By Zena Salem
The Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line (SASSL) and the Good Food Centre’s (GFC) restricted referendum money was used for unauthorized marketing, The Eyeopener has learned.
In emails obtained by The Eye, former Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) president Ram Ganesh confirmed SASSL funds were used to purchase frosh water bottles and other frosh merchandise.
At the time, Ganesh said “coordinators have freedom over the budget that the board of directors have approved.”
The GFC and SASSL referendum passed in November 2017 with the purpose of providing more food produce for students and additional services for sexual assault survivors.
Ryerson University undergraduate students voted to pay an annual $10 levy toward the services with $5 going to each centre.
According to 2018-19 RSU budget, GFC was allocated a budget of $205,000 this year, while SASSL was allocated $200,000.
A current Equity Service Centre (ESC) staff member said SASSL coordinators had no access to their own finances while Ganesh was president.
“It was brought to my attention by community members that they had seen these water bottles going around campus [during frosh],” said an anonymous ESC staff member.
“The SASSL budget was used to order water bottles. No coordinator from SASSL approved of that budget being used, and we did not even know [of] these water bottles,” said the ESC member.
Ganesh declined to comment when asked to confirm details of the story.
According to the ESC staff member, this was not the intended purpose of the referendum money.
“Students willingly approved to give five more dollars into their tuition, thinking that it’s going to be used towards the GFC services and social services,” they said.
They said no one was aware of the financial status of SASSL’s budget and there was no report as to where the SASSL money was going.
When asked about the purchases, RSU vice-president equity Karolina Surowiec said she “was not in charge of purchasing frosh merchandise.”
They said no one was aware of the financial status of SASSL’s budget and there was no report as to where the SASSL money was going
Former GFC coordinator Claire Davis said she reached out to Ganesh last summer to check in on the upcoming plans for the referendum funding.
“From what I could see there wasn’t a lot of progress being made and I hadn’t seen any promotion [for] the centres on campus since leaving my job…in April.”
Davis said she, alongside former SASSL coordinator Cassandra Myers, spent a lot of time working to generate funding through the referendum. “I was so disappointed. [We] spent so much time going over a question, practicing a presentation for Ryerson’s Board of Governors and just on the ground speaking to students who really needed improvements made to these services to get by,” said Davis.
Currently, SASSL still has no full-time coordinator despite Myers leaving during the summer of 2018.
Davis said she didn’t feel heard, and her words were not taken seriously. She said she felt Ganesh was “insulting and condescending in his emails by unnecessarily using caps lock and making snide remarks about positions I used to hold as student staff and on the RSU board.”
Davis said she wanted to see the RSU’s budget and to know how they planned to uphold the campaign promises of the referendum.
“I don’t even know for my own sake how much budget there was and how much we have used so far within this term,” said the ESC member.