By Alexandra Holyk
Ryerson graduate students are finally getting their own union after a referendum on April 16-17 saw students vote in favour of separating grad students from the Ryerson Students’ Union’s (RSU) membership. This means the RSU will only represent full-time undergraduate students, while the Ryerson Graduate Students’ Union (RGSU) represents all graduate students.
“We are thrilled to finally be able to work toward having our own student government—a government that finally recognizes and centralizes the needs of graduate students on campus,” the RGSU executive team said, adding that this is a historic win for graduate students.
According to the referendum results posted by the RGSU, 681 students voted in favour of a separate union for graduate students out of the 730 votes cast.
Amber Grant, the RGSU’s vice-president of education, said the team wasn’t surprised at the low voter turnout, despite the referendum being available to all students within the RSU’s membership. “Given the time of year being exam season, I think students are perhaps less likely to vote,” Grant said. “Nonetheless, considering this is the third time a vote like this has taken place and the third time it has passed…I think we are happy with the results.”
Graduate students have been trying to form a students’ union for more than three years, with the first motion to separate being put forward in April 2017. After Ryerson terminated its 1986 Operating Agreement with the RSU and introduced the idea of new student government structure proposals, the RGSU was elected as one of the student governing bodies. However, when the RSU won their injunction against the university, this put the RGSU’s plans on hold.
Since Ryerson’s graduate students still wanted to have a separate union from the RSU, RGSU executives put forward a motion at the RSU’s emergency Board of Directors (BoD) meeting on March 12. This motion passed and permitted the RGSU to hold a referendum to decide whether graduate students will be removed from the RSU’s membership.
The Eye previously reported that the RGSU’s next steps include holding elections for next year’s executive team and BoD. The current executive team will also work with the incoming executives to negotiate a new operating agreement with Ryerson—separate from the RSU.
“Our first step will be working on finalizing our separation from the RSU,” Grant said, adding that the team plans to hold elections in a month but still need to figure out how they will be facilitated.
Grant also said the RGSU hopes to be running and recognized by Ryerson by September 2020.