions everywhere need to be scrutinized by its membership.
    Too much freedom is given to these organizations (Unions) without any oversight.
    Good for the reporting in the Eyeopener. Shows the media will rest in good hands in the future.
    C Parsons former student.

  7. Honestly, who cares about beurocratic chump change on a MasterCard. There’s the reasonable expectation to pay off the card. The RSU has a budget and they can spend it how they wish. You’re not going to police people, Especially dumb students on how to be fiscally responsible.

    1. Who cares are the students who are supposed to benefit from the RSU who are not benefitting because of the lack of transparency within the organization and ridiculous spending done by these “dumb students’ as you call them

    2. Who cares are the students who put a portion of their tuition towards the RSU so that they can benefit from it. Unbelievable comment. The RSU members get a generous enough salary (up $11,000 from last year, which is more than enough to cover most students tuition for a whole year) considering they do basically nothing, and they are not even being watched closely enough by a governing body.

  8. This is incredible. As a father of an RYU student, I notice that over $50 per student is paid for the “privilege” of getting ripped off. The funding for the student union and executives flow from the school itself. Where are the Ryerson profs and the rest of the enlightened people? This is a place of supposed “higher learning”. Those who know better (educators), turn a blind eye, while the union executives keep their hand in the “cookie” jar. Clearly, this is criminal activity and would expect nothing but swift and stern action, criminal charges at the minimum. However, based on Ryerson’s history, where this has happened before, not to mention the student president has allegedly been involved in questionable financial practices. I hold Ryerson University, including the president of the school responsible. It’s not sufficient to suggest the union is a corporate entity and nothing can be done, funds flow from tuition fees to the Student Union organization, therefore Ryerson cannot absolve themselves from their responsibilities (ie. Finance professor resigns from the board). Please don’t insult the parent population by suggesting corrective actions have been taken so this doesn’t occur again. Clearly the finance professor’s resignation is an indication of an organization out of control. As a contributor, via tuition fees, to Ryerson’s financial health, I WILL NOT pay the $50 union fees on my kid’s tuition statement. I hope that collectively, we parents REFUSE to support a dysfunctional organization – Ryerson Student Union and expect the “enlightened” ones at the university will take stern, measured action against this criminal behaviour, especially since there appears to be a history of corruption by this organization (read previous Ryerson Student Union) debacles.

  9. Appalling. Consider my annual donation suspended indefinitely. Really? No checks and balances in place? When statements weren’t presented as requested there should have also been action. Tim Horton’s, the Casino, hotels? For my personal business I need to explain my expenses AND must present the receipt. Alcohol is not paid on lunches when I entertain clients, nor for the university for which I also work. They stole money from their employer. It should be tried as such. Also their pay withheld.

    The link in the story is to one where the GM was terminated. Why was he terminated? Did he know about this activity? Thus union requires adult supervision. How do donors and students feel about the waste of their money?

  10. Do a forensic audit. Determine which expenses are not legit. Make the users pay back the money.

  11. The cardholder is using this as a personal credit card. My family has given a lot of money to this institution and will not give any more until this is dealt with.

  12. @RYU Donator: The SU is a dofferent legal entity than the University (the same as any other union), it’s not a school club, its an actual organization that’s owned by the students collectively. The University has no jurisdiction to hold the executive or it’s staff to account.

    This would be up to the SU board of directors, and the union itself.

  13. Great work by The Eye in uncovering this story first. There is no reasonable “context” that can explain all those charges. Total abuse of the system, trust of the school and its students.

  14. I’m not even a Ryerson student and this makes me angry. Someone at Ryerson should get something started to remove all of them from student union then charge them with misappropriation of funds. Give them a criminal record, that should teach them a life lesson.

  15. Help is on the way folks as the PC govt has made the fees that these groups feed off of optional come September 2019! Makes you wonder how wide corruption is on college and university campuses across Canada?

  16. I think the Oct 19th purchases at a gas station in Mississauga should be looked at and the clerk responsible for the transactions recorded should be taken in by Police for questioning letting him know the penalty for conspiracy to commit fraud to encourage them to rat out the person who was using the credit card. There is obviously a connection between the person using the credit card and the clerk processing the transaction at the gas station as there are two credits of odd amounts and then two charges for exactly $100 each which cannot be for a gas purchase. I think it will be found that those were improperly processed transactions for the clerk to be able to remove $200.00 dollars CASH from the till and still balance their daily sales by replacing it with the credit card transaction.
    I would recommend that the police be immediately called in to investigate. I do believe that anyone who has evidence of a crime, and the statements published by the EYE are proof of a crime.
    When it is being investigated remember the Oct 19 Central Parkway gas station transactions in Mississauga, as that will be a good place to start and put pressure on the clerk who processed those transactions as there is a definite connection between the card holder and the clerk.
    These two people who had control of the two credit cards knew EXACTLY what they were doing from the very beginning as the first thing they did was fire the only person who stood in the way of them defrauding the Union. The fact they removed that barrier on the very first day tell you that that was their one and only purpose of being elected to those positions in the first place.
    Learn your lessons and put checks and balances in place so this never happens again. If no one is checking the finances and the board is not approving every expenditure and movement of money between accounts every month without fail and without excuse for delay, this is what will result.

  17. When will someone be appointed to guard the persons in authority as the saying goes who is to guard the guards

  18. Don’t they have a treasurer?
    It seems crazy such a big union executive body would not have this crucial position in place.
    Lesson learned?

  19. They should call in the R.C.M.P. to do an investigation for these criminal actions and charge the appropriate people for there crimes.
    This happened to my union a long time a go and the same people were reelected ten years later you need stronger bylaws in place to prevent this from happening ,Now we have bylaws in place any purchase over fifty dollars has be be approved by three executive members and any purchase over one hundred dollars has to be approved at a general membership meeting with members present .
    As well at every monthly membership meeting every purchase made by the union has to be made clear to all members with the approval from our treasurer with proof of purchase ,make your Union strong not wrong .

Leave a Comment