Former CSU Execs Asked to Apologize to Students for $9,000 Party
The majority of last year’s Concordia Student Union executive is being asked to write an apology to students for spending around $9,000 for an end-of-year party for the executive.
The May 29 party at Newtown bar, which was organized in part with the Concordia International Students Association, has received plenty of criticism from multiple former and current CSU councillors, who said during the CSU’s first council meeting of the semester that the party amounted to frivolous spending of students’ money.
“It’s a matter of credibility,” arts and science councillor Wendy Kraus-Heitmann reiterated in her original motion, which requested the executives pay back the money spent on the end-of-year party by no later than Dec. 31 of this year.
“How are we supposed to ask the [administration] with a straight face to reign in expenses and keep tuition low, when we’re spending $750 on a DJ for less than 50 people?” she said in the motion.
Nadine Atallah, Alexis Suzuki, Andrew Roberts, Simon-Pierre Lauzon, Keny Toto and Stefan Faina were named in the final motion that was adopted. Atallah, who was serving as a councillor for the 2013-2014 academic year, resigned Sept. 17—the day before the motion was to be entertained by council.
Kraus-Heitmann’s original motion was approved with a nearly two-thirds majority. A second motion, which will see CSU President Melissa Kate Wheeler draft a formal letter to the former executives requesting that the funds be paid back and that an apology be made to students for their behaviour, was adopted unanimously.
The letter will be drafted and released publicly by the end of this week, according to Wheeler.
According to multiple current executives and councillors, the party was approved at the last minute as a way to spend a surplus in the CSU’s student life budget line.
“No one ever really approved this, they just decided in the last few days of their mandate […] to have an end-of-semester party,” VP Finance Scott Carr told council.
“They encompassed it under [the student life budget] but they definitely broke that budget.”
According to a CSU requisition document outlining expenses, $8,062 was spent renting out Newtown bar and placing a deposit on the space, which was stamped and entered May 30, 2013—the second-to-last day before the changeover from the old to the current executive. A second requisition signed by Suzuki, the former CSU VP Student Life, also included an extra $1,243 in expenses.
The finalized student life budget line for last year was $6,560.33 over its allocated budget, according to Carr.
Wheeler says she thinks the spending on “a big luxurious party” was an “inappropriate way to use student funds.”
“You would hope that who you elect is being elected because they are trustworthy with student funds,” she said.
“The funds don’t disappear, they stay within the CSU, and it’s never a bad thing for students to have leftover money at the end of the year.”
It was a fucking witch hunt all year and some of them want to keep it up. —former CSU president Andrew Roberts
Originally, current arts and science councillor Hajar El Jahidi was included in the motion. El Jahidi served as CSU VP Academic and Advocacy from Nov. 2012 to May 2013.
“I don’t want to imply that Hajar was found partying at Newtown, I don’t think that that happened, she doesn’t seem to be that kind of person,” said Kraus-Heitmann, adding she tried to name all executives involved in the party because, as employees of the union, the “buck stops with them.”
El Jahidi’s name was removed from all motions regarding Newtown before they were voted upon.
Current VP Sustainability Ben Prunty was not named in the motion because he says he did not know about the party at Newtown until the day it happened, which Kraus-Heitmann told council she believed.
Prunty took up the sustainability portfolio early after winning the position in the March CSU election to fill the vacant seat left by Andrew Roberts following his promotion to CSU president in February.
Before voting in favour of sending a letter to the remaining members of the former executive, multiple CSU councillors expressed concerns that naming former executives publicly would be damaging to them in the future, especially considering many had yet to speak with council in any capacity to explain their actions.
According to VP Finance Scott Carr, more heavy-handed legal options would also not have been feasible.
“We could sue them, but it would cost us more money in legal fees,” Carr told council.
For Kraus-Heitmann, the ideal choice was to request that the money be returned, as it puts the moral onus on the former executive to return the funds willingly.
“They can, of course, tell us to jump in a lake,” she told The Link. “But it’s the students they are telling that [to], and that’s on their conscience, not mine.”
Speaking to The Link from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan—he is currently riding his bike across Canada—former CSU president Andrew Roberts said the stated facts presented to students were inaccurate.
He says CSU clubs and others were invited, and maintained that the event was inclusive, unlike it had been described in Kraus-Heitmann’s motion—a motion he described as being a vendetta against his former team.
“It was a fucking witch hunt all year and some of them want to keep it up,” he said.
Other past executives could not be reached before press time or refused to comment.
The CSU policy committee is also planning on proposing changes to how funding requisitions at the end of an executive’s mandate are approved. They will present their recommendations to council at the regular November meeting.