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Ryerson University terminates agreement with Ryerson Students’ Union

Decision taken after RSU fails to meet conditions set out in January 2019
Category:From the Vice-Provost, Students
January 24, 2020
Student walking down hallway

Ryerson University has lost confidence in the RSU's ability to represent students with good governance and to supply the services that students pay for.

Ryerson University has made the difficult decision to terminate its 1986 Operating Agreement with the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU). Effective immediately, the university no longer recognizes the RSU as the official student government representing Ryerson students. The university has lost confidence in the RSU’s ability to represent students with good governance and to supply the services that students pay for. 

In January 2019, the university learned of allegations of improper use of RSU funds by members of the 2018-2019 RSU Executive. The university takes allegations of financial mismanagement seriously, as its primary concern is to protect the interests of Ryerson University students. 

The issues surrounding the RSU’s management of its internal affairs rendered the RSU in breach of its 1986 Agreement with the university. The university gave the RSU ample time to rectify the situation, but the RSU has failed to do so. Accordingly, the university has terminated the 1986 Agreement.  

Given the seriousness of these allegations, the university met with the RSU Executive and Board of Directors on January 30, 2019 to notify them that the university would withhold the fees that it collects from students and not transfer them to the RSU until the following conditions were met:

  • A forensic audit of RSU’s finances was conducted; 
  • The results of the audit were shared with the university; and
  • A new operating agreement between the university and RSU was negotiated.

Since February 2019, the university has tried, in good faith, to negotiate an agreement that ensures that a model of good governance and accountability forms the basis for a partnership that puts the student experience first. Unfortunately, the RSU has ceased responding to the university’s efforts to reach common ground.  Despite the university’s best efforts to be an accommodating and collaborative partner, the RSU has failed to meet the conditions set out in January 2019. To this date, the RSU has not shared the results of a forensic audit with the university, nor has a new operating agreement been finalized. 

The university has further been concerned with the recent public turnover of several leadership positions within the current executive and allegations raised to the university’s administration by students regarding improper governance, mismanagement, and internal conflict within the RSU. Members of the student body have shared with the university that these issues are of great concern to them.

The RSU is a separate corporate entity from Ryerson University, has its own corporate governance structure, and is accountable to its members. Directors and officers have a duty to act honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interests of the RSU and students.

A new student government may be formed and we encourage students to begin giving this some consideration. The university is committed to facilitating a process to ensure students have the opportunity to determine the structure of their representative government. More information will be made available in the coming days regarding this process.

The university is fully committed to working towards ensuring that services such as health and dental benefits and other key supports remain in place for students for the remainder of the academic year.

The university will keep students informed throughout this period of transition.  

We want to reiterate that this decision was not made lightly. The university wants to assure students that we remain committed to working in good faith with a student government that demonstrates a commitment to good governance and sound financial management.

Jen McMillen
Vice-Provost, Students

For more information, including FAQs, timelines, and statements, please visit the Student Government Media Room.

January 23, 2019: Allegations of financial mismanagement by members of the 2018-2019 Ryerson Students’ Union (the “RSU”) Executive emerge via campus newspaper The EyeopenerThe incidents of financial mismanagement identified render RSU in breach of its obligations under the 1986 Operating Agreement between the university and RSU.

January 30, 2019: President Lachemi and Jen McMillen, Vice-Provost, Students (VPS), meet with the RSU Board of Directors. The RSU is informed that fees will be withheld until:

  • A forensic audit of RSU’s finances is conducted; 
  • The results of audit are shared with the university; and 
  •  A new operating agreement between RSU and the university is negotiated by March 31, 2019 to ensure governance and accountability.  

The university releases a statement that communicates these three conditions to the public.  

February 2019 to May 2019: Efforts by the VPS to engage with the remaining members of the 2018-19 RSU Executive and the newly elected RSU president.

  • During this period, the VPS reaches out to the RSU several times for information about the RSU’s financial status and to establish a meaningful negotiations process. In the course of the VPS’ attempts to initiate negotiations with the RSU for a new operating agreement, deadlines are extended by the university to demonstrate its good faith efforts to work with the RSU.

May 2019 to December 2019: The university continues its efforts to collaborate with the new 2019-20 RSU Executive so that its confidence in the RSU’s capacity to manage its internal affairs, governance, and finances can be restored.  

  • During this seven-month period, the RSU misses several deadlines and meetings. The RSU does not respond to frequent communications from the university, despite several extensions granted to the RSU by the university to finalize a new operating agreement.

December 2019: New allegations of governance issues within the RSU surface, including public turnover of several leadership positions within the current executive and allegations from students and in campus media regarding improper governance, mismanagement, and internal conflict within the RSU.  

January 8, 2020: The VPS further articulates concerns regarding lack of communication from the RSU, including:

  • lack of urgency around need to continue discussions
  • concerns about the recent impeachments, resignations, petitions for removal
  • failure to meet with university leadership
  • again requests an update on the RSU’s intent to engage productively with the University
  • VPS requests an update from the RSU by the end-of-the week (January 10, 2020)

January 12, 2020: VPS emails RSU as a follow up to the January 8, 2020 meeting and regarding the missed update deadline of January 10, 2020.  

January 13, 2020: RSU replies to VPS via email, does not respond to most issues raised.

January 23, 2020: One year after the allegations of the RSU’s financial mismanagement became public, the university remains unsatisfied with the RSU’s progress in restoring the university’s confidence. The results of the forensic audit of the RSU’s finances is not shared with the university and the RSU has ceased responding to the university’s efforts to finalize a new operating agreement.

January 24, 2020: Ryerson University provides notice of termination of its 1986 Operating Agreement with the RSU.

Media contact:

Karen Benner
Associate Director, University Communications
karen.benner@ryerson.ca
416-979-5000 ext. 3494

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