On Thursday, March 12th, the executive committee sent the following letter to the President of Ryerson University. All members are encouraged to defend student government autonomy by supporting the Ryerson Student Union’s fight against the attempt to replace them with a new student government designed by the Ryerson administration.
Dear President Mohamed Lachemi,
It is with deep concern that we address you on behalf of CUPE Local 3903, which represents over 2,700 contract faculty, teaching assistants, graduate assistants, and part-time librarians at York University.
The January 24th announcement that Ryerson University was terminating the decades-long Operating Agreement with the Ryerson Student Union (RSU) was deeply disturbing. This action is a direct, chilling attack on student union democracy and autonomy and one which sets a dangerous precedent for student advocacy.
We were pleased to see that Justice Koehnen agrees, stating:
Given that the only information I have of Ryerson’s efforts to create a new form of student government is one that prohibits the student government from criticizing the University and given that Ryerson has not pointed to the absence of a single necessary financial control within the RSU’s new management policies, I have questions about the extent to which Ryerson’s position is motivated by either democratic ideals or fiscal prudence.
The granting of this injunction, which forces your administration to release improperly withheld dues and recognize the RSU as the student government at Ryerson until the conclusion of the legal case, shows that outside attempts to manipulate or control student governments will not stand. Similarly to Justice Koehnen, we question if the University sincerely explored all possible options before tearing up a decades-old contract and violating the basic right of Ryerson students to an independent, autonomous voice on campus.
As a labour union that provides independent representation, a democratic voice, and support for academic workers at York University (many of whom are also graduate students), we are deeply concerned about the actions the Ryerson administration has taken. We ask that the Ryerson administration adhere to the principles of student union autonomy and independence from the University and voluntarily negotiate a fair and democratic Operating Agreement with the RSU without forcing a lengthy and expensive legal case.
We also encourage the Ryerson administration to include the rest of the independent, democratic representatives at Ryerson in these discussions to find solutions and accountability frameworks that respect student union autonomy.
There are numerous other options to address the concerns with the RSU, both through student democracy and as a corporation under the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act.
Chairperson, CUPE 3903
on behalf of the CUPE Local 3903 Executive Committee