By Georgia Mills and Emma Sandri
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and the university are looking to renegotiate their 33-year-old agreement, amid allegations of the RSU’s misspending on executives’ credit cards.
According to Ryerson spokesperson Suelan Toye, a “transfer payment agreement” between the university and the RSU came into effect in 1986.
“The transfer payment agreement recognizes the RSU as a separate corporate entity from Ryerson University with its own corporate governance structure,” said Toye.
The agreement also lays out the terms and conditions of the fee transfer from the university to the RSU, said Toye. This includes how fees are collected from students on behalf of the RSU, and are then transferred from the university to the RSU.
“The agreement that we want [will] reflect transparency and accountability with all the respect [to the RSU’s] independence,” said Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi.
In January, The Eyeopener reported allegations that the RSU’s 2018-19 executive team spent over $250,000 on the union’s credit cards. Days later, the university published a statement regarding the “allegations of financial mismanagement.”
In the statement, Ryerson said that the university collects student fees and sends installments of these funds to the RSU.
“While the University has no authority to conduct an independent investigation into RSU finances, it is the university’s view that the RSU must comply with its bylaws, policies, and the law,” the statement said.
RSU president Vanessa Henry confirmed the union is in discussions with the school about a “new fee collection and distribution agreement.” But Henry declined to comment on: the contents of the original agreement between the RSU and the university; when she took over the negotiation process from the former RSU president, and; who is involved in the negotiations.
“As the discussions are ongoing and involve legal advice, we cannot discuss them at this time,” said Henry.
‘Good governance and accountability’: Vice-provost, students
Ryerson’s vice-provost, students, Jen McMillen, said the university met with the RSU executive and Board of Directors (BoD) in January and requested a “number of measures” from the union.
Ryerson requested that the RSU Board of Directors (BoD) perform a forensic audit in order to investigate allegations of misuse of RSU funds by past RSU executive members.
“We’re feeling good about how those conversations are moving forward”
The university asked that the results of this audit be shared and that the RSU and the university renegotiate the transfer payment agreement.
“The university informed the RSU that it would withhold its fees until the stipulated measures were met,” said McMillen via email.
She added that since February, the university has been engaged with the RSU to renegotiate the agreement “in good faith.”
“The University looks forward to ensuring that a model of good governance and accountability forms the basis for a continued partnership that recognizes the independence of the RSU, while ensuring fees collected on behalf of our students are managed in a fiscally responsible manner,” said McMillen.
Following a Feb. 11 BoD meeting wherein the RSU and BoD voted to impeach then-president Ram Ganesh, the board passed a motion to renegotiate the agreement.
According to the outlined motion, the BoD would form an Ad Hoc committee before Feb. 17, to engage in the renegotiation process.
In emailed requests for comment, Henry declined to answer a question about whether or not this committee was involved in current negotiations.
When The Eyeopener asked Ryerson who was involved in the renegotiation process, it was told that the RSU is “best suited” to answer.
“We’ve had some great conversations…We’re feeling good about where those conversations are and how they’re moving forward,” McMillen said in a previous interview.
However, on Oct. 18, Toye said the university and the RSU still had not finalized a new agreement.
In an Oct. 17 email, Henry said that she was “advised against speaking about the audit until the report is written.”
“As soon as it is completed, I’ll send The Eyeopener a copy,” she said.