Have you been asked to join Golden Key?

An example of a Golden Key International Honour Society membership letter. Photo by Alex Cole

Questions and answers about Concordia’s chapter of the international honour society

An undergraduate student in actuarial mathematics, Lisa Ho was a bit surprised when she was sent an invitation to join the Golden Key International Honour Society. Nonetheless, she was glad to be “recognized for [her] academic achievement” at the Concordia Golden Key chapter’s New Membership Recognition event on Oct. 27.

Psychology students Maneli Nourzad and Mehrnoosh Pezeshk, who also attended the event, joined the honour society because they believed it would look good on their CVs.

The New Member Recognition event featured student leaders from Concordia’s Golden Key chapter, as well as Montreal-native and director of Golden Key Canada Ian Sankey. Speakers explained membership benefits and awarded honourary memberships to John Molson School of Business (JMSB) professor Karim Boulos and Concordia alumnus and Montreal-born break-dancer Luca Patuelli.

If the Golden Key International Honour Society sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve received a letter inviting you to join as well. According to the co-president of Concordia’s Golden Key chapter, Natasha Sabelli, undergraduate students in the top 15 per cent of their program are invited to join the non-profit organization. This amounts to approximately 1,000 letters being sent out across Concordia’s four faculties each year, according to Sabelli.

How is Concordia’s Golden Key chapter funded?

In an interview with The Concordian, Sabelli said “all the funding comes from members who join.” The chapter does not receive any money from Concordia. As the invitation to join the society discloses, each new member of Golden Key pays a one-time membership fee of $90.

“For every new member that joins the Concordia chapter, we receive $12 towards our chapter funding and $2 goes towards scholarship funding for the chapter,” Sabelli said. The remaining $76 goes to Golden Key’s headquarters to fund the more than $500,000 in scholarships distributed by the organization every year, Sabelli added. Some of that remaining money also goes towards conferences like the Golden Key Canadian Regional Summit (CANCON) which the Concordia chapter will host in Montreal in February 2018.

Of the 1,000 letters sent out to prospective members by the Dean of Students office, Sabelli estimates that 500 Concordia students join Golden Key each year.

Concordia’s chapter was formed in 2001 and averages about 1,000 members at the university in any given year, according to their website. There are over 400 chapters at universities across eight countries.

What does Concordia’s Golden Key chapter do?

According to Sabelli, Concordia’s Golden Key chapter has Chapter Gold Standard. To obtain this level, Sabelli said the chapter must have at least seven officers on the executive team, host a member recognition event and partake in philanthropic events and initiatives.

Brent Pearce, a JMSB professor and the faculty advisor to Concordia’s Golden Key chapter, mentioned the importance of the chapter’s charitable projects. Pearce got the chapter involved with his charity, Christmas 4 A Cause, an organization that provides Christmas gifts and other donations to underprivileged families and children in Montreal. “We put smiles on kids faces,” he said. “We provide Christmas for families in need.”

How does Golden Key obtain student information?

Technically, they don’t, not until students provide it. In an email to The Concordian, university spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr said, “the Dean of Students office identifies students who qualify for admittance to the Golden Key International Honour Society.” This means chosen students are responsible for contacting the organization and providing their personal information if they are interested in joining. “At no time does the university share personal student information with the Golden Key organization,” Barr wrote.

In April 2007, Golden Key was mentioned in a privacy complaint report filed against Ryerson University. A student at the Toronto university contacted the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC)—whose mandate is to promote open government and protect Ontarians’ privacy rights––concerning Golden Key’s access to students’ personal information.

Based on Ontario’s privacy legislation and the Ryerson University Act—which allows the university to collect student information for objectives such as advancements in learning––the investigator determined Ryerson did not reveal “students’ information prior to students’ acceptance of [Golden Key] invitations.”

What comes with joining Golden Key?

According to Pearce, joining Golden Key is a good opportunity for students to give back to the community, build a network of contacts and apply for scholarships and bursaries provided by Concordia’s Golden Key chapter and Golden Key’s International Honour Society.

According to Sabelli, the Concordia chapter gives out two to three scholarships totaling $1,500 to Golden Key members each year. The International Golden Key also awards a $1,500 to $5,000 scholarship to a Concordia chapter member annually, Sabelli added. In 2016, two Concordia students obtained bursaries from the Concordia chapter and one student received a bursary from the international organization, Sabelli said.

To Pearce, joining Golden Key gives members “a ready-made network of well over a million people in the world. […] The International Golden Key is everywhere.”

Photo by Alex Cole


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