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UPDATE: Ryerson ordered to give student fees to RSU, recognize them as student union

By Emma Sandri

Following a hearing on Friday, an Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled that Ryerson University must release withheld student fees from the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).

In a statement published to Facebook, the RSU said the court also “affirmed the RSU as the student government, following a 70-year legacy as the democratic voice of students on campus.”

The RSU was seeking an injunction since Ryerson terminated their contractual agreement on Jan. 24. The injunction effectively requires the university to refrain from terminating their agreement with the RSU, which has been in place since 1986.

This means the RSU will continue operating as the official student union—as they were prior to Jan. 24—until the trial, which is expected to take place later this year. 

In a statement posted to Ryerson’s website, the vice provost, students Jen McMillen said that the creation of a new student government is “on hold,” adding that the “university will be contacting students who participated directly in the process to explain the current situation.”

In his written decision, Judge Markus Koehnen granted the motion for an injunction and ordered Ryerson to comply with its obligations under the operating agreement. This includes releasing withheld fees, including health and dental, and temporarily recognizing the RSU as Ryerson’s student government. 

Ryerson had been withholding student fees from the union since The Eyeopener’s reported on alleged financial mismanagement within the union in January 2019.

“These fees fund vital student services like sexual violence support centres and equity supports and health and dental coverage,” said the RSU in their post.

In addition, Koehnen awarded the RSU partial legal fees of $68,657.82.

According to the RSU’s legal counsel, Alexi Wood, the RSU would have only been able to operate on the funds they have until the end of March. They are required to use their operational reserves to continue supporting student services.

During a court hearing on the injunction on Friday, Wood argued the union would face “irreparable damage” if Ryerson continues to not recognize it as the official group representing full-time undergraduate students.

The injunction will be in effect until the legal dispute between Ryerson and the RSU is resolved at a civil trial. 

In January, the RSU announced that they filed a legal claim against the university. The union is seeking $2.7 million in damages for breach of contract, the release of the student fees withheld by the university, $100,000 in punitive damages and a declaration that Ryerson is in breach of its agreement with the RSU.

“If Ryerson does not transfer to the RSU the funds that [it] has collected on the RSU’s behalf, it is undisputed the RSU will have to shut down in little over one month from now…that will result in the termination of 79 employees, a lack of funding to the many student organizations the RSU supports and the shutdown of many student services,” said Koehnen in his decision.

Leading up to the injunction, the Continuing Education Students’ Association at Ryerson (CESAR) and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) announced they were given intervener status in the court case to represent CESAR students. 

In a statement emailed to The Eyeopener on Monday, CESAR and the CFS stated they were able to argue the university’s “overstepping” and that the autonomy of students’ unions “should be respected.” 

“CESAR hopes that the University and RSU will…go back to the negotiating table to address grievances and come to an agreement that respects the RSU as a student-driven and autonomous students’ union.”

With files from Alexandra Holyk and Madi Wong

This story has been updated to include McMillen’s comment.

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