Appian Way Group, Kokobi: Who is Helping Who?

“Restructuring” and the sorry state of our students’ unions

Source: The Varsity

Yesterday, “The Varsity” which is the student-run newspaper at the University of Toronto St. George campus, released an article reporting on the University of Toronto Students’ Union hiring a consulting firm which is advising them on a strategy for the students’ unions negotiations in getting a students’ centre. (http://thevarsity.ca/2017/04/03/consulting-firm-advising-the-utsu-on-student-commons )

Source: http://m.imgur.com/a/SkeYL

For someone who is glancing over the story, one may not recognize the severity of the issue, the consulting firm that has been hired is called “Kokobi”, which is run in part by Robert Boissonneault a former staff member of the UTSU. Here is where the story gets very interesting, this is the same person who was involved in a bit of a scandal in the students’ union elections that just happened at University of Toronto. There were screenshots that were leaked, in which it is shown that he is organizing and helping coach students on how to help the eventual President-elect an easier path to that office (http://m.imgur.com/a/SkeYL

). Although in this interview both Mathias (President-elect) and Robert acknowledge a relationship that is present, in which Robert has helped with “editing documents” there is definitely more there than is being reported.

Now, some of you may be confused as to why me, a Ryerson student is so interested in this story. Well, for those who may not have heard, the Ryerson Students’ Union has been involved in its own shady shit dealing with such “consulting” firms (https://theeyeopener.com/2017/03/where-on-earth-is-appian-way-group/ ).

There are many commonalties between these two stories — enough for me to see a bit of a pattern. What we see is students’ unions hiring external companies, with whom they have either formal or informal ties to push through their agenda. Members from both external companies have an anti-CFS history is that something to be considered?

In Ryerson’s case, it seems as if the Appian Way Group was created just to fire Gilary Massa. The group was created by two students from another University in Ontario, who also have worked with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA). This seems to fit in very well with that Executive teams anti-CFS rhetoric. What really was an employee being fired for no warranted reason was deemed “restructuring” by this made up company. Something similar is happening at UofT

At University of Toronto, there are still some questions left unanswered — did Kokobi also advise on the restructuring of their students’ union? This restructuring will cost two full-time unionized employees their jobs. Of course, I anticipate these claims being rubbished, but if you’re a UofT student and you’re reading this, learn from Ryerson’s mistakes and ask the tough questions, dig a little deeper. There is always more to the story than meets the eye. Again, the word restructuring should be under contention, are they being fired and the word “restructuring” is being used to avoid legal action?

So what I’m saying is, it’s a little weird that these external consulting groups are popping up around our students’ unions and suddenly people are losing their jobs — these employees deserve better than to be on the end of some neo-liberal bullshit being pushed.

When researching this mess, more and more unpleasant stuff exposed itself. Including the UTSU’s lawyer Andrew Monkhouse’s ties to students’ unions — more on that later, it deserves its own piece.

Until then, stay critical, ask questions.