Newly-appointed treasurer driving force in PepsiCo debacle

The end of last semester saw the creation of an Office of the Treasurer within Concordia University’s administration and the appointment of Marc Gauthier, former executive director of finance and business operations, to the position of university treasurer.

Gauthier was heavily criticized by student groups in 2010 for his role in the renewal of the university’s exclusive food and beverage contract with PepsiCo. This resulted in Concordia student Laura Beach filing a mise en demeure, a notice that a legal challenge could be pursued, against Gauthier along with Johanne De Cubellis, associate director of Hospitality Concordia and Michael Di Grappa, former Concordia VP services and current VP administration and finance at McGill.

Co-founder of TAPthirst, an environmental initiative promoting tap water over bottled, Beach cites a lack of student consultation as the motivation behind her legal warning. She had been in talks with Gauthier and De Cubellis about an alternative option to renewing the PepsiCo contract.

“I gained 35 signatures of faculty members from every faculty on campus as well as hundreds of student signatures towards the negotiation of a more sustainable food and beverage contract,” said Beach, who is now an undergraduate representative on the Board of Governors.

She claims she was promised by Gauthier and De Cubellis in a verbal agreement that no negotiations regarding the food and beverage contract would take place until Beach, representing TAPthirst, the university, and a representative from PepsiCo all sat down.

But things ended up taking a different turn, according to Beach.

“In September it became clear that negotiations had taken place already with PepsiCo. Not only that, but they’d already signed an agreement in principle and they were about to sign a contract,” said Beach.

By October, students began to rally against the proposed contract. A protest was held at Norman Bethune Square and students staged a sit-in at the GM building just outside Hospitality Concordia’s offices. The university went through with the deal regardless, signing the exclusive food and beverage contract with PepsiCo on Oct. 29, Di Grappa’s last day at Concordia before leaving for McGill.

While Beach expressed doubts whether the Office of the Treasurer will have any direct effect on students, she remains concerned given her past experiences.

Sustainable Concordia, an opponent of the signing of the PepsiCo contract in 2010, declined to comment.

The Office of the Treasurer itself is a new concept at Concordia that came as a result of a business management decision. The position of university treasurer was created with the aim of “bringing together different financial projects at the university under a single managerial focus,” said university spokesperson Chris Mota.

In addition to Gauthier, Sara Deschamps, Maryse Picard, and Jean-François Baril will be working in the Office of the Treasurer as administrative assistant, administrator of the benefit portfolio, and corporate risk manager, respectively.

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