By Valerie Dittrich and Madi Wong
At the final Board of Directors (BoD) meeting of the year, the motion to impeach the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vice-president education did not pass, and the motion to impeach vice-president operations was tabled until next semester.
At the Nov. 27 BoD meeting, vice-president education Kwaku Agyemang and vice-president operations Augustine Onuh were presented notices of removal, along with now-former vice-president equity Naja Pereira.
These notices came after a motion was passed at the Nov. 13 BoD meeting to hold RSU executives accountable for not working their full 40-hour workweeks.
Prior to the BoD meeting on Tuesday, Pereira resigned from her position and sent a resignation letter to The Eyeopener.
“Being given the opportunity to serve students at Ryerson is something that I will always appreciate and cherish,” Pereira’s letter stated. “However, at this point in time, the current environment that has been generated at the RSU is an unhealthy and damaging one.”
On the same day, Victoria Anderson-Gardner, now-former vice-president marketing, also resigned from their position.
In a statement sent to The Eye, Anderson-Gardner said they have experienced “high stresses” in their role and have been negatively impacted physically, emotionally and spiritually. In addition, they said that their mental health had deteriorated since starting their term at the RSU.
Vice-president student life and events Joshua Wiggins also read Anderson-Gardner’s statement out loud to the board on Tuesday.
The letter cited that Anderson-Gardner had withdrawn from their courses, terminated their lease and would be leaving Toronto shortly.
They also stated being triggered by recent issues relating to a non-Indigenous performer singing “Colours of the Wind” from Disney’s Pocahontas at an RSU event organized by president Vanessa Henry, as well as concern over a statement on behalf of the RSU that the executive team did not approve of. That statement was taken down shortly after it was posted to the RSU’s Facebook page.
“The current environment that has been generated at the RSU is an unhealthy and damaging one”
Prior to the discussion of the motions to remove Agyemang and Onuh, Wiggins tried to rule the impeachment motions as “out of order.”
According to Wiggins, there was no discussion around Onuh or Agyemang’s potential impeachment at the Nov. 27 board meeting.
Wiggins referenced BoD bylaw 2.3 and stated there was no resolution clause added as the board did not get to discuss the impeachment notices in advance and no formal notice was made at the last board meeting.
Faculty of Arts director Max Irwin said the BoD was unable to follow the proper process to give notices of removal because some executives did not give them the opportunity to do so.
“The reason why [notices] weren’t given at the last board meeting is because the executives who are in violation of some policies within their roles kept leaving the board meeting,” Irwin said at December’s BoD meeting.
After a roll call vote, the motion to rule the impeachment motions as “out of order” did not pass.
Jacob Circo, course unions director, requested to move the impeachment motions—which were motions three and five on the agenda—to the first and second motions, as well as to have an in-camera meeting with executive director Reanna Maharaj and financial controller Priya Paul without the executives present.
The motion passed and after an in-camera session, the board proceeded with the impeachment motions on the agenda.
MOTION TO REMOVE VP EDUCATION FROM OFFICE — FAILED
Agyemang was up for impeachment due to failure to work full 40-hour weeks and for harassment, according to the board’s oversight committee.
According to the Dec. 2 oversight committee report obtained by The Eye, Agyemang allegedly broke Operational Policy 41.7 on Workplace Harassment policy in a phone call between himself, Onuh and now former vice-president marketing, Anderson-Gardner.
The report stated that Onuh allegedly harassed a full-time staff member via a phone call and that the call was made from Agyemang’s phone.
“The VP Education did not intervene in the instance, but rather added further comments…[that] are also alarming,” the report read.
The creation of an oversight committee was passed at the Nov. 13 board meeting to handle internal complaints within the RSU, as there was no efficient way for members to make a complaint in their workplace.
“To be throwing around harassment without even engaging with me and giving me a chance to speak up for myself…It’s not even [true],” said Agyemang.
Board members opened discussion on both the harassment and work hours accusations, posing questions for him to respond to.
In the discussion, Circo asked Agyemang why he has missed multiple senate meetings at Ryerson and did not make a meeting with senate members a part of his goal.
