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CSU slates take different approaches to campaigning

The first week of CSU elections may have brought the familiar sights of classroom speeches and poster-covered walls, but the two slates have actually taken very different approaches to campaigning thus far.

Specifically, the two party leaders have expressed different goals for their interaction with students during the campaign period.

Your Concordia’s presidential candidate Lex Gill said her slate is generally running a different sort of campaign than the CSU has seen in recent years, “one that’s focused on building meaningful relationships with students; asking people what they want before we tell them we’re representing them; creating dialogue; acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers but that we believe that we’re able to work together to make Concordia a better place.”

Action’s presidential candidate Khalil Haddad, on the other hand, said that, while his primary goal of campaigning is simply speaking to as many students as possible, his team stood out because they were offering students answers, rather than only asking them questions. “If you were to look at our campaign points, they’re all concrete and feasible. It’s all the steps that we need to take, everything is clear, it’s not about fluff talk,” he said. “We want to know what [the students] want but at the end of the day we need to propose solutions and see what the course of action is for next year. I think that’s our main strength.”

The two slates have differed in their campaigning practices as well. For example, while Action’s presidential candidate Khalil Haddad and his teammates can often be seen hanging around the mezzanine chatting with students on their way to or from class, Your Concordia’s leader Lex Gill said her slate had intentionally taken a step away from traditional tactics, including what she referred to as essentially “spamming” people.

“It’s important for us to maintain some presence there but we don’t feel like we win any sort of meaningful support by screaming at people in the hall or creating tunnels of our candidates so that they’re forced to walk through,” Gill said. “So we’re trying to move away from that as well. It’s not a football game, it’s an election.”

Both groups have also maintained a continuous presence online, each staying active on Facebook and their respective websites. The Your Concordia team has posted three videos for their campaign to team Action’s two. But the former stands out for its use of a blog, on which it posts and responds to student’s suggestions and questions as collected in person or in a section of their website called the idea generator.

While the CSU’s past elections have been known to be riddled with political attacks and cheating, this year chief electoral officer Oliver Cohen has yet to hand out any sanctions. He said that contestations had been filed regarding poster violations, but that he has “been dealing with it accordingly, speaking with both the parties and resolving the issues as civilized, mature human beings.”

From Cohen’s point of view, the first week of campaigning went very smoothly. “It’s been pretty clean overall and everybody’s been focusing on the campaign and less on the petty politics which is a good sign.”

Haddad, who was unwilling to say anything positive or negative in regards to the Your Concordia campaign or its slate members, also said that he had tried to emphasize a clean and positive campaign to his own team members from the beginning and, in his belief, it had paid off. “This year I think it’s been very good because we’ve been talking with the other slate as well, we’ve been very friendly about it,” he said. “If there are any concerns we bring it up to each other. So there have not been any major negatives.”

However, Gill seemed to have a different outlook on the situation. While admitting that it had been cleaner than in previous years, the Your Concordia leader said that some of her teammates felt the Action members hadn’t acted properly during poster night. “There was a dialogue about behaving with respect, integrity, not pushing and shoving; that poster night was not an election, that posters don’t vote. We wanted to start off on that foot,” Gill said. “I feel like some of my candidates felt those values were not as upheld by the other side.”

She also said she had filed an informal complaint with the CEO about postering, followed by a formal contestation when no action was taken on the issue. Gill was however quick to point out that Cohen was working with what she called flawed electoral rules which made it difficult to act when rules are broken. “This is definitely a problem with structure of the CSU standing regulations and bylaws which make it very difficult for the CEO to impose sanctions or enforce any rules,” she said. “So perhaps there’s a sense that he’s been unresponsive but there’s also the question of what he can do about certain things.”

The CEO did agree that the rules were ambiguous as they stood, but said he had only decided against imposing sanctions on the postering contestations because he didn’t feel “that a team that puts a poster in a wrong place, aside from having them remove it, should be sanctioned harshly because of it.”

“I don’t want it to come to a point where these violations would be used as a political tactic for slates to use to damage the other person’s campaign,” Cohen continued.

But this lenient approach isn’t beneficial from Gill’s perspective. “I think that stronger sanctions in a culture where electoral rules were properly addressed would make for a healthier democratic process,” she said.

