Concordia Student Union motions to create a working group to review health and dental plan services
In a letter sent to Concordia Student Union internal affairs coordinator Veronika Rydzewski, Alliance pour la Santé Étudiante au Québec (ASEQ) CEO Lev Bukhman denied allegations that he provided gifts or benefits to CSU general coordinator Omar Riaz and finance coordinator Soulaymane El Alaoui.
Bukhman’s letter comes after Riaz and El Alaoui were issued formal warnings by the CSU on Sept. 20 for accepting plane tickets from ASEQ to Vancouver for the Student Union Development Summit (SUDS) conference held at the University of British Columbia from Aug. 18 to 21.
At the Sept. 20 council meeting, the council decided to designate Rydzewski as the new liaison between the CSU and ASEQ. Bukhman wrote: “At no time did [ASEQ] or its CEO, Lev Bukhman, provide a personal gift or benefit to Omar Riaz and Soulaymane El Alaoui.” Instead, ASEQ’s CEO described the plane tickets as a “sponsorship” that should “in no way be construed as a personal ‘gift.’”
According to Bukhman, “the sponsorship was from [ASEQ] to the CSU as an organization, not any particular individuals.”
Creation of a working group
A working group was created by the CSU to research ways to improve the union’s health and dental plan service. According to El Alaoui, the CSU’s last contract with ASEQ—the union’s healthcare provider—was signed in April 2017 and allows for the creation of a working group.
El Alaoui is one of five CSU executives and councillors in the group, along with Riaz, Rydzewski, councillors Rowan Gaudet and Rory James, and CSU general manager Robert Henri.
Riaz and El Alaoui previously told The Concordian that the idea to bring services in-house came from the SUDS conference where they observed the work of UBC’s Alma Mater Society—the university’s own student union. The Alma Mater Society, which also has a contract with ASEQ, brought its health and dental plan services in-house, meaning UBC students can access ASEQ services on campus.
During the council meeting on Oct. 25, El Alaoui said the union would be able to save more than $100,000 if it brought some of ASEQ’s services in-house. The finance coordinator added that bringing services in-house would create jobs for students.
The working group will not be a decision-making committee. Rather, it will bring recommendations to the CSU council that will be voted on.
Gaudet said it was “very obvious that [the CSU] could provide those services for cheaper.” Riaz explained students often come to the CSU office with questions regarding their health and dental plans, and receptionists have to redirect students to call ASEQ’s operators.
The CSU general coordinator added that all communication between the working group and ASEQ would be done through Rydzewski because of El Alaoui and Riaz’s ban from communicating with ASEQ.
By-elections referendum questions
The council approved the questions for the CSU’s next by-elections, which will run from Nov. 28 to 30.
Two of the questions are related to internships. The first will ask students if they are in favour of removing the requirement that mandatory internships in the departments of applied human sciences, education and art education be unpaid.
Because of the uneven level of support for internships from one department to another, according to the CSU, the second question will ask if students are in favour of “establishing a standardized system and placement protocol for all student internships.”
The CSU will also ask if students would approve of adding four new positions to its position book, including: “that the CSU oppose racism in all forms and rejects all values, structures and behaviours that perpetuate systemic racism.”
The last question will ask students if they are in favour “of Concordia University refusing to enforce” Bill 62. The refusal to enforce the bill would extend to students, staff and faculty who choose to practice their right to religious freedom.
Photo by Kirubel Mehari