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Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vice president of education Kwaku Agyemang resigned after recently surviving a vote on impeachment.
Agyemang said in a statement posted to Facebook that president Vanessa Henry has silenced him with verbal threats.
“On many occasions, it was basically warning us against the implications of speaking to the media,” said Agyemang. “In regards to our NDA, using our NDA as a tool to silence us.”
His statement said that he is “walking away from internal corruption, discrimination, and harassment.”
“I resigned because of the toxic environment,” he said. “I fell in love with the opportunity the position gave me and the role it gave me to serve students and advocate for students on the academic level. However, it started to get really difficult when I started to have health issues with what was going on with the toxicity.”
Henry said that all accusations made against her are false.
“There has been no financial mismanagement,” said Henry. “In fact, I’ve worked alongside the financial controller and the executive to tighten up the financial policies. I’ve also led the hiring committees to ensure that executives are held accountable by having an executive director and financial controller in place.”
Notices of impeachment were served to Agyemang, vice president of equity Naja Pereira, and vice president of operations Augustine Onuh by student groups director James Fotak a few weeks ago. The notices stated that they broke RSU bylaw 4.3, which requires executives to work a full 40-hour workweek throughout their term.
Agyemang was not impeached. Pereira resigned before the Board of Directors could vote on her impeachment, citing the work environment in the RSU as “an unhealthy and damaging one.” Onuh was impeached for missed hours and claims of harassment found by the board’s oversight committee.
Henry was given a notice of impeachment by vice president of marketing Victoria Anderson-Gardner, but it was not tabled. Anderson-Gardner resigned before she could table the motion, claiming the RSU was a “toxic work environment.” Anderson-Gardner cited recent issues relating to a non-Indigenous student singing “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s “Pocahontas” at an RSU event and a statement sent about the incident that not all executives agreed on as evidence of a toxic work environment.
Agyemang’s statement said that Henry has engaged in “anti-Indigenous, anti-black, and anti-LGBTQ+ leadership.”
He has accused Henry of being anti-Indigenous through the incident surrounding the non-Indigenous student singing “Colors of the Wind”. He also accused Henry of being anti-black for ridiculing him. He claimed that she was anti-LGBTQ+ by mistreating Anderson-Gardner, who identifies as two-spirited.
Ryerson students pay the RSU $77.84 annually. Of this amount, $24.44 was a non-essential fee, and $53.40 was an essential fee when the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) was implemented by Ontario Premier Doug Ford. The Ontario Divisional Court struck down the SCI in November, meaning students cannot opt out of paying the fee to the union, despite the mismanagement of funds and some students not wanting to support it.
The RSU was involved with the political organization We the Students RU, which called for the SCI to be repealed.
A petition has been started to demand Henry be removed as president and for Ryerson University to restructure the RSU. The petition has received 1,001 signatures.
The petition says that Henry is not qualified to “lead the organization or manage a team.” It also states that “Students of Ryerson University have not received full financial transparency as promised” from Henry’s leadership.
The petition has received more signatures than the petition that demanded former president Ram Ganesh be removed for the union overspending by hundreds of thousands of dollars on the student union’s credit card account on things such as booze and parties.
Ryerson did not respond to a request for comment.
Agyemang said that the petition might help hold Henry accountable.
“I’m glad that Ryerson students have a platform to have their voices heard,” he said.