By Emma Sandri, Madi Wong and Valerie Dittrich
Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) President Vanessa Henry has informed the Board of Directors (BoD) that she has terminated the union’s executive director (ED), according to emails obtained by The Eyeopener.
According to the emails, Henry notified BoD members about the termination of ED Ren Niles in an email early Thursday morning at 12:12 a.m.
In the email, the president cited reasons for termination such as “[failing] to perform her roles and responsibilities” and use of “threats and passive aggressive behaviour to belittle and silence staff.”
“It is within my job description to dismiss Ren without the consent of the board or the executive committee.”
During her campaign for the RSU presidency, Henry said she would hire a general manager on her first day in office. “We think it’s really important for oversight and holding ourselves accountable,” she said in March.
When The Eyeopener requested comment, Henry declined, saying the information was “privileged and confidential,” and that she would “be in breach of [her] fiduciary duty as a board of director for the Ryerson Students Union.”
In a “backgrounder report” written and sent to The Eye by Henry, the ED’s responsibility is defined as to “manage the day-to-day functions of the Staff, take direction from the Executives and is held accountable by the Executives.”
In the same report, Henry claimed that within the first month of Niles’ time as ED, complaints arose from staff, board members and the executive. Henry said this caused “serious and damaging internal conflict.”
As a final step to address the ED’s “behavioural concerns,” the executives voted on whether or not to dismiss Niles from her position, according to the Thursday email. The vote failed.
NILES: PRESIDENT ‘STRONG-ARMED’ EXECUTIVES
After a board meeting back in July, Niles sent an email to the BoD alleging the president tried to “strong-arm” the executives into firing Niles.
“The executive voted against the attempt and was told by the president that she would still be moving forward with dismissal because, as is commonly expressed by the president, they have the power to do so, despite a lack of consensus,” Niles wrote.
In a June/July report written by Niles for BoD members, she stated although she was hired as ED, the current executive team did not seem to understand what her role entailed.
“It has become increasingly clear that although the Executive posted and hired for the position of ED they are not aware that an ED serves as an autonomous consultation and observatory body,” Niles said.
“As a result, this has left space for the President to work in a manner that does not permit the ED to function successfully in their role.”
Niles did not respond to request for comment from The Eye in time for publication.
2018: GENERAL MANAGER FIRED
According to a 2017 job posting, the “general manager” was responsible for reviewing financial statements, working alongside the executive to plan the annual budget and providing human resources, such as the hiring of staff.
Then-general manager Sid Naidu was fired by the 2018-19 executive team during their first day in office under former president Ram Ganesh. Following this event, the general manager’s credit card was then divided between Ganesh and the vice-president operations. The Eye later reported on alleged misspending by the executive.
On May 27, Henry wrote in an email that the ED’s contract was being revised by a lawyer and when it was finished, an ED would be hired to replace the role of the general manager. Niles was formally introduced to the BoD as the “executive director” during a meeting on June 20.
Emails obtained by The Eye from Aug. 1 show that four out of the six executives: vice-president education Kwaku Agyemang, vice-president equity Naja Pereira, vice-president marketing Victoria Anderson-Gardner and vice-president student life and events Joshua Wiggins believed the decision to fire Niles should have been brought to the board.
Over 12 RSU board members called for an emergency BoD meeting to address the termination of Niles as well as discuss the ED’s role. It will take place on Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Oakham Lounge.
The executive team voted in favour of “temporarily suspending” board members’ email accounts to find who leaked the information of Niles’ firing. Henry allegedly wrote to the board she would notify board members when their accounts are up and running again.