“Recklessness,” “carelessness” and “negligence” are the words being used to describe actions of last year’s Concordia Student Union president.
Those strong words were what lawyers for the current CSU wrote in a letter sent by bailiff and addressed to the 2008-2009 president, Keyana Kashfi, before informing her that she is being held liable for over $1 million.
That letter was drafted after the CSU was informed it owed $1,033,278.76 to the Canadian Federation of Students, a student lobby group the CSU has been a member of since 1998, and which currently employs members of Kashfi’s executive. An accompanying document â€” signed by Kashfi â€”described that the debt was a result of unpaid membership fees and outlined the repayment structure which would see the CSU paying one-tenth of the sum each year for 10 years beginning September 2010.
“It’s impossible,” current president Amine Dabchy said of the alleged amount owed. “It’s some number they made up and got her to sign â€¦ I have difficulties thinking she’s that stupid, though. It’s obviously a stalling tactic.”
The CSU was informed of the debt after trying to set a date for a referendum on its continued membership with the CFS, after 17 per cent of Concordia students signed a petition calling for a vote.
In response, lawyers for the CFS said that, in order for their client to facilitate a referendum, it would have to receive full payment for the outstanding membership fees.
The CSU is holding Kashfi liable for payment of the debt because, according to its lawyers, entering such an agreement on her own, without consulting council demonstrated a “clear violation” of the CSU’s by-laws and standing regulations, as well as her duties under the Civil Code of Quebec.
One of the CSU by-laws in question stipulates that the president must consult with council before signing anything worth more than $15,000.
While Kashfi said she is aware of that by-law, she maintains she did not violate it. “That document I signed is for services rendered,” she said. “I wasn’t buying anything, I wasn’t spending the money. I simply acknowledged that we owe them this money. Whether or not I signed it, the money is still owed.”
Kashfi, who, as of Feb. 16, had not received the CSU’s mandate holding her liable, was adamant in saying that the total amount owed is accurate. The $1 million discrepancy in membership fees, according to Kashfi, was brought to the the CSU’s attention when a “university official” told her the university had not been collecting the fees properly.
Each year, the university collects all fees – including tuition, fee levies and health plan payments â€” from students. When applicable, the CSU then requests the university provides a payment of a specific amount to a certain organization.
While the university collects these fees on a per-credit basis, the CFS charges per student per year.
Part of the debt was incurred when CSU executives of the past neglected to adjust the fees to the Canadian consumer price index, as is required according to the membership agreement. Not once since the CSU joined the CFS has it adjusted the fees.
Another sizeable portion of the debt, according to Kashfi, was accumulated from the failure of the CSU to pay any fees for students in the John Molson School of Business and the faculty of Engineering and Computer Science.
“It’s a lot of money, but it’s what’s owed,” Kashfi said bluntly. “If anything I did a service to the CSU by stopping the CFS from collecting the debt all at once.”
Using the average CPI of two per cent, and Concordia’s current CFS’s fee of approximately $200,000, the Concordian failed to arrive at the same total.
A question that stayed with Dabchy, however, was why his executive was never informed of this large debt. “If the next executives will have to be paying $10,000, it’s something we should know.”
To this, Kashfi recalled the tension and hostility that flowed between the two executive slates last year. “Whenever we met, which wasn’t often, it was hostile,” she said. “And they never really asked about the state of the union.”
While Kashfi remains confident she acted appropriately and even served to benefit the union, Dabchy won’t budge on his assertion that she acted “maliciously.”
“She is helping the CFS. This gets them more time before we can hold our referendum.”
The CSU announced this week that it will be seeking an court order, forcing the CFS to set a referendum date.
The CFS could not be reached before press time.