Access to ConU Info

Whether it’s media-shy sources, public relations spokespeople giving canned answers or the less-than-media-friendly local, provincial and federal governments, journalists often find themselves searching for answers.

Getting access to records and documents is an invaluable resource for journalists who find themselves walled off from the facts by these information gatekeepers, and thankfully, there’s a means for them to extract crucial data in such situations.

The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, passed into law in 1985, provide Canadians with an outlet to look more deeply into information held by the institutional bodies on high.

The former allows Canadians to inquire about all manner of government-held information, and the latter allows them to find out information being kept on them personally.

By filling out a form and providing a requisite $5.00, inquisitive ATIP-filers get five hours of search and preparation time for requested records, though additional time may cost additional money.

Concordia’s ATIP coordinator is Bram Freedman, who also happens to be the university’s VP Institutional Relations. While he may appear to have a vested interest in the good and bad information about the institution that pays his salary, Freedman is required to respond to the details of any access to information request.

Though situations like these often require a fine knowledge of legalese and an ability to cut through red tape, there isn’t a particular form required to send an ATIP at Concordia. Interested students simply have to email Freedman at bram.freedman@concordia.ca.

While The Link loves talking to university spokesperson Chris Mota every week, sometimes there’s nothing like the look and feel of fresh financial documents in our hands, unfettered by the university’s press relations protocol.

Here are some of the Access to Information requests The Link has filed to Concordia:

The Lowy Loan

Last May, Concordia provided an interest-free loan of $1.4 million to Interim President Frederick Lowy, which was expected to incur the university approximately $35,250 in interest fees at Lowy’s expense.

We asked for more details on the nature of that agreement, and whether or not a contract was signed. If the loan was given in good faith, we want to see the proposals and correspondence between VPs that set it up. Thirty-five thousand dollars is a lot of public money.

Chewing Chartwells Out

In Concordia’s latest financial report, it was discovered that the exclusive food service provider on campus, Chartwells, incurred a $51,000 loss, with another whopping $152,000 lost on ‘other food services related costs.’

We asked about these ‘other costs,’ and the stipulations in the contract that require Concordia to pay for the losses of a private company that has a monopoly on campus.

While The Link was told it wasn’t likely we’d get any answers about the contract, as it could affect the finances of a third party, we thought we’d try (again) anyways.

Investing in the Future?

What’s in Concordia’s storied investment portfolio? Where is the university spending our money? For all we know, it could be spent in arms manufacturing or asbestos. What are our ventures and speculations?

There is precious little information out there about where Concordia invests, but considering the captains of industry who sit on our Board of Governors, it should be interesting to find out.

Expen$e Account$

Most of our VPs have expense accounts, but what do they spend the money on?

It’s become public that Lowy’s already burned through $16,000 on hotels and airfare, and former John Molson School of Business Dean Sanjay Sharma was reimbursed over $27,000 for unspecified expenses. What else is out there?

Government Relations and Tuition

You’d think that Russell Copeman, Concordia’s Associate VP External Relations, must be having some seriously interesting conversations with the provincial government about the impending tuition hikes lately.

I guess we’ll see; we’ve asked for all correspondence between him and the Provincial government since September.

Need help sending your own ATIP? Email community@thelinknewspaper.ca

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