Online opt-out discussions began without consulting fee-levy groups, documents reveal

Disclosure: The Concordian is a fee-levy group

The CSU had maintained that it would consult with fee-levy groups to implement an online opt-out system

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Concordia administration began development of the online opt-out system before consulting with fee-levy groups, newly-surfaced emails reveal. 

Conversations between CSU General Coordinator Chris Kalafatidis and Dean of Students Andrew Woodall date as far back as December 2019, despite the CSU’s promise to develop the opt-out system in consultation with fee-levy groups. The groups were not consulted until months later.

Students voted in favour of the online opt-out system in a referendum last November. The new opt-out system would no longer require students to contact each individual fee-levy organization in order to retract their shares.

One of several requests made through Kalafatidis’s emails was the addition of  a “check-box” feature, which would enable students to click on the groups they do not wish to support. Other requests included a limited selection period and a record of opt-outs that could be accessed by fee-levy groups.

Fee-levy organizations such as The Concordian, The Link, CJLO, Sustainable Concordia, and People’s Potato receive most, if not all, of their funding from student fees. Most groups charge less than 0.40ȼ per credit. 

“Moving the system online makes it impartial,” said a Sustainable Concordia employee in an interview last November. “It makes people make hasty decisions that they don’t understand the consequences of, and it shuts down the conversation before it even starts.”

Many groups perceive online opt-outs as a threat to their survival and, in turn, the well-being of students.

“Online opt-out … has destroyed organizations that students have spent years building,” said the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) in a statement. “With that, fee levies have been working to help all our students, particularly those in financially precarious positions.”

News of the correspondence between the CSU and the administration surfaced through a Facebook post made by CSU Councillor Margot Berner. The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

According to Berner, Kalafatidis failed to obtain approval from the council before contacting the administration.

“The council is the decision making body of the Union,” wrote Berner. “Executives are supposed to execute those decisions. Not take it upon themselves to pitch their own ideas to the admin.”

Kalafatidis told The Link yesterday that he was mandated to speak to the administration as soon as the referendum passed. He said that only non-negotiable aspects were discussed.

“I was firm that these were only ‘immediate asks’ and not the final recommendation,” he said.

Woodall had asked Kalafatidis to confirm that no formal demands had yet been made in an email sent December 20.

“Clearly, the way that you conduct the consultation will be important and, without stepping into territory that isn’t my business, I urge you to spend some good effort on this,” he wrote.

Online opt-outs are to be implemented in September 2020.

Update: The emails between Chris Kalafatidis and the Concordia administration were discussed in a CSU council meeting last week. A motion to keep the original September timeline for the launch of the online opt-out system was tabled indefinitely. 




Archive graphic by Le Lin.


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