She also said that the Your Concordia slate was playing the fairest game possible “to see if it’s even possible to win a CSU election by following the rules. Part of this is an experiment.”

A candidate debate is set to take place on March 23 between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. in room H-110, with a second debate organized by CUTV potentially taking place later in the week.

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City in brief

5 Days campaign a success

Concordia volunteers who participated in the annual 5 Days for the Homeless campaign last week managed to raise more money than the other 21 participating Canadian universities, successfully meeting their $35,000 goal. The event saw volunteers sleep on the street for five days to raise money and awareness for Dans la rue, a Montreal organization that helps the city’s homeless. The participants’ first day on the street turned out to be the most successful in the initiative’s four-year history at Concordia, raising $4,500.

JSA and CPSA to disappear, for now

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations is set to lose two of its member associations, at least for now, as they were unable to attract candidates for their executive elections earlier this month. According to ASFA VP internal Nicole Devlin, the Journalism Student Association and the Concordia Physics Students Association will always have the possibility of holding by-elections in the fall to fill the positions. The JSA had even tried to extend its nomination period in order to attract candidates, but to no avail, said president Emily White, also life editor at the Concordian. The JSA received close to $2,900 in funding this year from ASFA, and it remains a possibility for journalism or physics students to apply for ASFA student-at-large funding if they wish to plan activities. The CPSA held fall byelections in 2010 to fill empty seats. According to Devlin, there are also a handful of MAs who did not manage to find candidates to fill all of their executive positions in this year’s MA elections.

ConU building updates

Two major infrastructure projects at Concordia are apparently moving along nicely, according to the university’s media relations office. At the Hall building, a new escalator will be installed by late April between the lobby and the mezzanine. Because these repairs will be noisy, they will take place outside of business hours and because the large escalator will have to be brought into the building through a window, there may be traffic disruptions on Bishop and De Maisonneuve. At the GM building, a large crane will begin tearing away at the exterior walls on March 26, in order to give the building a new shell by 2012. During construction, some GM occupants will be moved temporarily, and passersby are encouraged to access the building via the EV building.

 

Concordia’s little mystery

Concordia continues to investigate the origins of an ancient sculpture it has had in its possession for a decade and put on display last week in hopes of gaining new answers from members of the public. Identified as “The Starving of Saqqara,” the limestone sculpture features two sitting figures with large heads and includes an inscription in an unidentified language. The artifact was donated to the university in the 1990s by the estate of Vincent and Olga Diniacopoulos, who had amassed a large collection of ancient artifacts that are now dispersed in museums around the world. The word “Saqqara” refers to the vast burial ground in the ancient Egyptian capital Memphis, but how it came to be associated with the sculpture remains unclear. The university has lovingly dubbed the mystery “CSI: Concordia Sculpture Investigation.”

 

It won’t collapse, we promise

The federal government pledged $158 million last week toward repairing the Champlain Bridge, while telling drivers that the structure is still safe. The money has been added on top of the $212 million the government already pledged in 2009 toward repairs and maintenance. Despite the government’s assurances, two reports from a federal bridge agency leaked to La Presse last Friday found that certain sections of the Champlain are in a severe state of deterioration that could progress exponentially. The agency noted that a partial or complete collapse of the bridge should not be ruled out. Opened in 1962, Champlain is Canada’s busiest bridge with more than 60 million drivers a year.

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CSU pres takes responsibility for inaction at BoG

While none of the issues raised by outgoing CSU executive Morgan Pudwell in her letter of resignation were addressed at council, the remaining executives spoke out again on Monday, maintaining that most of her allegations we completely false. The one exception is the issue of university governance, on which president Heather Lucas conceded that she could have done more to follow her mandate within the Board of Governors.

“I was mandated by council to bring up to the Board the issues that [were voted on at the last council meeting],” Lucas said, referring to the February meeting that saw council pass a motion put forward by students at the Informational General Meeting. The motion mandated the student representatives on the Board to call for the resignation of all external members of that body. “I didn’t get the opportunity to,” she continued. “I take responsibility for not presenting that at the Board, simply because I had come late.”

These comments come in response to a section of Pudwell’s letter in which she states that the IGM and council motions “have not been upheld by the student representatives at the board. The representatives have failed to make these wishes clear, and at the most recent meeting, failed to say anything at all.”

