Morgan Pudwell’s Resignation LetterMarch 4, 2011
To the Concordia community, the Concordia Student Union Council of Representatives, the staff of the CSU, and the current CSU Executive, It has become increasingly clear to me that completing my mandate as Vice-President Sustainability & Promotions of the Concordia Student Union is no longer feasible. The union continues to move in a direction that directly conflicts with my values and this is a path that I cannot support.
The following letter will outline some of the issues that have led me to this decision. The union needs to engage in meaningful participation with its members, and acknowledge the need for accountability. This year, on several occasions, decisions were made by the students and community, and not upheld by representatives.
The Student Centre
Before November’s student centre campaign I was lead to believe that the executive had been working to change the exploitative currently existing contract with the administration (a contract that had already been voted down by students in March 2010). However as the student centre campaign began it became clear that changes had not been made and that some executives were working with the administration to push the current, flawed agreement and the Faubourg building.
The students voted (once again) against the student centre; the message was clear: the agreement is insufficient, and the Faubourg is not an appropriate answer to the challenges of student space. Students demanded to be included in the process, and yet, to this day no meaningful consultation has taken place and the executive continues to try to push a failed contract and a failed building on students. As an executive I have been excluded from these discussions and was never consulted about the contract nor the building choice, despite having voiced my concerns on several occasions.
More recently, students voted on several motions (at the IGM, and then later at council) with regards to university governance. These motions, including a demand for the resignation of external community members on the BoG, specifically Peter Kruyt, have not been upheld by the student representatives at the board. The representatives have failed to make these wishes clear, and at the most recent meeting, failed to say anything at all. Council has yet to receive a written report from any BoG representative, despite their clear and codified duty to do so. These reps must be held accountable for their actions (or lack- there-of).
Potential Financial Mismanagement
The executive were recently presented with a financial update which indicated that nearly every budget line had been over-spent. We were told not to speak to anyone about our current financial situation, and were presented with no solutions. When I sat down with the VP Finance I was told that items that were never intended to fall under my budget line had been placed there. I was further told that both the sustainability and the promotions budget were now, due to this move, overspent and that I could have no more expenses for the rest of the year. With over half a semester left in office this left me in a position in which planned projects and promised support/funding fell through.
Later, when the executive were asked by various students and councillors to present a budget update, the executive failed to do so. To be clear, even councillors who requested this information and have a legal right to access it were not given access to information regarding the union’s finances. A week later a second executive meeting was held in which I was told that the budget that had been originally presented was entirely fabricated. After that point, and because they assumed information had been “leaked,” executives were told that no one would be allowed to see their budget. I have been consistently denied access to the most basic financial information regarding the union’s operations, and even my own budget.
Because of this secrecy I am still unaware of the CSU’s current financial status, despite having done everything in my power to find out. I question whether student money has been spent with respect for our members or in consideration of the law.
Former President of the CSU, Amine Dabchy, continues to be heavily involved in the decisions made by the Executive. As a BoG representative he has clearly disregarded the needs of students on multiple occasions and failed to report to council (as required by CSU bylaws) on his actions on the board. His close relationships with various board members and alumni representatives seem to play a more predominant role in his decisions than that of the students who he is supposed to represent.
I have expressed my concern for Dabchy’s involvement with the current executive on numerous occasions, to both Heather and the entire executive, and yet, he continues to seemingly puppeteer the union to his will. Dabchy is frequently in the office and even has the ability to call executive meetings. I am uncertain whether this remains the case, but for a considerable time during my mandate, Dabchy even retained his own key to the CSU office.
I have also been told by numerous students that Amine and some members of the current executive are currently attempting to put together a team for the upcoming CSU elections, and it is my fear that the CSU will continue to be used for the benefit of certain individuals rather than the student community.
Lack of trust or respect
I can no longer continue to work in an office in which I feel so uncomfortable. A lack of trust and understanding has created a hostile environment which is no longer conducive to productive work and creativity. There have been attempts to police my work schedule, my whereabouts and my friendships. Our communication has eroded to the point that I am unable to do my job. Moreover, it seems that the executive has developed an almost overt animosity towards student leaders on campus who have challenged their decisions.
My presence at the CSU has been met with very little support from the executive. I have often been silenced under the guise of “executive solidarity”; the executive was expected to always send a single message and to never speak out of line. This is not what I was elected to do. The executive is elected as a team that represents the entire student body, we are meant to each represent a larger group of students.
This silencing of genuine moral dissent is not healthy and will only further alienate students. The union should not aim to keep the status quo but to better the university and represent ALL of its members.
Recently, however, representation has been confused with tokenism. I would caution students that the only way they can be truly represented is if they demand that representation—and refuse to settle for platitudes or superficial gestures.
My resignation will likely be met with criticism. Many will attempt to turn this issue into something it’s not: I will be accused of “not fulfilling my duties” or attempting to “damage the reputation” of the union. At this point, I know students are smart enough to recognize these sorts of accusations for what they are: heavy handed attempts to damage my character, rather than a discussion about legitimate issues of democracy, accountability, and good governance.
I hope that my resignation will encourage the current CSU to re-evaluate their actions, and to turn back to the students. We are all implicated in these failures; the CSU is only as strong as its members, and we must continue to expect more. Please consider this my formal resignation from this position as Vice-President Sustainability and Promotions of the Concordia Student Union, effective immediately.
To the students, it has been an honour to serve you so far, and I hope that in my actions you have found some sort of representation. To those who have supported and worked with me, your integrity and perseverance continues to inspire, thank you. I hope to continue to work, in whatever capacity I can, to advocate for a better campus, a better union, and a better community.
With great respect and high hopes,
This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 24, published March 7, 2011.