Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Election Aspirations Opens RSU to Admin Oversight

The Ryersonian and The Eyeopener went to press last night and both covered the Ryerson Students’ Union audit fiasco. The RFP doesn’t go to press for another two weeks, so you’ll have to wait for our story. But the motion passed warrants some publicity as the precedent it sets is something that all dues-funded organisations at Ryerson should be worried about.

The Ryerson Free Press is funded by student money, like the RSU. Like some student papers, we are funded directly by the part-time students’ union at Ryerson, CESAR. This motion was passed at the last RSU board meeting by a vote of 13-11, breaking down with team lines; Ryevolution in favour and Renew RSU opposed:

Whereas several executives of the RSU have consistently ignored directions of the board of directors,
Whereas cash reserves within the RSU have been allegedly mismanaged and misappropriated,
Whereas the RSU has been accused of a lack of transparency and flawed governance structure,
Whereas low staff morale and high staff turnover and medical leave rates have slowed the efficiency and functioning of the RSU,

Whereas there have been several allegations of election fraud and unwanted third party intrusions in RSU business,

Be it resolved that the board of directors of the Ryerson Students’ Union request the Ryerson University Administration to conduct a review of the RSU which would include an audit of staff relations, election procedures, services, finances and overall functioning.

Be it further resolved that the executives, staff and board members of the RSU provide any assistance or records required by the university administration during this review.

Be it further resolved that the board of directors elect four directors to sit on the review committee to assist with the review.

Be it further resolved that the Ryerson administration report back to the board of directors with the results of the review and recommendations by February 5th, 2009.
Moved: Dana Houssein Seconded: Osman Hamid
Somehow, political maneuvering has resulted in grave consequences for the RSU, and potential problems for the RFP, CESAR and The Eyeopener. It sets a dangerous precedent of administrative interference in the affairs of an autonomous body and for what? Dana Houssein couldn’t quite explain what they were looking for the night of the board meeting, but Abdul Snobar has alleged that there is some amount of missing money without actually explaining to what he is referring.

According to The Eyeopener, its $400,000. According to the Ryersonian, its $300,000. Neither paper makes an attempt to see what Snobar is referring to, if anything at all. Instead, it paints the current executive as culpable for this missing money and incapable of handling it. There is also no significant mention of the RSU’s last audit which was not qualified and indicated no misspending or misappropriation of funds.

In 2004, the RSU switched health and dental plan providers from Green Shield to Gallivan and Associates. At the time of this switch, the RSU had saved up hundreds of thousands of dollars in the health and dental plan reserve. Because they had to increase health and dental premiums when they switched to Gallivan, then-president Dave Maclean and his executive decided to apply the health and dental reserve to every students’ premium, thereby offsetting the amount the health and dental plan was going to cost per student. In doing so every student paid an artificially low premium at a very high cost. This move, while tactfully questionable, was not illegal and wiped out nearly $400,000 from the health and dental reserve in only one year.

Could this be the source these claims? A mistake made in 2004 when most RSU members were still in high school?

Of course, outlandish claims at the time of RSU elections are nothing new. But when these claims set dangerous precedent for other autonomous student-fee-based organisations on campus, it becomes a major problem.

False or misleading allegations that help buoy one side or another during an election are annoying and do not serve students in any way. When the outcome of these allegations leads to broader implications threatening other autonomous bodies, especially the student press, allegations of this kind are completely inappropriate. Would we bow to a motion to allow the administration to audit our operations? If the board of the Eye was to pass such a motion, would the Editor-In-Chief or other editors allow university auditors through the door? Most likely not.

If Sheldon Levy wants to remain in the public eye as a student-centred president, he’ll know better than to interfere with the affairs of the RSU. We’ll be sure to report on how this unfolds over the next week so watch back here or the RFP website.

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