RSU’s BoD approves budget for 2020-21, appoints grad student reps

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By Alexandra Holyk, Heidi Lee and Libaan Osman

At the Ryerson Students’ Union’s (RSU) third virtual Board of Directors (BoD) meeting, motions were passed to ratify graduate student representatives and approve the union’s budget for the 2020-21 academic year. 

RSU president Ali Yousaf said the reason for unveiling the proposed budget now instead of in August was to provide students with information about what their fees will cover, as well as offer students “relief in these difficult times.”

Yousaf and vice-president operations Liora Dubinsky mentioned that the RSU will be providing $100,000 in COVID-19 relief grants for students, after concerns were raised by many who were unable to receive the previous grant provided by the 2019-20 RSU executive team.  

Motion to approve the budget for 2020-21: PASSED

According to RSU’s vice-president of operations Liora Dubinsky, the proposed budget for the 2020-21 academic year is approximately $2.2 million—a 10 per cent decrease from last year’s budget of $2.5 million—with students paying $82 in membership fees.

Dubinsky said the decrease was “based on a conservative model,” since the previously overruled Student Choice Initiative—which gave post-secondary students the choice to opt-out of certain non-essential services on campus—may be appealed by the Ontario provincial government.

She added that the RSU is expecting lower student enrolment numbers due to the majority of classes moved online for the fall semester. However, according to admission numbers revealed at Ryerson’s BoG meeting held on June 30, the university saw a 4.3 per cent increase in first-year domestic and international students who have confirmed their acceptance offers and paid the tuition deposit fee, compared to last year.

The university’s campus groups will receive a budget of approximately $380,000, which is an increase of almost $55,000 compared to last year. 

“Part of our campaign point was to bring back the base funding for our student groups and course unions,” said Dubinsky. “We want to give back and make sure that one of the core components of the RSU’s services is to make sure the student group services are supported even with COVID.”

The proposed budget also saw an increase in funding for social events, despite an online fall semester with no in-person activities. Dubinsky said the RSU will put more funding toward January’s Week of Welcome when students will hopefully be back on campus. 

“Usually the fall one gets a lot more funding than winter, but this year since there’s probably going to be no students on campus, we put a lot of the funding towards winter,” said Dubinsky. “Hopefully we can make up for that if everything is open and create a bigger Week of Welcome for students.”

Motion to ratify graduate student representatives: PASSED

The board voted in favour of appointing Waqas Ahmed, Bilal Khan and Fayez Shahzad Qureshi as graduate student representatives. This is only until the university’s Board of Governors (BoG) ratifies the Ryerson Graduate Students’ Union (RGSU) at their meeting in September or until a by-election is held. 

Ahmed became the graduate representative chairperson, whereas Khan and Shahzad were appointed as the deputy chairperson finance and the deputy chairperson education for the graduate committee on the BoD. 

Faculty of Arts director Alexander Nash motioned to amend their ratification, adding that graduate students were not consulted in the process. Nash also said the RSU should respect the RGSU’s request to appoint qualified representatives. 

The RGSU is still not officially recognized by the university or the RSU. Back in June, RGSU vice-president education Amber Grant said this is because of an existing clause in the new operating agreement between the RSU and the university.

Yousaf said “there’s been a lot of confusion” surrounding graduate students. He said the reason behind the appointments is to respect the three students whose application was rejected in February. 

Faculty of Community Services director Steph Rychlo said there was a proper referendum process according to RSU bylaws during the RU Next Gov election and the RSU should recognize the legitimacy of the RGSU.

“Just because Ryerson doesn’t represent something, we still have to uphold RSU values and recognize the process that was done,” said Rychlo. “Ryerson right now does not recognize the RGSU as [a separate] union because they have to be ratified by the BoG in September.”

Nash said the goal of her proposed amendment is to support the wishes that graduate students “have repeatedly demonstrated in democratic votes following RSU procedures.”

“I feel sympathy for anyone who was not able to submit any successful application to run in the election last year, but that doesn’t change the results of these two referenda and the wishes that graduate students clearly expressed about who they wanted to be represented by,” Nash added.

Nash’s motion to amend the ratification process failed as the board voted in favour of ratifying the three candidates appointed by Yousaf. 

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