By Heidi Lee
Three student groups say they were not aware that they were listed as endorsing the Ryerson Student Strike campaign, executives of the groups told The Eyeopener.
A Facebook post by Ryerson Student Strike on Sept. 4—the day of the Campus Groups Fair—claimed their campaign for a strike was endorsed by 18 campus groups at Ryerson within a day.
According to the campaign’s Facebook description, the aim of the student strike is to “stop Doug Ford’s cuts to [Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)], cuts to university funding and attacks on student organizing.” A general assembly to vote on the one-day strike at Ryerson is set to take place on Sept. 25.
The strike campaign was initiated by the Socialist Fightback Club two weeks ago, according to Hermes Azam, former president and “point person” of Socialist Fightback.
Student group Musicians@Ryerson had no intention of endorsing the strike, according to an email statement from Preethi Suresh, president of the group.
“I reached out to them to clarify and asked them to take our name down to which they complied,” said Suresh.
However, as of Sept. 17, Musicians@Ryerson was still listed in the Ryerson Student Strike post.
Similarly, vice-president of brothers of the Ryerson Muslim Student Association (RMSA), Sameer Naumani, said RMSA has no affiliation to Fightback and were never approached for endorsement despite being listed.
“The executive team has no knowledge of this, nor [have] we ever received any emails from them,” said Naumani.
RMSA was removed from the posted list on Sept. 12, after they asked to be removed, said Khansa Robab, the vice-president operations of RMSA in a follow-up email.
Olive Pape, outreach organizer on the student strike campaign and a member of Socialist Fightback, said that Fightback made it clear to students that they were specifically asking for their club’s endorsement of the strike.
Pape said she spoke to 15 groups and started each conversation with students’ thoughts on OSAP cuts, before proposing the idea of a student strike and asking if Fightback can count on their vote at the upcoming general assembly.
She said some students said they didn’t feel comfortable endorsing the strike without permission from their entire club, while others agreed to endorse the strike as an individual.
Pape said she believes they “might [have] confused people” when they asked student group members to hold up a sign to “show that they support [a strike].”
“People didn’t understand that [it] was an endorsement.”
Azam said he thinks there was “a little bit of a lack of communication on the part of the club members.”
According to Azam, club members at the table were supportive and “were willing to give endorsements” at the Campus Group Fair.
“That one [day of] endorsement was not the end. We invite all student groups to the general assembly to vote on a student strike,” he said.
Achona Roberts, president of United Black Students at Ryerson (UBSR), said it was shocking to see the post. She said UBSR did not endorse the strike collectively, but some of the executive members signed the petition.
“We never [had] the opportunity for discussion,” said Roberts. “I didn’t know that they [were] looking for endorsement or groups to stand behind the cause.”
Azam said over the past few weeks, Socialist Fightback has been handing out red square pins, symbolizing the events of the 2012 Quebec student strike. The pins are being used to support the Ryerson Student Strike.
According to Roberts, on Sept. 4, some executive members of UBSR were wearing the red square pin.
“I thought they took the picture because we were wearing pins. I didn’t know that it will be used as an endorsement photo,” said Roberts.
As of Sept. 17 UBSR is still included in the strike campaign post.
Other groups listed in the post who do endorse the student strike include the Ryerson chapter of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP), the Ryerson Debate Association, R.U. Veg and Ryerson’s Game Makers Union.
Alannah Fricker, president and founder of CSSDP, said the group endorses the campaign because they want to send a message to the province that students do not stand for the cuts to education in Ontario. She said CSSDP was approached by Fightback on Campus Groups Fair day.
“We heard about their call for a strike before [the fair],” said Fricker. “We did get more information when they came to us in person.”
According to a statement by R.U. Veg, the club supports the strike. “This opinion, however, is that of R.U. Veg as a separate entity from individual members,” they said in an email.
The general assembly will be held at the Sheldon and Tracy Levy Student Learning Centre (SLC), Azam said.
The rest of the student groups did not respond to request for comment in time for publication.