By Anna Wdowczyk
The Ryerson Graduate Students’ Union’s (RGSU) referendum request to govern at Ryerson on behalf of graduate students with financial support was approved at the Board of Governors’ (BoG) meeting on Oct. 1
Some graduate students have been pushing for unionization as they’re currently represented by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).
Starting next year, graduate students will be charged extra fees to support the RGSU. This includes a yearly fee of $123.84 for operations, as well as up to $650 for an optional health plan. The final cost for the health plan has not been formally negotiated yet and the number is likely to decrease, according to Grant. Comparatively, this year’s Health and Dental Plan provided by the RSU costs $340 per student.
This new plan would include more dental and mental health coverage. It would cover services from any therapists, access to digital therapy through BEACON and four dental scalings per year.
In total, this will increase graduate student fees by $334.08. Due to the opt-out provision to the health plan, only $24.08 of this increase will be mandatory.
RGSU executive member Amber Grant said the union also plans on delivering equity services to graduate students.
“We actually are working to centralize the voices of these groups by actively listening and intentionally creating space for feedback through things like town halls,” said Grant.
Currently, the RSU membership represents all full-time undergraduate and graduate students which can create a conflict of interest for teaching assistants who may sit on the same board as their students, according to RGSU president Angélique Bernabé.
In November, the RGSU plans to negotiate an operating agreement with the university, according to Bernabé.
This agreement would outline how the new union will work alongside Ryerson to support graduate students before the distribution of information to members in January 2021.
What’s up at Ryerson’s new law school?
Ryerson’s law school is prioritizing an “integrated practice curriculum” to train 170 law students, according to dean Donna Young. This entails combining theory-based exams with experiences for students to apply their knowledge.
“We have promised the public that we are going to provide an education that has at its forefront equity, diversity and inclusion, access to innovation and entrepreneurship and of course, academic excellence,” said Young.
Recently, the faculty of law hired five new members. The school plans to continue building its faculty support going forward.
For now, the law school is located on the fourth floor of the Podium building with 35 offices and five classrooms as few students are coming to campus—but Young said this isn’t “a permanent home,” adding that the law school is in the process of looking for a new space.
Academic and hiring updates
The other focus of the BoG meeting highlighted the number of initiatives faculties are carrying out to improve online learning, according to interim provost Saeed Zolfaghari. Various efforts have already been implemented and more are in the works.
One notable example includes access to Adobe Creative Cloud for students in the Faculty of Communication and Design. Science labs have also been developed with augmented reality “which reimagines the virtual lab.”
Additional funding has been secured in support of proposals for Indigenous curriculum and course developments by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) strategic working group, a group that aims to respond to the 94 Calls to Action within the Ryerson community.
According to Zolfaghari, Ryerson’s domestic and international undergraduate enrolment numbers are both higher than originally anticipated; however, these numbers may change as the deadline to drop courses approaches.
In regards to faculty representation, Zolfaghari added there have been 71 tenure-streamed hires. Fifty-seven of these new hires joined Ryerson between July and September with the rest beginning their work with the school in the next academic year.
Of these recent hires, 48 per cent identified as women and 43 per cent identified as racialized.
Ryerson’s hiring efforts are “remarkable given the context of COVID-19,” according to Zolfaghari.