A scandal-plagued student union at Ryerson University is no longer being recognized as the official form of student government, the school said Friday.
But the Ryerson Students’ Union disputed the validity of the termination and said it would keep operating.
Ryerson’s decision stemmed from both the RSU’s failure to properly respond to allegations of financial mismanagement dating back one year as well as more recent, unspecified “internal conflict,” the Toronto-based school said.
The university administration said it did not make the decision to end the nearly 34-year-old relationship with the student union lightly.
“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,” Jen McMillen, the vice-provost of students, said in a statement.
Campus newspaper the Eyeopener reported last January on RSU credit card statements that apparently show expenditures of more than $250,000 over the course of eight months.
The president and vice-president of operations were removed from their posts after the paper reported the spending included thousands of dollars at nightclubs and bars.
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.
Ryerson said it told the student union it would withhold the fees the school 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.
But the RSU hasn’t met those conditions and Ryerson has now terminated its operating agreement with the student union, McMillen wrote.
The student union called the university’s decision a “shock” and characterized it as an “attempted termination.”
“The RSU does not accept this termination as valid under the agreement,” it said in a statement.
“The RSU has always been willing to engage with the university, but refuses to make concessions to the university that will jeopardize students. The RSU will continue to operate and support students.”
This year’s board and executive have taken steps to address the financial mismanagement allegations, including conducting an internal review and retaining an external firm to review certain expenses, the RSU said.
It also hired a full-time executive director and financial controller and filed a report with the Toronto police.
Ryerson’s statement also suggested, without providing specifics, that more recent events played a role in Friday’s decision.
“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,” it said.
“Members of the student body have shared with the university that these issues are of great concern to them.”
A public petition calling for new student union leadership and citing concerns about lack of financial transparency had garnered more than 1,000 signatures as of Friday.
Ryerson is encouraging students to think about forming a new student union.
“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,” McMillen wrote.