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VP operations impeached, interim VP operations and VP equity elected at BoD meeting

By Valerie Dittrich and Madi Wong

The motion to impeach Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vice-president operations was passed and an interim VP operations and VP equity were elected at Tuesday’s Board of Directors (BoD) meeting. 

James Fotak, now-former student groups director, was the only director nominated for the role and was officially voted in as the interim vice-president operations after a secret ballot vote.

Melania Tryhub, a now-former Faculty of Sciences director, was elected to act as interim vice-president equity. Tryhub and Fotak will act as interim executives until May 1, 2020. 

Tuesday was a continuation of the Dec. 10 BoD meeting where the motions to impeach vice-president education Kwaku Agyemang and now-former vice-president operations Augustine Onuh were discussed by the board. The vote to impeach Agyemang failed. 

The motion to impeach Onuh was tabled to Dec. 17 due to the meeting running overtime. 

At the Dec. 10 meeting, former vice-president marketing Victoria Anderson-Gardner resigned and former vice-president equity Naja Pereira resigned. Before the meeting they cited that the environment within the RSU was an “unhealthy and damaging one” and that they were experiencing “high stresses.” 

Onuh was up for impeachment due to missed hours and claims of harassment found by the board’s oversight committee. 

The creation of an oversight committee was passed at the Nov. 13 board meeting, as the board did not have an efficient way to file complaints within the workplace  

An oversight committee report obtained by The Eyeopener alleged that Onuh had told a full-time RSU staff 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, the report cited that 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 also alleged that Onuh had broken Operational Policy 41.7 on Workplace Harassment during that phone call.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Fotak outlined three reasons as to why Onuh should be removed from office.  

Fotak cited the oversight committee’s report, Onuh’s “consistent pattern of being unable to fulfill [his] duties” and his not working a full 40-hour week. 

“It’s really important that we collectively as a board make a strong statement that this behaviour is not tolerated and we expect better,” he said. 

“The board meeting to me, was just an attack in my own opinion,” Onuh told The Eye. “It should’ve been brought up prior to the board meeting…From my understanding, an investigation requires information from all parties involved.”

“No one has asked me anything regarding any possible investigation,” said Onuh. 

Onuh said that over the past eight months, he has “never been in any sort of mediation” in regards to the claims of harassment.

In an interview with The Eye, vice-president student life and events Joshua Wiggins said that the removal was “hasty.”

“I was wondering why there wasn’t any mediation or conflict resolution…Because usually that’s what happens in an organization if there is a conflict between two people,” he said. 

At the meeting, Faculty of Arts director Max Irwin said it “was a mistake” that mediation did not take place, but it still does not take away the fact that there has been multiple claims of harassment directed at Onuh. 

“It doesn’t matter if there was mediation, what matters is people are feeling unsafe…This is a pattern that has clearly [been shown] and it needs to stop,” said Irwin. 

“It’s [like] you don’t understand what workplace harassment is or you don’t care that you’re doing it.”

Wiggins asked Onuh if he knew the situation the oversight committee was talking about when they spoke to him and Onuh said he did not.

“I also thought that Augustine didn’t get to say his side of the story to the board,” Wiggins told The Eye

In an interview with The Eye, Onuh said that he was contacted by the oversight committee to share his side of the story, but was asked “big questions,” by the committee, such as where there was “any harassment going on.” 

“I told them what I remembered [about the phone call] and [they] told me that if I remembered anything I should contact them,” he said. 

He added that the report wasn’t just about him and that there were “a couple of us and the individual making the report on the other side of the call.” 

“It wasn’t a hostile call,” he said. “It was a regular, professional call.” 

RSU president Vanessa Henry recalled the board’s first finance committee meeting during the discussion of Onuh’s removal.  

Henry said she had asked the committee to work on the graduate council budget the next morning. According to her, Onuh said he “wouldn’t attend because it was at 8 a.m.”

Onuh said that he had “no training” and said it was difficult in the first few months without having a financial controller at the time to help him. 

“I had to figure out most of [it] on my own,” he said. “It’s so sad after going through all of that, with no support.” 

After a roll call vote, the motion to impeach Onuh passed, with president Vanessa Henry voting in favour, Agyemang voting against via email and Wiggins voting against. 

Shortly after Onuh’s removal from office, the board cast secret ballots to elect Fotak to act as the interim vice-president operations until May 1, 2020. 

Subsequently, another secret ballot vote was cast among the board for interim VP equity, wherein Tryhub was elected.

There was no motion on the agenda or update from the board on fulfilling the role of vice-president marketing.

The next BoD meeting is set to take place in January.

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