Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Dear Ryerson Community,

It has come to our attention that the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) has laid off the full-time Centre for Safer Sex and Sexual Violence Support (CSSSVS) Coordinator, terminated the part-time staff and cancelled all the shifts and opportunities for volunteers in the midst of the Month for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. CESAR finds these actions disturbing and reprehensible in the strongest terms. 

These actions come after the termination of multiple full-time unionized staff including the Campus Groups Coordinator, Copyrite Manager, Events Coordinator, Good Food Centre Coordinator and Graphic Design & Communications Coordinator, as well as not filling vacancies in the Internal Coordinator and Finance Coordinator roles.

The Ryerson Students’ Union has claimed a number of reasons for the layoffs and terminations – many of which have been disproven or unsubstantiated. The CSSSVS has been accused of being disorganized and too expensive, yet for the past two years has been the most consistent part of the RSU to run programs, services and campaigns.

CESAR has worked consistently with the CSSSVS, including on a recent online workshop about recognizing and responding to workplace sexual harassment that was attended by both Continuing Education and full-time students, and and was in the midst of organizing for the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women + 16 Days of Activism and programming for the December 6 Memorial when our work was interrupted by the RSU leadership. Further, we have heard that the RSU has plans to restructure the CSSSVS, apparently with no consultation with their membership.

We are also concerned that those who may be attempting to take on the work done by the centre’s Sexual Assault Survivors Support Line (SASSL) may not be adequately trained. The laid off CSSSVS staff are trained and experienced with responding to survivors and providing support that is anti-oppressive and trauma-informed.

The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has caused an increase in rates of violence against women and domestic violence, and services like those offered by CSSSVS are more essential now than ever. To deny student survivors the services of the experienced staff who were laid off is to disadvantage student survivors and women who have experienced violence. 

We strongly encourage RSU members to ask questions of the RSU leadership and demand accountability for the changes to their operations during COVID-19. Emails from students can be sent to RSU President Ali Yousaf (president@rsuonline.ca) and faculty directors listed on this email prompt.

In solidarity,

CESAR Executive

The Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) represents over 16,000 continuing education and part-time degree students at Ryerson University. A portion of this membership includes full-time students enrolled in continuing education courses.