Two of the plaintiffs in a defamation lawsuit against the Ryerson Students’ Union have been banned from the Student Campus Centre.
More than a month after serving court documents to current and former RSU executives and staff, plaintiffs Jesse Trautmann, former outreach co-ordinator for RyePride, and Frank Nyitray, former employee of RyeAccess, are no longer welcome in any RSU-run space, including the Student Campus Centre (SCC).
This is the most recent action after claims of libel, slander, defamation and vilification were filed against Toby Whitfield, current vice-president of finance and services, Rebecca Rose, former vice-president of education, and executive director of communications and outreach Denise Hammond, by Trautmann, Nyitray and another former community service group employee.
Trautman and Nyitray were in the lobby of the SCC last Thursday when an Oakham House manager told them Eric Newstadt, general manager of the SCC, would call the police if they didn’t leave immediately.
“I’m an alumni, so technically I have rights to still be a part of the Ryerson community,” said Trautmann, adding that since Nyitray is still a student, he shouldn’t need a reason to be in the SCC.
“We actually have no idea why we were banned from the Student Centre,” said Nyitray.
Letters were passed between Davis LLP (the RSU’s lawyers), Trautmann and Nyitray on Dec. 21, saying the two were no longer authorized to enter any space owned or operated by the RSU.
A letter obtained by The Ryersonian, addressed to Nyitray from the Student Centre, says he is “no longer authorized to be in any space owned or operated by the Ryerson Student Centre.”
The letter also says he will be removed by security if he returns, and suggests that legal action could be taken in that scenario.
Nyitray said he never received this letter.
The letter also says that if he needs to be in the SCC he must first receive written permission from the general manager.
The letter was signed by Newstadt, who Nyitray alleges assaulted him last month while he was trying to serve Hammond court documents.
The ban also prevents Nyitray from using student services provided within the building.
“I identify as a student with a disability, as such I use RyeAccess,” said Nyitray. “I do not have access to purchasing a discount bus pass, and no longer have access to CopyRITE, which I use for academic assignments.
“It’s a personal vendetta,” Nyitray said about the ban.
Newstadt said that the foundation that runs the SCC had recieved complaints.
“We have a duty to provide a safe working environment for our staff,” he said.
The lawsuits, which were filed in November, involve a Facebook message sent by Hammond, a letter and memo sent by Whitfield and a Facebook message sent by Rose.
“What we really want to get out of this is to see in effect real change in the RSU,” said Nyitray. “We’re not out to destroy the RSU because this school needs a good strong students’ union with good strong leadership that places Ryerson students first and not their own personal agendas.”
Trautmann said the lawsuit is about protecting their reputations.
“As a new person entering the workforce, the allegations they’re making are seriously damaging to my professional and personal reputation, that’s why we’re fighting back on this.”
While the defendants will have counsel through their RSU insurance, which is partially funded by student fees, the three plaintiffs will be representing themselves.
“We have to,” said Trautmann. “We don’t have the money for a lawyer . . . we have to put a lot of faith in the judge who handles our case.”
Whitfield declined to comment on the case while it is before the courts.
Hammond and Rose could not be reached.
The plaintiffs will meet with Whitfield, Hammond and Rose on Feb. 1 for the pre-trial settlement meeting.