RSU BoD passes motions for free menstrual products and creation of pandemic response committee

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By Heidi Lee and Libaan Osman

At the Ryerson Students’ Union’s (RSU) sixth Board of Directors (BoD) meeting, motions were passed to ratify the first-year student representative, provide free menstrual products for students and form a temporary pandemic response committee. 

The board also provided an update on the quarterly financial report in-camera, addressed an open letter from the Ryerson Campus Coalition and why hours worked by the executives aren’t being logged.

There were also mentions of upcoming events and ongoing projects, including the preparation of two years’ worth of financial audits; reimbursement for emergency contraceptives, pregnancy tests and birth controls; and a $5,000 donation to the Black Legal Action Centre (BLAC). 

Abdul Saleem, a first-year Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) student, was appointed by RSU president Ali Yousaf as the first-year representative on the RSU BoD for the term. 

According to RSU bylaw 6.9, a first-year undergraduate student shall be appointed by the president and ratified by the BoD by a two-thirds majority vote at the first board meeting of the fall term. This is the first fall 2020 meeting called by Yousaf.  

Here’s what you missed at the latest BoD meeting: 

Motion to make menstrual products available for students in the Student Campus Centre (SCC): PASSED

TRSM director and equity commissioner Homra Ghaznavi said the motion was put forward to support Ryerson students struggling with period poverty and noted it had already been approved by the Equity and Social Justice Committee. 

“As a students’ union it is our responsibility to make sure we are helping students in the best way possible, so this is why we put forward this motion,” said Ghaznavi. 

According to a 2018 report by Plan International Canada, one-third of the 2,000 Canadian women under the age of 25 who were polled said they struggled to afford menstrual products.

The Eyeopener previously reported that sanitary dispensers haven’t been restocked since 2019. In February 2020, a free menstrual product campaign led by Ryerson’s Centre for Safer Sex & Sexual Violence Support was cancelled due to a lack of funding. 

The plan is to install menstrual product dispensers in SCC washrooms to make menstrual products accessible for Ryerson community members. The RSU will lobby the Palin Foundation and the university to fund the initiative in the SCC and adopt it across campus. 

During the meeting, Faculty of Community Services director Steph Rychlo noted that the menstrual products should be made available in all washrooms, including male and gender-neutral washrooms.

Motion to create a pandemic response committee: PASSED

The RSU will be creating a temporary pandemic response committee with the hope it will support students who have been facing unexpected hardship due to COVID-19.

Board of Governors representative David Jardine said they wanted to put this motion forward to the RSU after getting feedback from students who were unhappy about the lack of effort from the university to address concerns. 

Jardine said the RSU could play an important role in potentially lobbying the university in facilitating a COVID-19 testing site on campus.

“I think this is something students are looking for from the RSU and if we do this, I think this would be not only the right thing but also good for the RSU’s reputation to re-establish ourselves,” said Jardine. “It’s no surprise the reputation of the RSU is not that great [due to] outgoing previous years.”

This past week, Western University held a COVID-19 pop-up testing site for students, staff and faculty. The University of Ottawa and Queen’s University also held testing for students back in September.

Faculty of Arts director Alexandra Nash agreed with Jardine in wanting to request the university to open a testing site at Ryerson and mentioned how hard it is currently to get access to testing.

“Having on-campus COVID testing would be really amazing and a good way to show our students that we care about their health,” said Nash.

The committee is expected to consist of the vice-president education, vice-president equity, a pandemic response commissioner, a residence council representative and three other directors.

Earlier this month, the RSU provided students with the chance to apply for a COVID-19 relief grant consisting of $100,000 of funding. Applications for a food relief grant worth $20,000 under the Good Food Centre were also available for students.

According to RSU vice-president operations Liora Dubinsky, more than 1,000 students applied for the COVID-19 grant.

RSU and CUPE

In an open letter to the RSU, the Ryerson Campus Coalition has requested the RSU reopen the Good Food Centre for the 2020-21 academic year, adding that the goal of the letter is to create “a campus that values food security, poverty reduction and anti-stigma for students and workers accessing food banks.” 

The coalition is comprised of the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3904, CUPE Local 1281 and the Ryerson Faculty Association. 

“We understand that there is a desire to reduce operations during the reduction in campus spaces but we implore the [RSU] to consider creative and safe approaches to maintaining operations for the food bank as several other post-secondary students’ unions have implemented, such as pre-booked appointments, curbside pick-up or deliveries,” the letter read. 

On Wednesday, CUPE 1218 launched a #RestoreRSU day of action on social media using graphics and hashtags to call for the RSU to bring back student services on campus and to protest the five layoffs in summer. The layoff of five full-time staff members formerly employed by the RSU was addressed in the previous emergency BoD meeting called by Jardine. 

During the current meeting, Jardine said they’re wondering whether the RSU will address the issue if “it keeps growing and growing.”

Yousaf said the RSU does not represent either CUPE or CESAR but is here to make decisions that represent Ryerson students. 

Jardine also questioned whether the five staff members have been officially let go or not. 

RSU executive director Reanna Maharaj said each staff member had a specific date by which they would be notified as to whether or not they’re “still with the organization.”

It is unclear which staff members, if any, have been contacted or rehired.

Additional Updates

Questions about the hours worked by the RSU’s executive team were brought up at the meeting after last year’s executive team had issues following their full 40-hour work schedule, mandated by the RSU bylaws. Maharaj was asked about how the union monitors hours worked as the process to record hours is different this year due to the pandemic. 

She said last year’s executive team ran on a campaign that would consist of them monitoring their work hours, but that isn’t something executives in previous years have been required to do.

“No one can log in and out because we’re not in the office…there’s never been any actual logging for this year,” said Maharaj. 

She said full-time staff and executives are required to be available between the RSU operating hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Despite not logging work hours, Yousaf said he checks in with the executives every morning before their shift. He also mentioned on some days, they have been working past their scheduled hours. 

According to RSU’s financial controller Priya Paul, Yousaf has been holding weekly meetings that discuss productivity. 

“Ali always checks in that we’re meeting our mark of what we’re doing for the week,” said Paul. “He’s always making sure that we’re being productive and using those hours as we should.” 

Paul also said she has been working with Yousaf and Dubinsky on the financial audit and making sure that student groups are reimbursed effectively as the RSU recognizes students don’t have much disposable cash.  

Vice-president equity Vaishali Vinayak said she has been working on a podcast with BIPOC Students Collective and is planning to organize events for Holocaust Education Week in November. 

In July, the RSU passed a motion to allocate $5,000 from its budget to a non-profit organization that fights for racial equality, although the organization has yet to be decided. 

Ghaznavi said the RSU will donate to the BLAC, a non-profit organization providing free legal aid to low to no income Black Ontarians. 

“Black Lives Matter-Canada (BLM-Canada) has made clear demands for us and the public institution on how to protect Black lives, so as a result, any organization chosen should represent and reflect those demands,” said Ghaznavi. “BLAC is listed on the BLM-Canada as legal resources for Black Canadians.”

DISCLAIMER: David Jardine is a volunteer writer with The Eye’s fun and satire and communities sections

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