By Heidi Lee
Two notices of impeachment addressed to Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vice-president equity Vaishali Vinayak and vice-president education Siddhanth Satish were presented at Wednesday’s Board of Directors (BoD) meeting.
Both motions were moved by Faculty of Arts director Alexandra Nash.
Section 2.3 of the RSU bylaws states that notice of the removal of a board member must be given no later than one BoD meeting prior. The motion of impeachment must also be passed by a two-thirds majority vote, which will occur at a BoD meeting on April 7.
According to the impeachment notices, there are “serious allegations and evidence” suggesting that Vinayak and Satish “used their position and privileged access to students’ personal information to contact potential voters and build a voter list” for campaigning in the 2021-22 RSU elections.
The impeachment notice for Vinayak also cites allegations that she “took actions that resulted in students feeling pressured and targeted due to their reliance on equity centre programs.”
The Eyeopener previously reported that a number of students, including three Eye masthead members, received unsolicited electronic messages from Adapt candidates asking for votes. These students said they have no prior relationships with those candidates.
The Eye later obtained more evidence of a student, who relied on the Food Box Program led by Vinayak, alleging she felt pressured by Vinayak to vote for the Adapt slate.
In addition, students raised concerns over the violation of personal privacy, alleging that their privacy was breached by RSU executives to the benefit of Adapt.
“There is significant credibility to these claims and students deserve answers to ensure their personal data is secure and their elected representatives are not abusing their power,” the impeachment notices read.
Motion to request an investigation for the Oversight Committee: Passed
Nash also put forward a motion to request that the Oversight Committee investigate the actions of the two executives before the board votes on their impeachments, in an effort to “gather more facts” about the allegations and provide the board with “all relevant information” before voting.
The motion passed with directors from the Inspire slate voting in favour, while those from Rise abstained. Satish initially abstained, then changed his vote in favour.
Satish said he changed his mind and voted in favour of the investigation since a majority of the board abstained.
“I want to clear this out and I don’t want this to be lingering around for a longer time,” he said.
Vinayak, along with RSU president Ali Yousaf and vice-president operations Liora Dubinsky, were absent from yesterday’s BoD meeting.
The Oversight Committee’s findings will be presented at the next BoD meeting, before the impeachment vote takes place.
The Oversight Committee is one of the RSU’s 11 standing committees introduced at the November 2019 BoD meeting by former student groups director James Fotak. It aims to allow a safe environment for RSU workplace complaints to be filed and to adjudicate complaints made against executive members.
This year’s oversight Committee includes Zain Choudhry, Salar Hussain Syed, Homra Ghaznavi, Sabrina Ahmed and Abaan Ahmed.
If both impeachment motions are passed, Vinayak and Satish will be removed from their positions effective immediately.
The positions would be appointed to vice-president equity-elect Maleha Yasmin and vice-president education-elect Tarmanjeet Kaur to begin their term earlier than their initial start date on May 1.
Election Appeals committee
During the meeting, Faculty of Community Services director Steph Rychlo asked about the ratification of the Election Appeals Committee as it hadn’t taken place in previous board meetings.
When an RSU elections candidate fails to follow Article 6 of the RSU bylaws and/or the Elections Procedure Code, the chief returning officer (CRO) may disqualify the candidate.
The Election Appeals Committee—which consists of the CRO, the appropriate staff member who is non-voting and four student members appointed by the CRO—acts as “an appeals board for any candidate wanting to appeal a decision made by the CRO.”
Section 6.37 of the bylaws states that the four student members for the Election Appeals Committee must be ratified by the BoD with “a majority vote of the members of the Board of Directors present.”
Rychlo said they are wondering when the board would ratify the four students.
RSU executive director Reanna Maharaj said she is aware of the issue as she was “looped in” through an email thread between Rychlo and the CRO.
“My position, as well as [financial controller Priya Paul] and any of the executives were not in control of choosing the Election Appeals Committee, that would be up to the CRO,” said Maharaj.
She added that she would get in touch with CRO Jenna Rose to respond to Rychlo and have the election report ready by the next BoD meeting.
Rychlo said they agreed with Maharaj, but just wanted to make sure that the board follows the bylaws.
“We should have a vote on that,” said Rychlo. “I recognized that those on the Election Appeals Committee want to keep their confidentiality and if they want it to be an in-camera vote that’s totally fine.”
Although the four students’ confidentiality is “a valid concern,” Nash said board members should follow the bylaws regardless.
She added that if the bylaws would negatively affect people’s confidentiality, a solution would be to amend the bylaws to address the problem.
“It is not optional for us to follow our bylaws,” said Nash. “I am not directing this at any specific person, I just think it is worth everyone being reminded that we are legally required to follow the bylaws, regardless of if we like what they say.”
The president’s remarks
The agenda also included remarks from Ali Yousaf, who wasn’t present at the BoD meeting. Yousaf noted that there has been “a lot of fake propaganda going on about the RSU services,” adding that the claims are “fake and baseless.”
“The only services that have been cut down are the frontline services,” he wrote. “Till this day we have supported students wherever we can, we have given over $200,000 in grants [and] student groups will not be cut back.”
He added that students could reach out to him, the executive members or the management staff if they need anything from the RSU.
Yousaf was also absent from the last BoD meeting in February.
The next BoD meeting will be on April 7, while the RSU’s Annual General Meeting will take place on April 20.