Yesterday, Pudwell reasserted these statements, saying “[the students] gave [Lucas] basically what they wanted her to say and it still hasn’t been said. I don’t think that’s okay.”

In her letter Pudwell also pointed out that “council has yet to receive a written report from any BoG representative, despite their clear and codified duty to do so.”

On this note, Lucas said that these reports have traditionally been given orally and then recorded in the minutes but that she was willing to make the change to written reports if council really felt it necessary.

While she’s ready to take the fall for her actions at the last Board meeting, and said she will definitely bring up these issues at the next meeting, Lucas and the rest of the executive are not apologizing for their other efforts in representing students on the governance issue.

“I think what needs to be clarified is what we did and what more we can do,” said VP Loyola and advocacy Hassan Abdullahi.

Abdullahi listed all of the things the CSU has done since the university’s governance became a clear concern of students in the late winter:  holding the IGM, passing the IGM motions in council, taking those motions to Senate and supporting them in that body, emailing Board chair Peter Kruyt and even sitting down with the university’s new president Frederick Lowy. “So in our position we’ve done everything we possibly could have on the governance issue and it’s still not enough,” Abdullahi said. “We understand students are still upset but we need them to come to us and tell us what more we can do.”

Lucas echoed the need for student involvement, saying “I’ve made a mistake. Help me do a better job, help me push for what you want me to push for. If I don’t know what these concerns are besides the fact that you’re angry, how can we productively bring this forth to the BoG?”

In response to these comments, Pudwell said that at the last executive meeting, Lucas herself admitted not enough had come out of Senate. Pudwell  also said she asked to be included in the meeting with Lowy, a request Lucas ignored. “I asked her to say that we are a team that represents a large group of students,” Pudwell explained, “and the reason we were elected as a team is because we represent different views and different people and she said she would ask him.” But according to Pudwell, Lucas later admitted never even raising the question of bringing all the executives to the meeting and, as a result, she still has no idea what was discussed in that meeting.

As for the CSU’s future efforts on the issue, the remaining executives said that they are currently working on a governance review package, in which they plan to address what they called the ‘flawed’ format of the Board.

 

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Your electronics are likely supporting violence in the Congo: student group

In purchasing cellphones, laptops and other assorted electronics, you likely play a role in ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This isn’t something you can easily avoid, but it is something a new organization at Concordia is trying to address, one signature at a time.

The Concordia Initiative for a Conflict-Free Campus was created by students Aidan Pine and Melissa Kabasele last October as a way of raising awareness about what they felt was a major problem receiving too little attention: the role that mining gold, tin, coltan, tantalum and tungsten have in financially supporting the groups behind the ongoing, devastating violence in the DRC since the Rwandan Genocide.

“The significance of these is that they’re found in every consumer electronic,” Pine said. “Tungsten is what makes your cell phone vibrate, tantalum holds a battery charge, tin is used in everything, gold is used in everything.”

Due to their wide use, Pine said electronics companies often just follow the supply chain, without necessarily tracing the minerals back to the source. “Probably the biggest problem is that there is not a single company that can claim to be conflict mineral free.”

The CICC has been circulating a petition to student and community groups since the fall which they hope is an important first step in pressuring companies to avoid using conflict minerals in their products. The petition essentially pushes Concordia to recognize the problem in the Congo, as well as their own indirect role in driving it forward through their large annual investments in electronics that probably contain those conflict minerals.

“Concordia university has 158 electronics products companies that they have annual contracts with, some of which are in the tune of a few million dollars,” Pine said, which he believes gives the University the ability to exert some pressure. This is why the petition also asks that they push this message to the companies they invest in, in the hopes that in the long-term these corporations will, in the interest of maintaining their consumer base, begin to trace their supply chains and seek conflict-free minerals for their production processes.

The group is planning on presenting this petition to the Board of Governors at the end of March in the hopes of getting their endorsement and having it included in the University’s Official Electronics Procurement Policy. In the mean time, they are continuing to collect signatures from other groups, most recently the Concordia Student Union at last week’s council meeting.

The petition has also already been signed by campus groups including Sustainable Concordia, the Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program, as well as external organizations like the Communauté Congolaise de Montréal and youth organization Alliance de Jeunes Congolais.

“So far the student support has been very, very effective,” said CICC administrator Aaron Barcant. He noted that a January screening of conflict-mineral documentary Blood in the Mobile at Cinema Politica created a lot of “buzz.”

