Student Union Ticket Giveaway Hits ASFA Hard—In the Wallet

The Concordia Student Union’s decision to give away $19,000 of tickets for Youth Action Montreal, a conference on April 28, has been described as a “slap in the face” by its partner.

“Just three days ago, the CSU brought me into their office and told me that they were going to sell their 1,000 tickets for free,” said Arts and Science Federation of Associations President Aaron Green on March 31.

When the CSU and ASFA made bulk purchases of the tickets in January—1,000 for the student union and 500 for ASFA—they both pledged to sell the tickets for the same price for which they bought them: $20.

“We had a mutual agreement and understanding that we were going to sell them for the same price. There was zero consultation about the move and that’s unacceptable,” said Green. “That’s not the way the CSU should operate.”

To finance the $10,000 purchase, ASFA took the money temporarily from its Special Projects Fund. The money was supposed to be returned to the fund—which was budgeted at $31,576 at the start of the year—as the tickets were sold.

With the Arts and Science representatives unsure as to whether they can still sell the tickets, the fund may not be available to finance the academic year’s final projects by the 27 member associations that make up ASFA.

While the CSU didn’t return The Link’s calls for comments, ASFA VP Finance Alexa Newman said the union was worried it wouldn’t be able to sell all of its tickets.

“We haven’t sold many tickets,” said Newman, who confirmed that both ASFA and the CSU had only sold 50 tickets each.

“The event is a month away and with the election, with the New York Trip, with ASFA’s Spring Ball, there are many more pressing events,” said Newman. “That’s the culture of students, that when it comes to purchasing tickets they make their purchases very last-minute.”

According to Green, ASFA and the CSU hadn’t even tried to sell the tickets yet.

“We were going to get out there after the election and table to sell these tickets,” said Green. “That’s what I wanted to do. But now how can I sell these tickets when they are giving them away for free next door?”

The two ASFA executives were most bothered by the evidence that the student union had made the decision to give away the tickets long before warning Newman and Green.

Upon leaving his meeting with CSU President Heather Lucas on March 29, Green noticed posters already up in the Hall building announcing that the tickets would be free.

“They knew that their decision was going to impact us, our member associations, our councillors and our students, but they never bothered to contact us,” said Newman. “It’s a matter of professional courtesy.”

At the first Youth Action Montreal conference in 2007, the two organizations gave away tickets for the event.

“They never called us to warn us, ‘Hey, we were thinking about lowering the price.’ In 2007 they sold out because they were free, no one paid for them,” said Green. “When we went into this, we thought that with these three speakers, Kofi Annan, Stephen Lewis and David Suzuki, that we could sell the tickets for $20. But $20 is a lot of money for some students.”

Nearly the entire planning process for Youth Action Montreal is in the hands of the student union’s alumni.

Peter Schiefke, the president of Youth Action Montreal, was the CSU VP Student Life in 2005. He is joined by two former CSU presidents, Mohamed Shuriye and Amine Dabchy and former VP Stephanie Siriwardhana.

Current CSU employees Georges Alexandar and Tay-Son Nguyen also sit on the Youth Action Montreal board of directors.

“At the beginning we asked ourselves, ‘Do all parties agree that these tickets will sell for $20? We all said yes,’” said Green. “At a certain point Mohamed Shuriye approached the parties and said, ‘Guys do you think the tickets are too expensive?’ We all once again agreed, ‘no.’”

With only a few weeks left before the conference, the ASFA executives are hoping for a quick resolution with the CSU.

In an email sent to CSU councillors on March 29, Councillor Michaela Manson proposed holding a special meeting this week to discuss purchasing ASFA’s remaining tickets. The student union is projecting a $70,000 surplus.

“Perhaps on the next Council meeting we could discuss the give-away, but I think it should be resolved before then,” said Green, who couldn’t comment on the call for a special meeting.

“We already have students who are calling us and asking for a refund because they want a free ticket from the CSU,” said Newman. “So we need a resolution and soon.”

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 29, published April 5, 2011.

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