By Alexandra Holyk, Heidi Lee and Libaan Osman
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) held its first Board of Directors (BoD) meeting of the new academic year online on Thursday, where motions were passed to end overtime pay for executives and ratify several board positions, among others.
RSU president Ali Yousaf opened the meeting by saying, “the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself.” He added that the unprecedented times surrounding COVID-19 require students to adapt to a new normal.
“During this evolution process, obviously we will have a lot of barriers that we need to overcome,” Yousaf said. “We have a very important mandate of working in the best interest of [Ryerson’s] 40,000 students.”
Yousaf also mentioned that he and vice-president education Siddhanth Satish are working alongside Ryerson’s Board of Governors (BoG) and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to bring back the RU-Pass, which was supposed to be implemented in the 2019-20 academic year. The pass would have allowed students to have unlimited access to bus, subway and streetcar transportation for a mandatory fee of $280 per semester, totalling $564 for both fall and winter, but was cancelled due to the Student Choice Initiative.
“We’re getting back in touch with TTC for the same renegotiation contract which was approved before and voted on by the students,” Yousaf said, referring to the BoG referendum results in November 2018.
Here’s what else happened at the RSU’s first BoD meeting of the year:
Motion to ratify a new faculty of science director: PASSED
Mishel Galperin, a fourth-year computer science student, was ratified as an interim faculty of science director until a by-election can be held sometime during the fall semester.
Kajetha Jeyapalan, one of the previously elected directors, stepped down before the new term began on May 1 due to personal reasons, according to Yousaf.
As a result, Yousaf planned to appoint Galperin for the remainder of the term, however, this went against RSU bylaws. Instead, a by-election for one of the 2020-21 faculty of science director positions will be held in the fall—the RSU did not confirm when this will take place.
An older version of the agenda forwarded to The Eyeopener included an additional motion to ratify the positions of senate and board of governors representatives, respectively. The individuals that were supposed to be appointed were Olivia Karp as senate representative and Iyvan Chandran as the board of governors representative.
David Jardine, who was elected as one of three BoG student representatives, said they already followed the necessary procedures to be appointed as the BoG representative within the RSU’s BoD membership.
“The bylaws clearly say that I am able to hold the position,” Jardine said, adding that all three representatives voted unanimously in Jardine’s favour. “It’s pretty clear to me that they are looking to ignore the bylaws…just so that I won’t have my position on the board.”
The motion was removed in the updated agenda, though it is still unclear who holds the positions until September.
Motions to ratify commissioners and standing committee members: PASSED
The first BoD meeting of the year also saw the ratification of seven new commissioners, all of which were selected the same day as the meeting, according to Yousaf. They include:
Athletics — Amr Shaikh
Equity and Social Justice — Homra Ghaznavi
Events and Entertainment — Zain Choudhry
Course Union — Abaan Ahmed
Student Group — Abaan Ahmed
Student Action Committee — Sabrina Ahmed
Sustainability — Amr Shaikh
The governance commissioner position was left vacant—Yousaf claimed this was because the position hadn’t been filled in previous years, adding that there will be an election for the governance commissioner role before the next board meeting.
Jardine said they plan to run for this position but they “don’t expect to get it.”
There were also 28 committee members ratified for the RSU’s 11 standing committees.
Motion to grant the executive committee a spending authority for capital expenses up to $1,000 before the budget is decided on: PASSED
Originally, a motion was proposed to allow up to $5,000 in capital expenses for the executive team. But after discussions between both the executives and the BoD, the motion was amended to decrease the amount to $1,000.
Yousaf mentioned that this would help with “monthly bills” that needed to be paid by the RSU until the budget is passed in August.
Faculty of arts director Alexandra Nash asked why it was necessary for the executives to be given a capital expense since they are already permitted to spend up to $1,500 without board approval.
Yousaf said he’s “trying to be clear and transparent from the beginning” and that this is the amount needed to be approved by the executives.
“I will personally ensure and make sure that we do not spend more than $1,000 until the budget gets approved,” said Yousaf. “It’s purely for the sake of transparency…[and] more accountability. We’re taking power away from the executives and giving it to the board.”
Motion to cease monetary compensation for overtime work of management staff: PASSED
Yousaf said that rather than working overtime, executives should be encouraged to take lieu time off. According to Yousaf, executives currently have the power to decide when they are paid overtime—the motion would require executive overtime pay to be approved by at least two-thirds of the board.
“Previously we’ve seen executives making that decision for themselves, but I personally would like to hold these executives a lot more accountable and I expect a lot better,” said Yousaf. “We are going to be at a better standard which is why I’m going to be giving more power to the board.”
Nash proposed to table the motion to make sure it was in line with Ontario legislation surrounding overtime work. Yousaf clarified that he consulted with the RSU’s legal team on the motion and said they advised that the board should be making the decision on overtime pay.
Motion to lobby Ryerson University and the federal government to support and secure the livelihood of international students: PASSED
The RSU plans to lobby in support of Ryerson’s international students after the university suspended physical copies of official transcripts due to COVID-19.
The motion stated that the delay in the process of official transcripts would put international students at risk of losing potential summer or even fall jobs as they would not be able to apply for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) before their study permit expired.
The PGWPP provides a work permit for international students who graduate from eligible Canadian designated learning institutions to work in Canada after graduation.
Yousaf said he has already talked to the university about this matter and that Ryerson is trying its best to accommodate the needs of international students. Meanwhile, the RSU will also reach out to CFS so they can advocate for international students on a federal level.
Additional updates: Equity centre hires, Pride celebrations online, revisions to health and dental plan
The RSU’s vice-president equity Vaishali Vinayak said employees of the equity centres are working to plan an online Pride event sometime in June.
Yousaf confirmed that anyone currently planning the event will have their contracts extended past May 30 until Pride week, though he did not specify a day.
The BoD also discussed the four part-time equity centre positions that were posted Thursday to the RSU’s website. Faculty of community services director Steph Rychlo raised concerns around hiring people to work generally for all the equity centres instead of hiring people to work for specific centres, given many of them are designed with a focus on identity-specific groups.
“The reason behind equity service centres is that we have students that are in…representative positions of their respective communities,” Rychlo said. “If we amalgamate the positions, there’s opportunity for…representation that’s really lost there.”
Yousaf said the RSU will “try [its] best to make sure that all communities are represented,” however, it will depend on the applications received.
Yousaf and vice-president operations Liora Dubinsky mentioned they are looking to revise the RSU’s health and dental plan and hopefully make it more affordable for students. According to Yousaf, the plan currently costs $365, but he did not mention how much the price may decrease.
“We’ve been working with…our insurance brokers to make sure we reduce the cost of our plan…but we also wanted to make sure our services and what we provide stay as they are, if not even better,” Dubinsky said, adding that the team hopes to subsidize the cost of medical notes and improve the visual benefits offered.
The RSU has not yet released the date for the next BoD meeting.