“We had a significant amount of people coming to volunteer,” he said. “So that was very supportive and influential on us and that inspired us to take further action.”

They will be trying to continue this buzz with a free panel discussion on March 22. The Concordia International Forum on Conflict Minerals will feature Blood in the Mobile director Frank Poulsen, as well as Canadian member of parliament and vocal supporter of the cause Paul Dewar, among others.

While they recognize that without any companies who guarantee the use of conflict-free minerals, the petition is non-binding in effect, the CICC sees it as a necessary short-term step in a long-term process.

“We send a message up the chain,” Barcant said. “It is our belief that once enough people at organizations and in communities start demanding this, just as it happened in the conflict with blood diamonds, a company will take the initiative and open their supply chain, make it transparent and start providing this service.”

 

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Proposal for closed session turns CSU council into a shouting match

As CSU president Heather Lucas brought forth a motion to enter closed session at last week’s council meeting, a clearly divided room of councillors and students at large quickly devolved into a disorganized shouting match that ultimately ended the night early.

Lucas and the executive maintain that only certain HR issues related to former VP Morgan Pudwell’s resignation were to be discussed in closed session and a majority of councillors agreed, passing her motion soon after it was proposed.

“I think it’s very important right now and there’s a lot of personal and sensitive information, not only on Morgan Pudwell’s side, but as well for the CSU executive and council,” said VP Hassan Abdullahi on the motivation for the motion. “However, given her allegations on finances being very grave we take that very personally, so that will be addressed in public session and we will not need to address that in closed session.”

But members of the audience and the minority of councillors who voted against the motion made it blatantly clear that they would not leave, at risk of being left out of the loop on the questionable details surrounding Pudwell’s departure and the accusations that went with it.

“I think that this is a travesty,” yelled student Alex Matak over the murmurs and calls to order that followed the passing of the motion. “I’m inviting everyone here who just got a gag put on you to stay in the room with me because I’m not leaving unless you can physically carry me out Heather Lucas.”

“I think for a union that calls for transparency and accountability all the time it would be wildly hypocritical to go into closed session right now,” said councillor Michaela Manson before the motion was passed. Manson was one of a small group of councillors who voted against Lucas’ motion that included Lex Gill, Joel Suss and Heba Abdel-Hamid.

The discussion that followed the motion was scattered, conflictive in many cases and all of it essentially took place outside of the realm of council since any further discussion of opening the meeting would have needed to take place in closed session, something the executive loudly reminded the overwhelmed chair of repeatedly as he struggled to mediate the situation.

photo by David Vilder

The situation became so heated that VP finance Ramy Khoriaty phoned security, asking them to come to the room in case of an incident. When asked about making the call, Khoriaty initially denied it. But when confronted with the fact that he was witnessed phoning them, he admitted that he had phoned because he is a member of Concordia’s Emergency Response Team and was responsible in case of an emergency. “I saw that there might be some conflict, and so that no one got hurt and everything went smoothly I wanted a security agent on the spot,” he said following the meeting, emphasizing that security was called to be on stand-by and not to remove students from the room. Khoriaty added “before I called security [the chair] was searching for a phone to call security. So it was after the chair’s approval.”

While emotions flared, councillor Stephen Brown attempted to present a neutral stance following the motion. Standing up and loudly commanding the crowd’s attention, Brown stated “Now if we have a sit in and we have to call security upstairs then we don’t get down to any of the issues. Nobody gets to see the numbers. I don’t get to see the numbers.”

“Look, nobody’s coming after Morgan with pitchforks and torches,” he continued. “We are a civilized society. This is an institution of learning. And we’re going to do things the legal way.”

But the mass of individuals on both sides of the issue weren’t willing to compromise, and with discussion of the agenda at an impasse, the chair was prompted to, and agreed to, adjourn the meeting.

The CSU has announced a special council meeting tomorrow night to tackle only a few of the many agenda points that were not addressed last week. Pudwell’s resignation will not be addressed at the meeting, though a full financial report will be given by Khoriaty.

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CSU council ends in shouting match

Morgan Pudwell reads aloud her resignation letter at council.

