I didn’t have the best start to my term as VP Education.
Sitting in SCC 312, the RSU’s small boardroom that overlooks Church Street and the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre, I pretended to study the few notes I had jotted down, trying desperately to think of a question. Sitting across from me waiting for me to look up were two RSU staff members.
It was April 28, three days before we took office. A few minutes earlier, as my Executive Team had each left with their positional counterparts, I stayed behind with the two staff, who told me my position was the most straightforward on the RSU: decide what campaigns you want to run then build and execute them with students. Simple enough. What could I even ask? What I really wanted to know was what the job was like day-to-day, but the only person who could have answered that wasn’t around.
The week before, Jesse Root, whose term of VP Education ran from May 1, 2014 — April 30, 2015, had started a job working as the Executive Director of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa. I had actually seen Jesse the night before our group transitioning was supposed to take place, as he presented his alternative budget to Ryerson University’s Board of Governors. I asked him if I would see him the next day, to which he replied, “No,” even though RSU bylaw 4.5.c.xi. states that part of the VP Education’s role is to train and advise the person coming into the position.
This wasn’t the first time Jesse had avoided me. For weeks I had emailed, called, and even approached him face to face asking to sit down and briefly go over the role. Each time he batted my requests away, saying he wasn’t prioritizing a meeting with me.
So Jesse wasn’t going to help me out, fine. I can spend the first few days in office combing through files, learning the role and figuring out exactly what he spent last year doing. My plan for May 1 was to sit in my chair and read for eight hours — emails, bylaws, project files, policies — I was ready to be a sponge.
However, when I walked into the office, it was a mess. Stickers covered the door and whiteboard, dust had settled on the desk and in all corners of the room. Random junk was in almost every drawer. For some reason, there’s a collection of two pound weights in one corner (If anyone wants them feel free to come pick them up). My research had to be put on hold for the morning.
Fast forward. Cleaning was done, my glutes were in my comfy chair and I was ready to go. The next few minutes went something like this:
*Logs into computer*
“Hmm, empty desktop and documents folder. Strange.”
“Wow, empty downloads folder, really?”
Empty trash bin. “Should I really be surprised?”
Empty email inbox. “Fuck.”
*Plants head on desk.*
Everything on the computer was gone (Our VP Equity, Rabia Idrees, was welcomed with a similar situation). A browser was open, with two web pages left for me. The first was an obvious jab at my many statements against the way the 2014–2015 RSU team operated.
The second reads, in part:
Thugs are not necessarily “evil”; thugs are not necessarily opposed to “the will of good”; thugs are not necessarily unsympathetic. Which is another way of saying that thugs are human.
I’m just not sure who the thug is supposed to be in this situation.
This was incredibly frustrating. How could anyone who claims to care about Ryerson or be a part of a “student movement” want see the union stuck in limbo for weeks as I figure out how this large organization actually works and what my responsibilities are, rather than sit down with me for half an hour? This is not only unprofessional, but petty and selfish.
This the the type of toxic political atmosphere we’re trying to change at the RSU. Almost four months into the job, I’m just starting to get comfortable in this building. Nobody deserves to feel like the outsiders our executive team did entering their jobs. Nobody deserves to start 10 steps back like I have. These webpages were left open to make me feel like shit and take my focus away from what the core function of the RSU is: to support student life, rights and initiatives on Ryerson’s campus. It’s actions like these that drove the Transform RU campaign. My hope is that through our work this year, Ryerson will never need another campaign like it.