Ryerson’s senate meetings are held on a monthly basis. Members are responsible for “maintaining, communicating and implementing institutional policies” such as education, university admission.
Agyemang said that for the meetings he missed, he made sure he spoke to Nicole Briayiannis, president of Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR). Briayiannis, who also attends senate meetings, gave him updates on what he missed, Agyemang said.
Circo responded by saying that it is important to have a representative at the meeting serving as a student voice and that in the future it would be best to let the board know if he cannot attend.
“You had a conversation as a friend and that does not count. That is not professional”
In addition to missed hours, Agyemang’s two-week vacation was also discussed after concerns were raised on whether or not he received approval for his vacation by president Vanessa Henry.
“If we’re going to talk about my hours, the only hours that [are] missing is my 80-hour, two weeks vacation and from my understanding…I asked, [I seeked and approved that vacation verbally with [Henry],” he said.
Henry said, however, that Agyemang did not seek proper approval from her for his vacation.
“Telling me generally with your boys that you’re going on vacation as friends is not approval. That is you telling me and it is not an ask,” she said. “You had a conversation as a friend and that does not count. That is not professional.”
Agyemang acknowledged that he should have emailed Henry, but noted the RSU bylaws do not detail what kind of approval is needed. In addition, their contracts do not outline when the executives are not allowed to take vacations.
Agyemang added that in his role, he wanted to do more for students themselves and focus less on the “student politics” within the board and RSU and pass more motions that would benefit Ryerson students.
“The challenge for me in my role this year was [that] I received no transition from the previous VP education,” he said.
“Moving forward, what’s even more disturbing is in my role…my most vocal point on the board is we need to get rid of all the student politics. There’s only been two or three motions passed from students,” he said.
After almost two hours of discussion, a roll call vote took place and the motion to impeach Agyemang failed.
MOTION TO REMOVE VP OPERATIONS FROM OFFICE — TABLED
Similar to Agyemang, Onuh was up for impeachment due to missed hours and claims of harassment found by the oversight committee.
The oversight committee report alleged that Onuh had told a full-time staff member who was on a phone call with Agyemang and Anderson-Gardner that “if I go down, I will take you down with me.”
In addition, prior to the call, Onuh had “also made clear his intentions to ‘take others down’ with him in order to clear his name to a second full-time staff member.”
The report alleged that Onuh had also broken Operational Policy 41.7 on Workplace Harassment during that phone call.
When asked by Faculty of Arts director Raquel Almeida Marguiles if Onuh had ever made someone in the RSU offices uncomfortable or harassed them, Onuh said no.
Faculty of Arts director Chris Randall asked Onuh why he has not presented quarterly financial reports or an audited statement the membership to update the board despite it being under his portfolio, and not under the financial controller’s.
In response, Onuh said that he does not have the financial knowledge to create those reports on his own and in addition, because the semi-annual general meeting did not reach quorum, he did not have to present the audited report to the board.
“Having a presentation prepared if we reached quorum is something that should’ve been done,” said Randall.
“I understand that you don’t have the skills or knowledge because you’re not a full-time staff…but it is within your job description to work with the financial controller. You’ve had since October to prepare something for December.”
Marguiles asked Onuh why he would apply for a job he was underqualified for, as Onuh had previously stated during the meeting he had little financial experience.
In response, Onuh said he understands the numbers, but had no financial controller to guide him through the process during the summer months.
Agyemang suggested that the oversight committee meet with Onuh again and “give him a fair chance” by having a “moderator or someone he is comfortable with to represent [Onuh]” present during the meeting.
Zaynab Dhalla, Faculty of Community Services director, said that having someone “on his side” is not the point of mediation.
“That’s not what a moderator is,” she said. “A moderator isn’t someone who is going to be there to defend him, that’s on the person [who is being investigated].”
The motion was tabled to the next board meeting due to the fact the RSU only had the room booked until 10:30 p.m. and were running overtime.
At the next meeting—which will take place on Dec. 17—the board will continue to discuss Onuh’s potential impeachment. In addition, Henry’s potential impeachment is also expected to be discussed, after a notice of impeachment that was moved by Anderson-Gardner.