The subject of former VP Morgan Pudwell’s resignation quickly polarized about 100 attendees at Wednesday’s Concordia Student Union council meeting. As tensions erupted a stunned chair decided to adjourn the meeting much earlier than expected.

The agenda topic started off relatively calmly as both Pudwell and the CSU were given the opportunity to read their statements, each followed by applause from their select groups of supporters, and Amine Dabchy’s statement was read out by the chair.

But a quick motion to enter closed session made by CSU president Heather Lucas set off the war of words between supporters of both sides in the packed room. While Pudwell said the personal issues at hand were about her and all students were welcome to hear them, VP Hassan Abdullahi countered saying that the HR issues to be discussed also involved personal issues for other executives and could touch on candidacy in upcoming elections, which would be a violation of electoral rules for those involved.

Councillors eventually took part in a vote, with a majority approving the motion for closed session. But this passage in turn set off some of the students at large, including Alex Matak, who said she would not leave unless Heather Lucas picked her up and carried her out.

Many councillors and students at large exchanged heated words over the transparency of the CSU and the commitment to procedure. With students refusing to leave the room for closed session, VP finance and clubs Ramy Khoriaty phoned campus security, he said “in case of an
incident.”

Chair Marc-Antoni Tarondo attempted to mediate and listen to students, but executive members told him he had no right to speak and move forward until they entered close session. After minutes of back and forth yelling, Tarondo was advised to simply adjourn the meeting early, which he did.

The Concordian will have a full story in next week’s issue with commentary from councillors, executives and students in attendance.

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CSU VP Morgan Pudwell resigns, calls out executive’s actions

VP Pudwell quits, leaving behind a trail of questions

Morgan Pudwell, VP sustainability and promotions for the CSU, has resigned, marking the fourth resignation of a CSU executive this academic year.

In her letter of resignation, sent out to CSU councillors, student media and other members of the Concordia community late last Thursday, Pudwell wrote “The union continues to move in a direction that directly conflicts with my values and this is a path that I cannot support.”

The remaining members of the executive have offered a different reason as to why they believe she resigned, however. “If she felt all this stuff from the beginning, why is she saying this a week before elections are happening?” said CSU president Heather Lucas. “Why not in January? Why not right before the new semester begins? The timing is very sketchy.”

VP Loyola and Advocacy Hassan Abdullahi elaborated, saying “Ultimately, it is an opinion of ours that the series of unfortunate events that have occurred starting with her resignation are politically motivated ones.

“We feel that the CSU is being used as a battleground for petty politics, and as the CSU executives we’re duty-bound to uphold the integrity of the CSU so it does not get mingled into such behaviour,” he continued.

Pudwell agreed that it was politically motivated, “in the sense that this is an important time of year for students to start thinking about representation on campus and I think it’s important they know what representation has been pretending to be this year.” As for running, she would only say that she wanted to get involved in some way to make sure students interests were represented at Concordia, but that she had no plans as of yet.

But as for her reasons for resigning, Pudwell reiterated that her confidence in the executive had been declining since the student centre campaign in November, and said that an executive meeting last Wednesday really sealed her decision to resign. “They basically went around the table and said they didn’t trust me,” she explained. “They went around the table and said they didn’t think I did my job and […] they sort of criticized my involvement with other student leaders on campus.”

Lucas presented a very different picture of that meeting, saying that “We had basically hashed everything out; we had talked about our issues that we had, and we talked very frankly and openly, and there was no indication about her resigning or her leaving the team.”

“She was a part of the team; we considered her a part of the team. She was a part of the family,” she added.

But the feeling wasn’t shared. “I think it got so bad that I couldn’t address it in any other way but resigning,” Pudwell said. “As much as I tried to say that this is a two-way street and we should all be working on things, it sort of always felt like it was everyone against me.”

What started off as a group of eight executives has dwindled down to a group of five, and one that looks much different than the Fusion slate elected by students last spring. First, VP finance-elect Nikki Tsoflikis resigned before ever even entering office. She was followed by the surprise resignation of president Prince Ralph Osei who left his seat to pursue higher education in Europe. Then last month Tsoflikis’ replacement Zhuo Ling resigned citing the time commitment.

But none of those executives left in as conflictive a fashion as Pudwell.

In her letter of resignation, the former VP goes on to highlight various areas in which she disagreed with, or was unhappy with the course of action taken by the CSU and its executive.

