By Charlize Alcaraz, Alexandra Holyk and Heidi Lee
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) failed to meet quorum—the required amount of full-time student attendees for a meeting to proceed—at their annual general meeting (AGM) on Friday evening.
This is the first general meeting held by the union since the 2019-20 academic year, with the last semi-annual general meeting (SAGM) held in February 2020.
Only 68 participants, including staff members and media who don’t count towards quorum, were in the Zoom meeting around 6:30 p.m., half an hour after the meeting was supposed to begin.
According to bylaw 8.27, 100 full-time Ryerson students were required to attend in order to meet quorum and proceed with the motions on the agenda, therefore the meeting would be adjourned.
As student attendees were voicing their concerns and asking for the agenda and reports to be read despite not making quorum, a host ended the meeting, without passing a motion to adjourn. It’s not clear who ended the meeting as several of the executives and staff, as well as the chairperson, were given host rights.
After being pushed from April 20 due to conflict with Ryerson’s exam period, the new date of the AGM was announced through the RSU’s website and Instagram account, while no announcements were made through the RSU’s Twitter, Facebook page or newsletter.
The link to register for the event was only advertised through Instagram stories and could be found through a Linktree on the RSU’s Instagram account. The registration form closed at noon on Friday, the day of the AGM.
Under bylaw 8.19, RSU executive members are required to publish the AGM agenda 48 hours prior to the meeting time. This year’s AGM agenda was not made available to the public until around three hours before the meeting’s start time, via another link in the RSU’s Linktree on its Instagram account.
Other bylaws that would’ve been addressed at the AGM were bylaw 8.23, where the outgoing president must deliver annual reports of the Board of Directors (BoD) and recommendations for the following-year; and 8.24, where the president-elect shall introduce the incoming 2021 executive members and directors, and outline their goals for the coming year.
Since the meeting did not occur, the motions included in the agenda will be tabled until the next BoD meeting.
Here’s what else happened at the RSU’s 2021 AGM:
Invalidate RSU election results
Sam Rowan, a final-year sociology student and former member of the elections appeals committee (EAC), submitted a motion asking the RSU to invalidate the 2021-22 RSU elections results and hold a new election during the first week of October.
Rowan said he was surprised someone from the RSU actually ended the meeting, adding that it speaks to the consistency in the union’s unwillingness to listen to the student body it represents.
The motion questioned the violation of election bylaws during the 2021-22 RSU elections and the election’s legitimacy.
The motion stated that “there were many ethical transgressions that undermined the democratic process of student politics,” listing 12 incidents of questionable behaviour carried out by the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Jenna Rose, the EAC and the winning slate Adapt.
“I think [this meeting is] within a larger pattern of what has been happening,” Rowan said. “Again, they are shutting down students from participating in a democracy, running for elections or voicing their opinions.”
Rowan said with the uncertainty of whether or not students will be in-person next semester, it’s concerning to “have a students’ union which is intent on not listening to students.”
“The onus is on us as students to start fighting for our rights as students,” he said.
In an email to The Eyeopener, the draft of the motion indicated that it is also endorsed by incoming and current members of the Ryerson Sociology Students’ Union and incoming members of the Ryerson Professional Communication Course Union.
Rowan added that the motion presented in the agenda removed the warning that if the motion failed, students would then plan to decertify the RSU and transfer power to a new independent student union.
“We’re proposing the solution of decertifying the RSU and forming an independent [students’ union] that we feel is serving students and not serving the university and [the RSU itself],” he said.
Push to implement CRO suggestions for future RSU elections
David Jardine, a former Board of Governors student representative for the RSU, submitted two motions for the AGM.
They first submitted a motion calling for the RSU to develop policies that will protect student data. In the motion, Jardine wrote that “anyone who works or volunteers for any RSU office or group may get access to student information.”
“There are currently no rules regarding what staff or volunteers can do with the students’ data,” the motion continued.
As previously reported by The Eyeopener, data privacy concerns were raised by students following allegations that vice-president equity Vaishali Vinayak used her access to students’ information through equity services to her advantage in the last RSU elections.
Students said Vinayak contacted them through the information they provided to sign up for the RSU Food Box program in order to ask them to vote for Adapt in the 2021 elections.
Vinayak was Slate’s candidate for the vice-president operations position and won against Jenna Jiang, the candidate for For the Students.
Jardine also introduced a second motion, in which they urged the RSU to implement the suggestions and recommendations the CRO made for future elections in her report.
In their motion, Jardine wrote, “the RSU Governance Committee shall write and publish a public report to the membership by Sept. 24, 2021 regarding each of the CRO’s recommendations and why or why not the RSU will implement them.”
Further, they also said that the committee shall submit bylaw and policy amendments at the next RSU general meeting that follows the CRO’s recommendations.
Financial statements from 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years
Also included in the agenda was a motion to present the RSU’s financial audit statements from the two previous years that saw Ram Ganesh and Vanessa Henry as presidents of the union, and Maklane deWever as interim president following Ganesh’s impeachment.
The financial audits were conducted by Binder Dijker Otte (BDO) after a motion was passed at the August 2020 BoD meeting to grant the company interim approval. This came after the 2020-21 executive said the past two executive teams “failed to comply” with the RSU bylaw that requires financial statements for the preceding year to be presented at the RSU’s semi-annual general meeting.
At the August BoD meeting, the RSU’s financial controller Priya Paul said these audits must be conducted in order for the RSU to maintain its not-for-profit status.
According to the operating agreement made as of April 20, 2020 between Ryerson and the RSU, the students’ union must provide the university with audited financial statements 180 days before the end of the year.
Further, another motion was introduced at the AGM to have BDO conduct the financial audits for the 2020-21 academic year and the next three years.
Bylaw amendment to make RSU policies ‘more inclusive’
A motion to update the RSU policies to “be more inclusive” was put forward by Yousaf. This comes after recommendations from the November 2020 BoD meeting, calling for the capitalization of the letter “I” in “Indigenous” throughout the RSU Policy Manual.
Though the initial motion passed at the November BoD meeting, since it involves the RSU’s policy and bylaws, it needs to be ratified by its membership.
The incoming RSU executive and board is expected to start their one-year term on May 1. It’s not yet known when the next BoD meeting will be held.