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Students left in waiting room during RSU Semi-Annual General Meeting, no exec updates provided

By Thea Gribilas and Sarah Tomlinson

The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) failed to allow some students into the Zoom meeting at their semi-annual general meeting (SAGM) on Nov. 25. 

The meeting was scheduled to start at 3 p.m. but was delayed when over 100 students attempted to join the Zoom meeting and a number of them were unable to enter, as the maximum number of participants for meetings hosted by free Zoom accounts is 100. 

According to section 8.27 of the RSU bylaws, 100 full-time Ryerson students have to attend for quorum to be met so the meeting could proceed.

As a result, the meeting was postponed to 4:15 p.m. while the RSU dealt with the technical issues.

“We are going to quickly change that [Zoom] membership to allow more people to enter the room,” said Shoaib Ahmed, chairperson of the Board of Directors (BoD) meeting. “It seems to be that there’s quite a bit of significant attendance and interest for this meeting.”

The RSU’s 2021 Annual General Meeting in April didn’t meet quorum and was abruptly shut down by the host, without a motion to adjourn, The Eyeopener previously reported

While Thursday’s SAGM took place, The Eye received emails from students who were still in the waiting room and were never allowed entry into the meeting. 

When asked about the students, RSU president Siddhanth Satish repeatedly stated that there were no students in the waiting room. 

On Thursday morning Satish sent an email to a number of people who signed up to attend the SAGM before the meeting, asking to confirm their student status and send proof of enrollment for the fall semester. 

“The RSU SAGM is only for RSU members; full-time undergraduate students to attend,” Satish wrote. “Please send [proof of enrolment] before 2 p.m. today…otherwise you won’t be allowed to enter the room.”

Eye editor-in-chief Tyler Griffin, who graduated in April 2021, and online editor Alexandra Holyk, who is currently a full-time student, both received the email from Satish.

Former Board of Governors student representative David Jardine also received the email, calling it “a very strange request since the RSU has a list of members.”

“This is the latest attempt to limit participation in the RSU’s general meetings,” they said in their email reply. “It’s easier to visit someone in prison than it is to communicate with our own students’ union.”

Satish replied to Jardine’s email stating that it is standard practice for the RSU to verify student ID before general meetings and that they were not provided an updated membership list from Ryerson. “While I understand your frustration, your inflammatory statements are not welcome here. We’ve actively marketed the SAGM on our social media,” Satish wrote.

Brad Wells, president of the Ted Rogers Students’ Society, replied and disputed that the RSU marketed the SAGM on social media. 

Wells said he only saw one Instagram story “that was very vague and had little information,” and despite receiving several emails from the RSU recently, only one e-newsletter sent on Nov. 24 mentioned the Nov. 25 SAGM, after the Nov. 22 registration deadline had already passed. 

“I also find it interesting that many of the people who are on this [email] chain are ones who have been known to actively attempt to hold the RSU accountable…I would have to agree this feels like you’re creating obstacles for our attendance,” wrote Wells. 

“A student questioning practices of our governing body in the manner that [Jardine] is currently doing is not inflammatory. It is our duty and diligence as members of your organization,” he said.

Jeremy Bittick, a third-year mechanical engineering student, emailed The Eye after not being let into the meeting. 

“For those keeping track: after jumping through all of the hoops to get a link to the meeting, I was not admitted from the waiting room with no explanation, after almost 20 minutes. Not impressed RSU,” Bittick wrote. “I hope our student body sees what’s going on here.”

Bittick was also asked before the meeting to verify his status as a full-time Ryerson student in order to attend the SAGM.

Several Eye editors and full-time students were also left in the waiting room while the meeting continued, despite Satish’s repeated claims that there was no one left in the waiting room. 

This all followed after the RSU included the wrong date in their SAGM sign-up sheet and failed to correct it, despite emails from The Eye and students. The RSU also failed to include details of the SAGM in their newsletter where other RSU events and promotions were advertised.

Ultimately, the meeting was adjourned at approximately 5:30 p.m. after more than 30 individuals left the meeting in 10 minutes, thus causing quorum to be lost. 

Here’s what else you missed at the SAGM:

RSU impeachment amendment 

A motion was brought by Karan Uppal so that any board member who was previously impeached from the board would no longer be eligible to run for office in the RSU general or by-elections. Under the motion, those impeached also cannot be appointed to the RSU BoD or hold any full-time, part-time or any other contractual positions with the RSU.

Uppal’s name was not on the agenda as the mover of the motion and Satish did not respond to three emails asking for confirmation as to the student’s name. 

Hilla Yaniv, Ted Rogers School of Management director, asked why this motion included contractual positions.

Uppal was not present in the meeting to answer any questions regarding the motion and Satish answered all questions on their behalf.

“What I understand from [Uppal]…the contractual capacity according to the mover was basically that the person who previously got impeached would not be working for the organization or would not be given any part-time or contractual duties within the organization,” said Satish. 

The Creative School director Olivia McLeod further questioned whether the mover of the motion had really considered all the consequences of this motion given how restrictive it is.

“I can’t speak to how much the person looked into it but I just feel like it’s about the idea of not letting anyone with previous scandals or previous mishaps we’ve had in the RSU happen again, and not letting anyone like that come back,” said Satish. 

McLeod added that she doesn’t understand the necessity of it given the RSU has the power to hire and not hire individuals at their own discretion and thus could simply not hire an individual who they know has been impeached.

“I don’t know how much I can emphasize this,” Satish responded. “It’s just a way to prevent people who have been involved in previous scandals to come back in.”