The controversy regarding the student centre was one such area, as Pudwell asserted that she was “lead to believe that the executive had been working to change the exploitative currently existing contract with the administration,” but that the changes to the contract, and serious efforts to consider alternatives to the Faubourg, were not made.

VP external and projects Adrien Severyns disagreed. “During the campaign, and prior to the campaign, I sat down with her on a couple of occasions and spoke with her and asked her if she had any concerns and if she wanted to talk about specific points regarding the campaign or contract.”  But he said she did not express any concerns until right before the voting period, something Pudwell explaining saying she simply trusted the other executives but became alarmed following newspaper articles and many student complaints. She also said she was then simply pressured to support the executive on the issue.

Former CSU president and student Board of Governors representative Amine Dabchy’s involvement in the CSU was also called into question by Pudwell in a section of her letter titled “Questionable Alliances.” She wrote that he has “clearly disregarded the needs of students” on the Board and has failed to follow CSU bylaws and report to council. According to Pudwell, Dabchy had clear influence over the executive, shown by his ability to call an executive meeting despite no longer being an executive, and the tendency of certain Board members to relay messages to students trhough him rather than directly through current president Lucas.

Dabchy released his own statement in response to the allegations, saying that he attended a council meeting to report on the situation and was open to questions, among other things. As for the CSU, Lucas said Dabchy “is on his own. He has no influence on this executive.” She also added “We’re friends and I’m not going to apologize for my friendship with Amine Dabchy.”

Pudwell also said she has spoken to someone who was approached by Heather and subsequently brought into meetings with Dabchy in regards to forming a team to run in the upcoming CSU elections. “There’s been a few people come forward saying that they’ve been approached by other executives to be on this team,” she said. “I’ve heard from a few people that they’re involved in some way or another.”

Lucas vehemently denied these allegations and any personal involvement in forming a team. “This is absolutely not true. I’m busy with two portfolios, I take two classes, I don’t give a shit. I have no time for that,” she said.

Other areas of concern cited by Pudwell in her letter included “University Governance,” “Potential Financial Mismanagement,” and “Lack of Trust and Respect.”

Ultimately, Pudwell wrote “I hope that my resignation will encourage the current CSU to re-evaluate their actions, and to turn back to the students. We are all implicated in these failures; the CSU is only as strong as its members, and we must continue to expect more.”

While the CSU was not willing to accept her allegations, Abdullahi did say “I think we can be held accountable on one aspect of this entire thing. And that is not being able to resolve our differences at this table. It’s really unfortunate that this event turned out to be made into a broad public event. We really believe that we could have resolved this issue.”

Most of Pudwell’s accusations were denied in a letter sent out by the remaining CSU executive the day of her resignation. In that letter, the executive also wrote that they hoped Pudwell will attend this week’s CSU council meeting, which she has confirmed that she will be doing.

For the rest of the year her portfolio will be split between Andres Lopez (promotions) and Abdullahi (sustainability).

Morgan Pudwell’s Letter of Resignation

Letter from the CSU

Statement from Amine Dabchy

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Small group of protesters calls for Link newspaper editor’s resignation

Protestors held signs and chanted ‘Hey, ho, Justin has to go.’ Photo by Tiffany Blaise

Approximately 20 protesters gathered near the Link newspaper office yesterday holding signs and chanting for the resignation of editor-in-chief Justin Giovannetti. The protest lasted less than 10 minutes before being broken up by security.

None of the protesters were willing to give their names or speak on the record about why they were calling for his resignation. An individual standing back from the group who claimed he himself wasn’t protesting but that he knew those behind it said that the protesters were upset about what they called the “slander” of CSU councillors in Link stories lately. He claimed that the protesters believe the slander was done in the interest of helping a potential campaign by councillor Lex Gill, who they say is in a relationship with Giovannetti.

Speaking after the protest, Giovannetti would not confirm or deny the relationship, saying it’s “none of their business.” He reiterated that if anyone had concerns about the Link, they could send letters or address the editors themselves by email or phone.

Giovannetti also said “It’s definitely strange that the same day that the CSU refuses to comment [to the Link] on the resignation of their fourth VP that there’s this protest and that they’re standing outside of it,” and insinuated in a tweet that the protest could have been an attempt to draw attention away from the CSU’s political issues.

