Updates From Council: Concordia Student Union Executives’ Conflict of Interest Questioned

Housing Project Delayed, Sexual Violence Policy to Be Reviewed

Two CSU executives told council they will be paying the CSU $840 for the trip they took to attend the Student Union Development Conference this summer. Photo Elisa Barbier

Concordia Student Union General Coordinator Omar Riaz and Finance Coordinator Soulaymane El Alaoui were accused of having a potential conflict of interest Wednesday.

John Molson School of Business councillor Rory Blaisdell raised the point, specifying that Riaz and El Alaoui are involved with the Commerce and Administration Students’ Association’s Board of Directors. El Alaoui is an Independent Director while Riaz is the Board’s chairperson.

Blaisdell explained that he was not accusing the two of having a conflict of interest, but that the potential exists, for example in authorizing finances or in supporting positions brought to CASA by the CSU.

“They do have active jobs to perform and they receive payment for it,” he said.

According to CASA’s Book of Policies, the chairperson is eligible for a maximum honorarium of $500 for their year of service. While the policy does not specify how much an independent director would receive, El Alaoui estimated at the meeting that it’s between $500 and $1,000.

Each CSU executive also receives a salary with the potential for a bonus at the end of their mandate. Last year, each executive who stayed in their position for the full year made about $27,000 and received a bonus of about $2,600.

“The chairperson has a lot of informal power,” Blaisdell also said, explaining that Riaz is able to determine what matters make it to Board meetings and who ends up on the speaker’s list, both points which Riaz refuted.

The group determined that the CSU’s Policy Committee will be reviewing how executives could declare potential conflicts of interest.

Earlier in the meeting, Riaz and El Alaoui told council they will be paying the CSU $840 on Dec. 19 for the trip they took to Vancouver to attend the Student Union Development Conference this summer. The amount was determined by council at the last meeting.

The trip, which was offered to the executive team by Lev Bukhman, CEO of the union’s health and dental insurance provider, was not approved by council. Other executives alleged they were not okay with the trip when Riaz and El Alaoui told them, but were not comfortable enough to speak up.

Council saw the trip as a gift, and accepting gifts is forbidden by the CSU’s by-laws. Bukhman sent a letter to the CSU in October arguing that the trip was in fact a sponsorship.

The pair will also be presenting council with a draft of an apology on the Nov. 22 meeting for revision.

Executive Signing Power Questioned

The executive team’s power to sign on behalf of the CSU was questioned on Wednesday when it was noted that External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator Ahmed Badr endorsed a motion by the Comités unitaires sur le travail étudiant on Friday.

The motion, though its wording is vague, calls for a one-day strike by unpaid interns. Arts and Science councillor Aouatif Zebiri pointed out that the way it is phrased could imply that those who signed onto the motion would strike as well, if one is called for. Badr insisted that that is not the case.

“It’s my mistake that I did not add it as a point on [the meeting’s] agenda,” Badr admitted, before explaining that CUTE’s deadline to sign on was Sunday, three days before the meeting.

Badr previously endorsed recommendations made by the Coalition régionale étudiante de Montréal ahead of the municipal election without council’s consent.

CSU Housing Project Delayed

The CSU Housing Project, currently under construction in the Plateau, is delayed by eight months, council also learned Wednesday night.

The project, which began in 2016, was initially supposed to open in September 2018, but due to numerous delays, including obtaining a construction permit from the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, pushed back the deadline.

“All of this has been going to plan, except it’s not exactly the plan we were wishing for,” said Laurent Levesque, general coordinator of the Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant, one of the union’s partners in the project.

“We had to pull political pressure to make sure that [the permit] moved forward,” he explained. Now, he said the borough must approve the material they intend to use for the building’s facade. Once that is done, the construction plans can be finalized and the union can begin reviewing proposals.

On a brighter note, Levesque explained that the majority of the funding for the project—$13 of the estimated $14 million—has been secured. He explained that the last partner is in the final stages of confirming

The Housing Project, once complete, will have 90 apartments going for an average of $450 a month.

Student Criticism Leads to Sexual Violence Policy Review

Concordia University will be reviewing their sexual violence policies in response to Concordia’s D- grade on the Our Turn national study.

In October, a consortium from 14 universities across Canada published a report that evaluated the school’s sexual violence policies and resources. Concordia was last on the list, despite administrators praising the work that they’ve done in the last two years, since implementing a stand alone policy and amending the Code of Rights and Responsibilities to update the definitions of sexual violence and harassment.

Days after the report was published, Concordia’s deputy provost, Lisa Ostiguy, said there were discrepancies in the way the university’s score, 52 per cent, was tallied.

CSU Student Life Coordinator Leyla Sutherland explained that the university has generally been more responsive than others in the country when it comes to sexual violence policies, and that they are open to having a conversation.

Sutherland and Fine Arts Councillor Mikaela Clark-Gardner will be a part of this review.

This article will be updated with comment from the university regarding the sexual violence policy review as soon as possible.