An Introduction to Ryerson Governance

An Introduction to Ryerson Governance
Written and submitted by Ryerson Board of Governors – Student Representatives: MJ Wright, David Jardine and Tay Rubman

Ryerson has a political apathy problem amongst the student population. Last year only 3.3% of eligible students voted in the election for the Board of Governors, and this percentage is fairly normal looking back at past elections. However, this is not entirely the students’ fault. Politics at any institution is often confusing and it can be difficult to even find clear information about how it works. Students often don’t have time to read through meeting minutes on the off-chance there’s a decision that may relate to them, especially given how inaccessibly these documents are written. The result? Voting rates are low, and many students don’t fully know what the governance structure is that runs and represents their school and who it is run by.

However, Ryerson’s governance deeply affects the lives of all students. Even when the decisions that are made can seem outside of our daily lives, they still can leave reverberations that are important to be aware of. Especially this year, when the Ryerson community is disconnected and spread across the globe, knowing what our university is doing and where their priorities are is more essential than ever.

The Board of Governors (BoG) in particular can often get under-discussed. This committee oversees the university’s finances and manages its’ assets, such as buildings and other property. Although those concerns may feel irrelevant to individual students, and we may feel powerless to effect change there, we can hold power in these arenas, and understanding the system and what goes on in it is the first step. That understanding is what the Board of Governors Student Representatives for 2020-21 intend to foster this year.

Consider this article an overview of governance at Ryerson, but this isn’t the end! The RU BoG Student Reps are planning some town halls where you will be able to talk with us directly and learn more about how decisions get made at Ryerson. There’s more information at the end of this article.

How does governance at Ryerson work?
Ryerson University has what’s known as a “bi-cameral” governance, meaning there are two separate committees that oversee all of the universities affairs. The Senate oversees all academic matters, while the Board of Governors essentially oversees the rest. The decisions made by the Senate and the BoG are obviously intertwined, but they meet and make their decisions separately. There are a number of other committees are Ryerson in addition to the Senate and BoG, summarized in the graphic below:

Who sits on the Board of Governors?
The Board of Governors is made of 24 members: the President Mohammed Lachemi, the Chancellor Janice Fukakusa, 11 external members from outside of the Ryerson community, which include individuals appointed by the Ontario government and the board itself, and 11 internal members including faculty, staff and students. The student members this school year are David Jardine, Tay Rubman, and MJ Wright, who have started a series of social media pages to maintain communication with the student body. The handle on all platforms is @RUBOGStudents.

What does the BoG do?
The main role of the Board of Governors is to make and oversee the Ryerson budget. This means they manage assets and approve or deny financial policies. You can think of them as the final gateway a policy passes through before it comes into effect at Ryerson. As such, they don’t often create or propose changes, instead spending some time listening to presentations, asking questions and deciding whether or not to vote in favour of them.

What does the BoG represent?
The Board of Governors is a committee that represents the interests of the university, and as such, all those that sit on the committee have to align their priorities with the university’s interests. Although many members are elected by specific on-campus groups, such as students, staff and faculty, these board members cannot say they strictly advocate those groups. For example, the Student Representatives serve the university, not only students.
While this could sound confusing, it also must be emphasized that students are the core of who the university serves, and so while student needs are not their only priority, they still are very much a priority for the committee. As student representatives, we are there to convey our experiences as students and want to do our best to represent the ideas, perspectives and attitudes of the general student population. If students are going to be feeling negative about financial decisions, then that is something we want to bring to the board. However, we also need to be conscious that we cannot be advocating for ideas that could, for example, bankrupt the university. If you still have questions, that makes sense! This is just beginning to dig into the way the Board of Governors works, and there’s many other aspects of Ryerson’s governance that we haven’t dug into.
On October 21st from 4-6pm the Student Representatives will be hosting our second town hall, where we will be facilitating a space where we will present the goings of the board and you are welcome to ask us questions and voice concerns. If there are issues and feelings that you want the Board of Governors to be aware of, we can be your voice, or attempt to connect you to the committee that can assist you. Feel free to connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @RUBOGStudents.

We want to hear from you and really want to be able to answer your questions effectively, so please use this link to ask us in advance using the Google Form. We’ll answer your question on the day and you have the option to join in on conversation!