Op-ed: So you have a governing problem…

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This op-ed was written by Maklane deWever, former Ryerson Students’ Union president, who uncovered last year’s RSU credit card statements took over when former president Ram Ganesh was impeached. 

Once again, the student body has been let down. 

On Monday night, the Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM) for the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) released what should’ve been a forensic audit. It turned out to be a “financial review” release, and what should have been an opportunity to discuss the future of the RSU turned into petty arguments. 

The financial review isn’t the same as the would’ve-been-forensic audit. A forensic audit is an exhaustive examination of an organization’s financial records which collects evidence which can be used in a court of law—whereas the financial review only reviewed the three credit cards at the centre of last year’s alleged misspending. This is a problem because the university specifically requested a forensic audit. 

Currently, our situation is this: the university has dismissed the student union as our official governing body and has halted its funding. But the student union does not recognize the move as legitimate—so now we’re left with a $2.7 million legal claim against the university.

So you have a major governing problem. What’s the solution? 

Ripping up the 1986 Operating Agreement has no real impact on the day-to-day operations of an institution. It doesn’t solve issues of accountability and accessibility

One issue to address is accessibility: the RSU needs a format for its meetings where students can share their concerns without the bureaucracy. Having open concept meetings allows for students to speak freely and criticize its representatives. 

Another long-standing issue has been accountability. Independent oversight would help mitigate the consequences of the exclusivity of the student union setup. 

Another issue—an overarching one—is the refusal of the university to work with the RSU to find solutions. None of the above can happen if the school doesn’t engage. 

It hasn’t always been this way. Over its 72-year lifespan, we opened the seven equity service centres, a food bank that feeds 300 students a month, closed off Gould Street, lobbied for fall reading week—among other wins for the student body. 

Ripping up the 1986 Operating Agreement has no real impact on the day-to-day operations of an institution. While it’s a worthwhile effort, it doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t solve issues of accountability and accessibility. It’s an external document, and has nothing to do with what goes on inside an organization. 

Right now, we’re only hurting the people who are currently represented and employed by the student union, like the RSU’s more than 10 full-time staff, who have mortgages and children, could soon be out of work. More than 50 part-time student staff could be out of work too. Students who rely on the food bank could go hungry. Students who rely on the equity service centres will be missing resources they need to succeed. Student groups are likely to suffer. 

Instead of spending thousands of dollars on lawyers, we need to focus on accessible solutions. Heck, with all the lawyer money they’ll save, maybe we can finally get those nap pods. 

Comments

  1. Maklane, during your time as the replacement president, are you certain that a “forensic audit” was requested to PwC? Would it be possible to release the initial contract / redacted parts of the contract to prove a formal “forensic audit” was ordered?
    Secondly, If there was a forensic audit formally requested, at what time do you believe that the contract was modified to be downgraded to a cheaper alternative? Who in power would be able to make these changes?
    In any case, there should be a massive paper trail, contracts don’t change overnight with no documentation. Even if the paper trail is deleted on Ryerson’s end, PwC should have all communication and change requests themselves.
    Thanks.

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