Jardine added that because of the way the motion was worded and the fact that there were no bylaw changes attached to it meant that the changes “wouldn’t accomplish anything.”

Satish maintained that this was a bylaw change and required a two-thirds vote. However, Jardine said, as no bylaws are being changed it is, by definition, not a bylaw change and thus does not require a two-thirds majority vote. 

“If this passes, I’ll get the committee to rewrite the motion and submit it to the next board meeting,” said Satish.

The motion ultimately passed.

Executive updates not provided

Around 5:30 p.m., more than 30 people left the meeting within 10 minutes and thus quorum was lost.

This was pointed out and therefore executive updates were not provided and the meeting was adjourned, despite no meeting being held in over a month. 

However, there was some discussion on whether the updates should be provided despite quorum being lost because no more voting was necessary.

Ultimately, Satish said the executive updates would be emailed to attendees and would be posted on the RSU website. 

At the June BoD meeting, the RSU would be updating its website and that it should be completed within two weeks of that meeting. The website has yet to be updated, The Eye previously reported.

At the time this article’s publication, the executive updates have not been posted to the website or emailed to attendees. 

David Jardine’s motions

The first motion proposed by Jardine was to ensure that students receive a monthly newsletter from the RSU accompanied by the following month’s opportunities. 

The second one called for election reform in order to improve the turnout in RSU elections. 

“This motion just says that there should be a committee made to examine how we can improve the elections,” they said, adding that the committee would have representatives from course unions and student societies who have previously had strong election turnout. 

“It’s really hard to be like, ‘We represent students,’ when the university can just fire back [and say] ‘Technically, you represent like 2 per cent of students because those are the ones that voted,'” said Jardine. 

The third motion involved rewording RSU bylaw 8.31 which states that the RSU should not be able to run a General Meeting without informing members that the meeting is happening. The fourth was to ensure that the RSU continues to make their financial statements available. 

Finally, Jardine proposed a consultation process regarding the RSU’s financial statement through a Google Form, which would give students the opportunity to provide feedback prior to the Annual General Meeting. 

When voting took place, McLeod was the only director who voted in favour of the motion. 

Jardine said when they sent the motions to the RSU, they asked to meet with the governance committee to verify if anything needed to be changed to the motions before the SAGM in hopes of improving the chances of the motions being passed. They said they did not receive a response. 

“Is there a reason why when I sent these three months ago, there was no attempt to sort of change these so we could all be in favour of these motions?” they asked. 

McLeod also said she only received the agenda the day of the SAGM. 

When asked by Jardine why the agenda was only sent the day of the meeting, Satish said the agenda was posted on the RSU’s linktree account which is only available on the RSU’s Instagram page and was not advertised. 

Jardine pointed to section 4.2 of the RSU’s operational policies, which states that proposed bylaws amendments must be submitted to the BoD at least 60 days prior to the date of the meeting. 

“That’s a policy, not a bylaw,” Sattish said in response. 

Jardine replied: “Are you saying that the RSU doesn’t have to follow its own policies, only the bylaws?” 

With only 34 votes in favour of the four motions, the motions did not pass. 

Jardine’s motion for the RSU to propose policies that will protect student data was passed. Their other motion for the RSU Governance Committee to submit by-law and policy amendments to the next RSU General Meeting that follow from the Chief Returning Officer’s recommendations also passed. 

Financial statements 

A motion to approve the financial report for the 2020-21 academic year passed. 

During the meeting, Tim Sothern, audit engagement partner with the Binder Dijker Otte Canada, an accounting firm, presented the financial statement. According to Sothern, the RSU has three main pools of assets, the biggest being its cash. 

Sothern said the RSU had just under $14 million by the end of April 2021. It was also owed close to $730,000 from the university, according to Sothern, which came in after April. 

The RSU’s hard assets, which include equipment, computers and improvements, was over $650,000. 

“So total assets of about $15.4 million,” Sothern said. 

The RSU’s total net assets were $9.2 million. “If everything was kind of liquidated tomorrow, that’s what would be left over,” he said. 

In terms of revenue, the RSU had $15,418,281, which Sothern said included membership fees and fees from the health and dental plan. 

According to the financial statement, $11,360,141 is collected from the health and dental plan, but Sothern said there’s a “large outflow” of $10,367,367 in expenses for the plans. 

In the meeting, Jardine asked Sothern what the $8.2 million in statement of financial position was. 

“At the end of 2020, there was $8.2 million sitting in the bank account? Or everything that the student union owned at that point added up to $8.2 million?” they asked. 

Southern said the RSU holds two levels of cash, the first being the $8.2 million in unrestricted cash and the second one being the $5.7 million from the health and dental plan in restricted cash.  

“Where is that money reflected in the office budget that the RSU posted online?” Jardine asked. 

Reanna Maharaj, the executive director of the RSU, said the RSU has five different bank accounts: a general banking account, a health and dental account, trust funds for student and course unions, the Good Food Centre and the Sexual Assault Survivors Support Line (SASSL). 

“You can’t see [the $8.2 million] on that operating budget because that’s only anticipating the funds that we will be receiving this year from the university and then that’s what we would budget for,” she said. “We usually don’t budget using those restricted funds.” 

According to the document, the RSU had $2.2 million in surplus from the last fiscal year. 

When asked by Jardine about where the surplus was reflected in the RSU budget, Maharaj said the RSU keeps some of it in reserves and the rest is invested. She added that the money is for emergencies, giving the example from 2019 when the university was withholding the RSU’s funds.  

She said that’s what allowed the RSU to remain “operational when we did undergo that court case and student levy was withheld from us.”

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