Faculty of Community Services Society receives referendum support from RSU in February BoD meeting; concerns raised around election

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By Charlize Alcaraz, Alexandra Holyk and Heidi Lee

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Board of Directors (BoD) passed a motion during their February meeting to support the Faculty of Community Service Society’s (FCSS) referendum in fall 2021 where Faculty of Community Services (FCS) students will vote for or against paying a levy to the society. 

FCS director Steph Rychlo said FCSS has been relying on outside sources for funding as they have been missing a student levy for about four to five years. They have also gotten limited funding from the FCS dean’s office and no financial compensation for the labour of FCSS directors, Rychlo said.

Rychlo offered their speaking rights to Daniel Barkin and Jacob Circo, both FCSS members, to speak to the board about implementing the levy.

“We’re in a serious growth phase where our population is actually supposed to grow roughly over 9,000 students within the next two years,” said Barkin. “That’s a lot of students that won’t have adequate funding towards different project grants [or] different events.”

Student groups in FCS have little funding to support student life in their programs, relying only on $500 per semester for course unions and $600 for student groups from the RSU. 

There are 10 different course unions within FCS and Barkin said that supporting them with their current funding situation is difficult. 

“It’s really unfair for them…especially when they’re relying just on [external funding and the dean’s office],” said Barkin.

Despite being the second-largest undergraduate student faculty, with 6,800 to 7,200 students per academic year, the FCS is currently the only undergraduate faculty at Ryerson without a student levy.

Barkin said that FCSS needed to hold a referendum in order to have a student levy, however, it hasn’t been able to do so for the past four or five years due to a lack of completed documents required by the university’s Board of Governors.

After the meeting, Barkin told The Eyeopener that for the last five years “FCSS didn’t have the capacity of going forward with a referendum due to all of [the executives] being in their final years at Ryerson.” 

Given the BOG applications for a referenda happen in August, the executives had constantly graduated beforehand and therefore no longer had time to commit towards FCSS. This year, the society made sure to get lower-year reps who could go forward with the referendum.

“We’re coming to the RSU for support and [a letter] just to say that you support having a student society for FCS and our faculty will be able to enjoy the benefits of student life and extra funding for our student groups and course unions,” Circo said at the meeting.

Concerns over breaking RSU bylaws

Concerns surrounding the upcoming RSU election were raised by Faculty of Arts director Alexandra Nash as the number of faculty directors has changed from last year, according to the RSU’s website

According to section 6.8 of the RSU bylaws, the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) is supposed to determine the number of faculty directors to sit on the board for the upcoming academic year at least 30 days prior to the date of the election, based on enrolment numbers. 

Vice-president education Siddhanth Satish confirmed that Nash was correct, adding that the elections “would be really late” if the 30-day notice was respected. 

According to Satish, there is an expected decrease in enrolment numbers, particularly in the Ted Rogers School of Management and Faculty of Arts, leading to a decrease in directors.

Satish also said that the RSU tried to abide by the 30 days notice but they received the information from the university a week ago.

Nash said she understands but she thinks “it’s still important that we follow our bylaws.”

Nash also asked why the board did not approve the election date before it was announced, despite section 6.43 of the RSU bylaws stating that the CRO is expected to recommend the election date(s) to the board. 

According to Dubinsky, the RSU had to change its election dates because they were scheduled to overlap with the BoG election dates. The previous voting dates for the RSU election were scheduled for March 3-5, while the BoG voting period is taking place March 1-4. 

The RSU election nomination period runs from March 8-11, with voting expected to take place on March 17-19.

Dubinsky said she would need to confirm why the board wasn’t consulted on the date with president Ali Yousaf or executive director Reanna Maharaj after the meeting, since both were absent due to personal matters. Financial controller Priya Paul was also absent. 

Other RSU updates

Vice-president equity Vaishali Vinayak said the RSU is still going through the hiring process to establish a new coordinator for the Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support (C3SVS).

She added that the RSU is looking to add a texting service facilitated over WhatsApp for students to use rather than the phone line. However, the phone line will still be operating once a coordinator is found.

“The cost of this texting service for [the] RSU is very feasible. We will be paying $3,000 to $3,500 for the entire year,” Vinayak said, comparing it to the $2,000 to $3,000 per month phone line costs.

Vinayak also said she is putting together resources for students that use the centre as well as training resources for volunteers.

There will also be anti-Indigenous racism training for the BoD members on March 6, featuring Indigenous relations consultant Michael Etherington.

The RSU’s tax clinic will be available from March 1 to the end of the month, according to Dubinsky. 

The tax clinic was closed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year the RSU is aiming to have it available for two to three weeks. 

Dubinsky also said the RSU will be holding an Annual General Meeting sometime in early April. 

“The main reason we pushed it was because we were waiting for our audit to be finished,” Dubinsky said, adding that the audits for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years were finally completed.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled Daniel Barkin’s surname as Balkin. The Eyeopener regrets this error.

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