Ryerson University must transfer withheld funding to student union, judge rules
Published Tuesday, March 10, 2020 8:29PM EDT
A general view of the Ryerson University campus in Toronto, is seen on Thursday, January 17, 2019. The Ontario Government has announced it's changes to student tuition programmes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
TORONTO -- Ryerson University has been ordered by an Ontario judge to transfer millions of dollars it has been withholding from the school's student union.
Justice Markus Koehnen says in a decision released Monday that if he did not grant an injunction requested by the student union, it would be forced to shut down.
The justice says while on balance not granting the injunction would have relatively little impact on the university, it would have a serious impact on services provided by the student union.
The court battle came after Ryerson's student newspaper reported last January that student union credit card statements apparently showed expenditures of more than $250,000 over eight months.
The Canadian Press has not seen the credit card statements and the union's financial controller declined to comment on the matter at the time of the allegations.
The school subsequently told the student union it would withhold the fees it collects from students for the union until a forensic audit was conducted and the results shared with the university, and a new operating agreement was negotiated.
The student union says it welcomes the judge's decision and that the fees pay for important student services.
Ryerson's vice-provost says the school will respect the injunction and continue to recognize the group as Ryerson's official student government.
The Ryerson Student Union receives approximately $4.6 million a year from the school through student fees. It uses that money to fund over 200 student groups and provide services, legal advice and academic advocacy.
In his decision, Koehnen says both the school and student union should work together to break down misunderstandings that have developed over the last year regarding spending controls.
But Koehnen says the impact of withholding the funding from the student union would cause it to close its doors in a month.
"It is not Ryerson's money but the RSU's," the judge wrote in his decision. "Requiring Ryerson to give the RSU what is theirs to start with is also not burdensome or costly to Ryerson."
The student union says the decision affirms that students should determine who represents them.
"These fees fund vital student services like sexual violence and equity supports and health and dental coverage," the student union said in a statement Tuesday.
"The Court also affirmed RSU as the student government, following a 70-year legacy as the democratic voice of students on campus responsible for advancing student interests and protecting their rights."
Ryerson University's vice-provost Jen McMillen says the school looks forward to working with the student union to "ensure that a model of good governance and financial accountability forms the basis of a relationship that puts the student experience first."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2020.