By Alexandra Holyk and Heidi Lee
At the fourth Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Board of Directors (BoD) meeting of the term, motions to approve financial auditors for the past two years became ratified unanimously, as well as a motion to ratify Board of Governors (BoG) and Senate representatives.
According to this year’s executive, the past two executive teams “failed to comply” with the RSU bylaw that requires financial statements for the preceding year to be presented at the RSU’s semi-annual general meeting. As a result, a motion was passed to allow Binder Dijker Otte (BDO) to conduct financial audits for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
The RSU’s financial controller Priya Paul said these audits must be conducted in order for the RSU to maintain its not-for-profit status, adding that a motion to conduct the current year’s financial audit will be brought up at the RSU’s Annual General Meeting in April.
In February, the RSU was expected to unveil a forensic audit following financial mismanagement allegations by vice-president of operations and financial controller during the 2018-19 year. This was a request by the university to prove that RSU funds were used properly.
However, instead of an official forensic audit, former RSU president Vanessa Henry and executive director Reanna Maharaj revealed a “financial review” conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that looked into the RSU’s credit card statements.
According to the review, $99,477 could not be verified as legitimate by the RSU’s audit committee.
When RSU president Ali Yousaf ran to become the students’ union president, he said he would look into conducting a forensic audit.
“If [the students] want the forensic audit, we’re going to get it done… If that is what it takes to earn the trust of students back, we’re going to get the forensic audit done,” said Yousaf at the RSU elections debate in February.
However, the RSU has not addressed this comment since.
During the meeting, Faculty of Arts director Alexandra Nash asked if the board would receive the RSU’s quarterly financial report for the current summer quarter.
Yousaf said the report is usually released twice a year— the vice-president of operations and the financial controller will present financial updates at the October and January BoD meetings, according to the RSU financial policies.
A motion to elect David Jardine and George Carter as the BoG and Senate representatives respectively also passed during Wednesday’s meeting.
This was after the BoD temporarily appointed Iyvan Chandran as BoG representative in June. Although Jardine was already elected as the BoG representative for the 2020-21 academic year, Yousaf said this was because he was waiting for Ryerson’s BoG to ratify its incoming team members.
Faculty of Community Services (FCS) director Steph Rychlo asked if the RSU planned on signing the open letter to university president Mohamed Lachemi that demands the removal of the Egerton Ryerson statue. Rychlo added that the RSU is one of the only unions on campus that hasn’t signed the letter.
“[The RSU is] not on there and I just want to make sure we are not sending the wrong message to students,” said Rychlo.
Yousaf said he has been in touch with the university about the status.
“I will let the university make an announcement on that because I don’t want to step on any boundaries,” he said. “But it’s not been ignored and I can assure you that we have been working on this.”
Another main update announced by Yousaf, vice-president operations Liora Dubinsky and vice-president equity Vaishali Vinayak addressed the COVID-19 and food relief grants.
According to Yousaf, the $100,000 COVID-19 relief grant will be available to all full-time students, with each successful applicant receiving up to $500.
Dubinsky said she hopes the grant applications will be available for students in September.
She added that the COVID-19 and food relief grants will not be given on a first-come-first-serve basis. Each application will be reviewed by the RSU’s bursary committee— including Yousaf, Dubinsky, FCS director Sabrina Ahmed and Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science director Umer Abdullah.
Rychlo asked if there are specific options or filters on the application for students with accessibility needs, so those in need could be granted priority.
“I did not plan specific questions about equity needs and accessibility needs but you can send me an email and we will include that in the questions,” said Dubinsky.
In regards to reopening plans, Maharaj said she has been in contact with the Student Campus Centre’s building manager Jennifer Stacey to work on bringing back on-campus services, specifically graduation photos.
However, she added that the plan for graduation photo services will be revisited in October as the university and the building manager have decided that only essential services will be available.
According to Maharaj, the RSU will bring back its lawyer Bill Reid to provide appointment-only legal services to students.
Vice-president education Siddhanth Satish mentioned that he’s been in contact with vice-provost, students Jen McMillen, and Ryerson’s Graduate Students’ Union (RGSU) to “formulate an agreement” to share some services while still being separate entities.
This is after the RGSU executives said they still are not recognized by the university or the RSU, which means graduate students are currently members of the RSU and fees collected from graduate and undergraduate student levies are included in the RSU’s budget.
The RSU will not be holding any online or in-person events for orientation week aside from creating frosh kits for incoming students, according to vice-president student life and events Usama Sheikh.
“We are holding on to the budget for frosh events and hopefully later down the line things will start opening up and we can hold something,” said Sheikh. “But for now we are not spending it.”
The date for the next BoD meeting has not yet been announced, but according to Yousaf, they all take place within the last 10 days of every month.