Ryerson student leaders to be asked tough questions Friday about $250K credit card bill

Ryerson University student leaders who allegedly spent more than $250,000 on a credit card will be asked to provide receipts and explanations at an emergency meeting to be held on campus on Friday.

'We want receipts. We want answers,' says student groups director Maklane deWever

Ram Ganesh is the president of the Ryerson Student Union. The union heads are being asked to account for around $250,000 in credit card spending. (Provided by The Eyeopener)

Ryerson University student leaders who allegedly spent more than $250,000 on a credit card will be asked to provide receipts and explanations at an emergency meeting to be held on campus on Friday.

Students who sit on the board of the directors of the Ryerson Students' Union (RSU) want to know why the executive spent that amount of money over eight months, according to Maklane deWever, student groups director on the board of the directors.

"This Friday, we are hoping to get the ball rolling to get these questions answered," deWever told CBC Toronto on Monday. "We want receipts. We want answers."

A time, location and agenda for the RSU board of directors meeting has yet to be set, but the meeting is expected to be open to the public.

"We want it to be open to students. We want it to be incredibly transparent. We will discuss our next steps at this meeting."

The credit card bill has prompted Ryerson's university president to demand a meeting with student union executive. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Last week, it was revealed that the student union executive has racked up a hefty credit card bill, which includes questionable purchases at LCBO locations, a shisha lounge and a credit risk company in Stratford, Ont.

The credit card statements, which CBC Toronto has not seen, were first reported by Ryerson University's student newspaper, The Eyeopener. Expenditures date back to May 2018, when union president Ram Ganesh began his term. The statements are addressed to Ganesh.

Ganesh and vice president Savreen Gosal took over the student union's credit card and began using it themselves, according to reporting by The Eyeopener.

'Expenses were definitely unusual'

DeWever told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Monday that the credit card purchases need to be "reconciled." If the purchases were made for specific student events, then that needs to be made clear, he added.

"It's quite sad for sure," he said. "From there, we will see what we can do."

He began wondering about possible wrongdoing after the student union executive failed to release its quarterly financial statements in late 2018. He said the executive delayed releasing statements for several months.

Last Tuesday, he met with the student union's accountant to review credit card statements, and last Thursday, he brought the matter to the board of directors. 

"Those expenses were definitely unusual, specifically because I can't recall any events surrounding those dates that would warrant such expenses," he said.

"We are not ruling out that it could potentially be that they are all legitimate, but it definitely poses some very, very, very, very interesting questions."

Photos of the credit card statement obtained by The Eyeopener show several LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) purchases. (The Eyeopener)

The student union is operated by an elected executive, all of whom are students. it has an operating budget of $2.7 million. Last year, DeWever said the student union put under $100,000 on the credit card.

DeWever said the board of directors will seek legal action if need be, but first there needs to be a process.

University calls for meeting with student union

The issue has caught the attention of Ryerson University President Mohamed Lachemi, who is demanding a meeting with the student union to discuss the allegations of financial mismanagement.

"Protecting the interests of Ryerson students is of primary concern to the University," the university said in an email on Sunday.  "Given the seriousness of these allegations, President Lachemi has written to the RSU Executive to request a meeting to discuss this matter."

The university, however, pointed out that the student union is separate corporate entity from Ryerson, has its own corporate governance structure and board of directors. The university has no ability to conduct an independent investigation into RSU finances, it said.

Meanwhile, an online petition calling for the immediate resignation of Ganesh as RSU president has garnered more than 600 signatures.

"It is time for Ram to step aside and allow the RSU to conduct a full and exhaustive investigation into his actions over not just the last year but previous years as well," it reads.

With files from Metro Morning