By Marco Muia
As the COVID-19 pandemic picks itself up to fight round five with the university students it’s already pummelled, Ryerson has strengthened its status as the most interesting campus in town with a brand new mental health initiative.
The university has committed to the selfless act of allowing hopeless and desperate students to access their most precious resource—undeveloped real estate—to scream to their hearts content into an empty void, all for a small $200 ancillary fee.
Some students have found themselves with hundreds in charges, like third-year media production student Matteo Russo. After his final exam of the fall semester, he found himself lost in Kerr Hall and out of pure rage, he screamed into an empty construction zone to relieve that post-exam angst. When checking his tuition and fees on RAMSS on Jan. 14, he noticed a $200 charge to his account labelled ‘RU Happy Fee.’
“I was shocked! I didn’t expect to be charged just for yelling in a random section of Kerr Hall, and there was nobody even around me,” explained Russo. “The worst part is, as I tried to pay my fee, RAMSS crashed 3 times, which made me yell at my computer and Ryerson charged me a second fee!”
“I didn’t expect to be charged just for yelling in a random section of Kerr Hall”
Representatives from Ryerson explained that the new fee was initiated on Dec. 12, four days before a “temporary” full return to online classes was announced. Over 140 students have reported being charged with the controversial new fee thus far, and the incidents have largely coincided with each increasingly vague pandemic update from the school.
Elin Peterson, a representative from the newly formed ‘RU Happy Committee,’ explained that three “screaming sites” have been chosen for students to “let out their unstoppable rage.” Peterson said the university is planning an expansion of the program as quickly as possible as the campus works towards fully reopening this semester.
“So far we have picked the dead-end construction that will eventually connect Kerr Hall and the Rogers Communication Centre, the dark garbage pile in the northwest corner of the 202 Jarvis St. parking lot and the dumpster behind the School of Interior Design—which is really just a bottomless void,” Peterson said.
When asked about the accessibility of these spaces to international students who are still abroad, Elin said: “This is the beauty of the program, we can charge you anywhere!”
“This is the beauty of the program, we can charge you anywhere!”
As part of Ryerson’s intention to increase accessibility to mental health supports, the RU Happy initiative is also being delivered virtually. Using an intricate coding system, the omniscient Zoom Gods can determine when and who screams near their device while a D2L tab is open and report that information back to Ryerson to process fees.
Fourth-year psychology student Amira Oliver is currently living in Vienna, Austria, and said the remote-access-void has helped her to alleviate the never-ending stress of not knowing when to book a plane ticket back to Toronto.
“After what feels like two years of running in circles trying to organize returning to Ryerson for in-person classes that never happen, it’s so nice that the school is doing something to help make us feel better,” she said. “I scream into the remote-void almost every day!”
Although responses have been mixed from the student body, there is an overwhelming sense of relief from many who, for the first time, have seen Ryerson actually do something substantial to address student mental health. Could this be a sign from the school that they are prepared to do more to support their students? The only way to find out will be to follow the (ancillary) money.