Tensions surface at RSU board meeting

VP Equity Camryn Harlick defends controversial Colonialism 150 campaign, Nyaga’s motion to cut ties with UTSU fails

(By: Isabelle Kirkwood)

“The students, united, will never be defeated,” vice-president equity of the Ryerson Students’ Union Camryn Harlick said with a raised fist. Their words were met with a standing applause from RSU directors and spectators on Wednesday evening (July 19.)

The special meeting of the board of RSU directors kicked off to a heated start, as Harlick defended their decision to post the Colonialism 150 campaign’s list of demands on the RSU Facebook page.

“The Canada 150 campaign was the first and only campaign that centralized Indigenous students and directly challenged colonialism within the RSU, Ryerson campus and the larger Toronto society,” they said.

Harlick said the RSU’s actions following the online posting of the campaign’s list of demands directly undermined their platform, portfolio and ability to do their job. They also addressed allegations that RSU directors held off-the-record meetings to coordinate Harlick’s impeachment.

“To hear that my impeachment is being planned because of my standing in solidarity with the Indigenous students is racist, colonial, violent and disheartening,” Harlick said. “And [for the committee] to not be open and honest with such plans is dehumanizing and painful, especially when I have broken zero bylaws or policies.”

Harlick said that the Colonialism 150 campaign was developed collaboratively between themselves and the Indigenous Students Association among other Indigenous groups. In the wake of the Colonialism 150 Facebook posts, Harlick claims to have received several death threats, some of which they read aloud to the members of the board.

“We wouldn’t need a colonialism campaign if everyone already agreed that colonialism is bad,” Harlick said. “My role as vice equity will always be political, equity in itself is inherently political.”

Two impassioned spectators who identified themselves as members of the Indigenous community voiced their own responses to the public backlash to the Colonialism 150 post.

Harlick said they wanted to see conflicts put aside, and for directors to work in support of each other. Following the opening, a tense exchange occurred between Harlick and vice-president operations Ali Yousaf, who defended the scheduling of the committee meeting at which Harlick was not present.

The Colonialism 150 post was released on the RSU’s official Facebook page on July 1, 2017. The post encouraged students to not partake in celebrating Canada’s 150th, and included a list of demands for the Ryerson administration, including for a name change of the university and for the statue of Egerton Ryerson on Gould St. to be taken down.

Motion to cut ties with UTSU fails

In response to the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s lawsuit with former UTSU employee Sandy Hudson, Nyaga moved a referendum on the board to suspend all collaboration with the UTSU.

Board member Salman Faruqi related a letter from the UTSU to the board that stated why the union chose to pursue a lawsuit against Hudson. Although Faruqi said the letter was addressed to the RSU executive committee, it was only received by vice-president student life & events Lauren Emberson.

Emberson was questioned as to why she had not forwarded the letter that was sent June 12 to the rest of the board beforehand.

“I honestly forgot about it,” she responded.

The letter sent by the UTSU alleges that Hudson sought termination to obtain severance pay and that she claimed incorrect hours of work. The union is currently suing Hudson to recover $277,508.62.

Vice-president education Daniel Lis vied to resume collaboration with the UTSU, citing the U-Pass project which offers affordable public transit options for students.

“Let’s continue with this agenda,” Nyaga said after the motion failed in a secret ballot. “I want to get out of this anti-black space.”

Committee Selections:

RSU Sustainability Committee:
¬ Sameer Naumani: Commissioner
¬ Elizabeth Bala
¬ Matthew Catangui
¬ Sophie Lafleur

RSU Transit Committee:
¬ Youssef Helmy: Commissioner
¬ Razi Syed
¬ Nathan Fernandes 
¬ Maryan Issa

Motion Verdicts

Motion to cease involvement in CFS campaigns — failed 

Confirmation of the University Bible Fellowship student group — failed

Development of a graduate student union — passed

RSU office chair replacements—passed

Renovations to Wellness Centre — passed

(Header photo photographed by Isabelle Kirkwood/RUtv News)

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