By The News Team
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) plans to reinstate the general manager (GM) position as one of several steps to increase student trust, according to union president Maklane deWever.
The Eyeopener previously reported credit card statements showed thousands of dollars of spending on credit cards under the names of the former RSU president and vice-president operations.
In May 2018, the executive team fired their GM on their first day in office and dissolved the position. They planned to split the position into two new roles, one focusing on human resources and one focusing on communications, finances and RSU general operations, according to former president Ram Ganesh.
DeWever was elected after Ganesh was impeached.
“I think [having a GM is] essential to the RSU being a trustworthy institution again,” said James Fotak, a Faculty of Arts director. “We need a professional to oversee what’s happening and to make sure this stuff never happens again.”
DeWever said he is also planning to host a town hall, increase the amount of financial documentation available to students and cut down the size of the board to increase members’ agency.
He said the goal of his town hall is to “change the dynamic at the RSU so it’s more about listening rather than telling.”
“I think the big overlying thing comes down to oversight,” deWever said, adding a smaller Board of Directors (BoD) would help achieve this.
He said when a board has a larger amount of members, directors look around and assume someone else will speak up. “When it’s smaller, you have more agency,” he said.
“[Having a GM is] essential to the RSU being a trustworthy institution again”
The RSU BoD currently has 40 members, including the five members of the executive team.
“It’s a great idea. I think it will definitely increase accountability,” said Fotak.
“It’s really easy for directors on the current size of the board to kind of hide and not be held accountable by the students that elected them, just because it’s so big.”
DeWever said he also wants the RSU to make their quarterly financial updates available to students, as well as reports on expenditures.
The RSU releases one audited financial statement per year. DeWever said this audit costs $35,000, so the RSU wouldn’t want to hire an auditing firm for all of the quaterly updates.
According to the RSU’s bylaws, the vice-president of operations is required to present quarterly financial statements to the board.
In January, deWever told The Eye no financial statements had been presented during the 2018-19 executives’ term.
Alex Nguyen, a third-year business management student, said he wants to see more regular financial statements from the RSU—and thinks other students do, too.
“They’re using the RSU credit so it’s something that every student has a right to know,” he said.
Fotak said the RSU could increase trust from students by being more inclusive in elections.
“For a long time it’s been the same insiders club and just the same two slates will just change their names every two years and run again,” he said.
“I think when you make students feel like you can actually get involved, that’s when they start trusting again.”
Sukhmani Nijjar, a third-year biology student, said the RSU needs to be more transparent because no one knew two executives had credit cards for months before The Eye repored about it.
“They’re using the RSU credit so it’s something that every student has a right to know”
“If they are making decisions like that, [they should] make sure students are just in the loop,” she said.
Fahim Khan, senate representative, said he hopes changes to the financial policy and the structure of the RSU will create greater transparency between the board and the executive level.
“I am constantly hopeful, but there’s so much work that needs to be done over the next two months,” he said. “The workload is heavy…we’re slowly moving in the right direction.”