By Sarah Tomlinson and Heidi Lee
At the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Board of Directors’ (BoD) meeting on June 29, board members voted to disband the Ryerson Campus Conservatives (RCC).
This comes after multiple anonymous sources alleged the group had been derogatory towards their membership and on social media. Others alleged the RCC violated the student group policies and bylaws through their failure to “operate democratically.”
The RCC was an affiliate group under the RSU, with Ryerson School of Journalism alumnus Harrison Faulkner serving as president.
In an email to The Eyeopener, RSU president Siddhanth Satish said some RSU executives recently received a letter from the Ontario PC Youth Association, the youth chapter of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, stating the RCC have been removed from its campus network.
An affiliate student group under the RSU must be endorsed by a program chair of the corresponding academic department or a supervisor of the corresponding organisation.
The RCC have come under increasing scrutiny for their recent social media activity and reactions to the toppling of the Egerton Ryerson statue. The Eye previously reported on a Ryerson student who felt paranoid after receiving a Facebook message from an executive member of the RCC, who told her the petition she created, titled “Expel Tyler Russell Immediately” on Change.org, would have “consequences” and “to never forget that.”
RSU’s executive director Reanna Maharaj said since the Ontario PC Youth Association no longer wishes to endorse the group or “associate with their actions or behaviours,” the RCC cannot be a valid campus group.
Satish added that several anonymous sources informed the RSU that the student group was involved in passing “some derogatory comments and some racist comments” on social media.
Satish said the motion was passed to make it “proper and procedural.” Before coming to a vote, the meeting went in-camera where evidence was shown to board members.
Satish said the evidence had already been looked over by the executive committee, the student group commissioner and committee members.
In light of their disbandment, the RCC posted on Twitter accusing the Ontario PC Youth Association and the RSU of working together to “cancel the loudest conservative voice on campus,” adding there was “no communication, no due process and no explanation” from both organizations.
Motion to approve operating budget for 2021-22 fiscal year: PASSED
Before a vote took place, vice-president operations Vaishali Vinayak presented the proposed RSU 2021-22 budget to the Board.
Vinayak said that according to the university, the RSU is supposed to receive roughly $2.8 million in student levies for the 2021-22 academic year.
Vinayak said there were “a lot of speculations” that equity services centres were inactive last year.
“But that was definitely not the case,” she said. “So this year, our goal would be to focus on outreach and promotion and all the work that these centres do.”
The BIPOC students collective will receive a budget of $30,780, which includes $10,000 allocated for Black History Month.
Vinayak said the RSU increased RyeAccess’ budget by $20,000, which amounts to $27,000 for the upcoming academic year. RyeAccess is one of seven equity centres that works on advocacy, events and service provision for students with disabilities. According to the unaudited budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, $7,422 was spent at RyeAccess.
She said the increased funding is an effort to “prioritize minorities” and the RSU will be hosting career development seminars through RyeAccess as well.
Vinayak said she increased funding for the Centre for Women and Trans People to $21,250 for the centre to collaborate with the Trans Collective, while the Trans Collective has a budget around $15,000.
The RSU allocated $25,000 to the Centre for Women and Trans People last year but only $520 was used.
A total of $47,000 is allocated to RyePride, which offers education, advocacy and support to queer and trans people on campus.
Vinayak said the RSU will be running the Food Box program until campus fully reopens.
The Good Food Centre will receive $164,912.80 in funding that includes project funding, rental charges and in-person operational costs, with $3,000 in contingency funds. This excludes staff expenses.
This year, the RSU will put no money towards CopyRite, with Vinayak saying this is because printing online is “much easier.”
She said when campus reopens in the fall, the RSU will “reassess” if demand for CopyRite is high, but the intention is for it to remain closed.
“After looking at all these years and looking at our revenues, I think the best way to make [CopyRite] more optimized, would be to keep it online,” she said.
The RSU has budgeted $158,000 for “computer software.” The nature of the computer software and what it will be used for were not specified.
The Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support will recieve $194,150, excluding staff expenses, for the centre’s programming, supplies and menstrual products for the RSU’s mentrual kits project, which will total $60,000.
The RSU also budgeted $350,000 for varsity wellness programs and $80,000 for COVID-19 protective equipment.
For grants, the RSU has established an education grant of $30,000 to provide students with academic resources, while $20,000 will go to COVID-19 relief grants for students in need.
This year, the RSU plans to give out 8,000 Frosh kits during orientation week, with a $120,000 budget for the kits.
A total of $240,000 is allocated for Week of Welcome; the Fall Week of Welcome has $30,000 allocated, while $40,000 is budgeted for the Winter Week of Welcome.
Concerns over campus safety
Hilla Yaniv, Ted Rogers School of Management director, said she has been receiving emails about reported threats towards Jewish students. She said one student received a message that said “watch your back when you return to campus during the fall.”
“To me, that sounds like a life threat,” Yaniv said. “I just want our students to feel safe.”
Olivia McLeod, Faculty of Communication and Design director, said she also received an email echoing the same concern. “It’s very widespread,” she said.
McLeod also said she was on campus a few days ago and noticed the campus is less “student-friendly” than before.
In an email to The Eye, Mcleod said she feels that “after such a long break [from campus], the Ryerson campus has become much more part of the Yonge-Dundas intersection than a bustling bunch of students.”
“It would be worth addressing the overall security of the campus for the general community,” she added.
Satish said the safety of students is their biggest priority and he plans on informing campus security as well as Michael Forbes, chief of staff and executive director, communications at Ryerson, of student concerns.
Satish said the updated RSU website should be available within the next two weeks. “Everything is almost migrated into a new setup. The domain doesn’t change. It’s much more user-friendly, much more accessible,” he said.
Moreover, he said the RSU has been working on collaborations with different campus organizations for frosh week and orientation.
In terms of ensuring campus health and safety, he said he’s been working on getting COVID-19 rapid tests, ensuring screenings and that community members have personal protective equipment.
Finally, Akibul Hoque, vice-president student life and events, said he’s reached out to Ryerson Athletics and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) to organize events for frosh and orientation week. He has also been working on the campus group training presentation, which he said will hopefully be delivered in July.
The RSU has not yet released a date for the next BoD meeting.