By Alexandra Holyk
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) has laid off all of its staff members at the Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support (C3SVS), according to a statement sent to The Eyeopener by RSU president Ali Yousaf.
The Eye also obtained an email thread, that revealed the centre’s full-time coordinator was terminated on Nov. 6, followed by the part-time coordinators on Nov. 11. It also mentions the individuals were told they were terminated for reasons including a “lack of work” for employees and that the RSU is “restructuring the centre.”
In his emailed statement, Yousaf confirmed the terminations but said the individuals weren’t laid off due to lack of work. Instead they were terminated because “the centre was being managed poorly.”
This comes after five additional full-time RSU employees were terminated after their temporary lay off period ended. These employees were laid off due to reduced workloads, as well as a concern about low student enrolment numbers which would reduce the RSU budget, according to Yousaf.
The C3SVS is run and funded by the RSU, but its budget is separate from that of other Equity Service Centres. It provides students with the support necessary for preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence in the Ryerson community. The centre also runs the Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line (SASSL).
Yousaf said in his email statement that the RSU was “disappointed to see that the centre was not fulfilling its mandate to serve the membership,” adding that SASSL has “barely received any calls in the past few months.”
As of Nov. 2, the centre was looking to train volunteers to manage SASSL, which was expected to take place between Nov. 22 and Dec. 13.
Additional services offered by the centre include the Ace Your Exams & Eliminate Period Poverty campaign that provided students with free and accessible menstrual products during midterm and exam season. Due to lack of funding following the termination of the 1986 Operating Agreement between Ryerson and the RSU, this initiative was cancelled in February 2020.
In the RSU’s 2020-21 budget, $90,000 was allocated toward the C3SVS staff expenses—$80,000 of which went toward staff salaries and benefits.
“The revenue generated by C3SVS through the student levy will only be used for C3SVS’s operations and marketing; we are not allowed to utilize these funds for any other purpose,” Yousaf’s statement reads.
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the pandemic has posed challenges for sexual assault survivors, especially for those who are quarantined with abusers. Sexual assault centres across Canada have seen an increase in calls from survivors.
Other supports offered by the university for individuals who experienced sexual assault or sexual violence includes the Consent Comes First program as part of the Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education (OSVSE). However, some students who’ve used Ryerson’s sexual violence support services in previous years said the office lacks a safe environment and there isn’t support or resources offered for all marginalized communities.
According to Yousaf’s statement, the centre will be restructured “to ensure that we are using the referendum monies responsibly to help serve as many students as possible,” adding that the work is already in place.
Yousaf also mentioned that the centre would remain open and that the RSU hopes to reintroduce the centre in the near future.
With files from Heidi Lee