Ryerson student union execs suspended over alleged fiscal mismanagement: campus paper
Published Monday, January 28, 2019 3:10PM EST
A general view of the Ryerson University campus in Toronto, is seen on Thursday, January 17, 2019. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
TORONTO -- A Toronto university newspaper that reported allegations of fiscal mismanagement involving the school's student union says two of the group's executives have now been suspended over the matter.
The president and vice-president operations were removed from their posts after The Eyeopener reported on Ryerson Students' Union credit card statements that apparently show expenditures of more than $250,000 over the course of eight months, the paper said.
The spending includes thousands of dollars at nightclubs and bars, said Raneem Alozzi, a third-year journalism student and news editor at the Eyeopener.
"It's just these arbitrary expenses, some of which you can tell weren't necessarily beneficial to students," she said. "One of them was $600 at an LCBO in Orillia. And it was on June 1, which is when school was out."
In a statement addressed to members of the Ryerson community, 21 student union representatives said the information reported and photos shared by the Eyeopener were accurate.
"The following outrage expressed by our peers is more than justified and is shared by the signers of this letter," reads the statement issued on Saturday.
It's not clear who used the credit cards to make the purchases, the statement said, noting that the cards are under the name of RSU President Ram Ganesh and Savreen Gosal, the vice-president operations.
The statement said the executives are no longer in possession of the credit cards. The student union did not respond to request for comment on the Eyeopener's report of the executive suspensions.
The Canadian Press has not seen the credit card statements, and the union's financial controller declined to comment on the matter.
Ryerson University spokeswoman Johanna VanderMaas said the school takes the allegations seriously but is a separate corporate entity from the student union and cannot conduct an investigation into the matter.
VanderMaas said the university president has asked to meet with student union executives in the wake of the Eyeopener's reporting but didn't say whether anything had been set up.
Reporters with the Eyeopener broke the story a week after Premier Doug Ford announced a series of changes involving postsecondary education in Ontario. Tuition was cut by 10 per cent, while grants for low- to mid-income students, which made post-secondary education free for some, were reduced.
The government also announced that some once-mandatory student levies -- which fund student unions and student newspapers, among other things -- would become optional.
"I've heard from so many students who are tired of paying excessive fees, only to see them wasted and abused," Ford tweeted, along with an article about the alleged fiscal mismanagement at the Ryerson Students' Union. "That's why we're giving students the power to choose to pay for the campus services they actually use."
But Alozzi said without those student levies, the Eyeopener itself would lose a chunk of its funding.
"I'd like to think I'd still be doing this work and the Eyeopener would still be running without the student levies, but at the same time, our work should be financially validated in that sense, because it's emotionally, physically and mentally draining," she said.
School newspapers such as the Eyeopener are integral to holding power to account, Alozzi said, noting that the issues affecting students are local and largely not of interest to mainstream media.
"To our students, to the Ryerson community, the newspaper is essential," Alozzi said. "But to the school or to the government they may not be able to see that."