Members of the CSU executive were seen watching the protest, and Giovannetti said they claimed to have heard it from their office one floor above, something he claimed is not realistic.

An email sent to the Concordian late Monday evening signed only by “Your Concordia Students” read “Students are not paying a fee to finance a political party; we want the Link to be independent and representative. We want the Link to live up to the prominent reputation that it has established. The protest was not against freedom of speech, it was against an editor who is tarnishing the reputation and credibility of one our school’s reputable social sources. Petitions are being signed.”

– With reporting from Sarah “Sweetie” Deshaies

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CSU’s financial practices, budget status called into question by resigning VP Pudwell

When the CSU’s VP sustainability and promotions Morgan Pudwell resigned last Thursday, she left a trail of accusations behind her, many of which focused on potential financial mismanagement within the student union. Pudwell wrote in her letter of resignation that the budget, as originally presented, was in fact entirely fabricated, that councillors and executives were told not to speak about the financial situation to anyone, and that nearly every budget line had been overspent.

All of these accusations have been denied by the remaining CSU executives, both in a statement and in interview with the Concordian. “There is in no way mismanagement of the budgets,” said current VP finance Ramy Khoriaty. “That’s an accusation that she doesn’t have any proof of.”

In her letter, Pudwell wrote that most budget lines had been overspent, explaining later that “In the budget that I was shown everything, even mail and office expenses, was pretty much over budget.” Khoriaty said this isn’t true, but that this was limited to three lines of spending: the speaker series, green initiatives and promotions budgets, and that these had been frozen as a result.

Additionally, Pudwell said that upon sitting down with Khoriaty she was told that certain items had been placed under her budget line that were not supposed to be there, including promotional material for orientation and mugs. “I was told when we ordered them that I was just doing the ordering simply because it was easier for the VP promotions to do all the ordering at once and it was cheaper,” she said. Khoriaty denied that extra expenses were added to her budget, though he admitted that a small error had been made which has since been corrected, a correction she said, if real, she had not been made aware of.

Due to the additions to her budget, the former VP said she was told that she had gone over budget and therefore had no finances at her disposal for the rest of this year. “With over half a semester left in office this left me in a position in which planned project and promised support/funding fell through,” she wrote in her letter.

And while Khoriaty denied any financial mismanagement and reasserted the CSU’s commitment to openness and transparency, having posted budgets online and having one on one sit-downs with each executive to go over finances, Pudwell alleged that she had not been given access to her own budget on multiple occasions. “I was specifically told that no executive would have access or be able to see their budget,” she said.

“Because of this secrecy,” she wrote in her letter, “I am still unaware of the CSU’s current financial status, despite having done everything in my power to find out. I question whether student money has been spent with respect for our members or in consideration of the law.”

Pudwell also said she was told not to speak about the union’s current financial situation, which CSU president Heather Lucas explained saying that executives were told not to speak about budgets because “they were numbers that were projected that we were waiting to get confirmed.” Lucas also said that in the end they had gotten both more and less money than expected from certain sources, resulting in changes to the initial budget Pudwell called ‘fabricated.”

The Concordian also requested financial documents from Khoriaty via email in late January, but received no response.

As of last night, a copy of the CSU’s projected budget, updated Mar. 4, was available for download on their website. For all except four fields however, the spending for this year to date is listed at $0.

Khoriarty says he will be giving a full, detailed budget report at the CSU council meeting tomorrow.

 

Categories
Music

The Concordian sits down with Andrew W.K., the self-proclaimed king of partying

Last Friday, musician, motivational speaker and self-proclaimed king of partying Andrew W.K. visited Concordia for an unconventional lecture that flew between topics like the detailed intricacies of an amazing sandwich, the festival of the Juggalos and depressing literature. The talk, presented by the Fine Arts Students Alliance, saw the man in white explain why he wanted to smash his bus driver into a brick wall, it saw him momentarily break into a solo hardcore dance, and one audience member wiping his own blood onto the speaker’s shirt. We doubt such antics have ever occurred in the walls of H-110 before. W.K. was also in town to perform a DJ set later that night as FASA’s contribution to the Art Matters Festival. But before either of those escapades took place, the Concordian sat down for a quick, but surprisingly insightful interview with him: 

Concordian: You’ve been interviewed by everyone from Narduar, to Fox News, to a young kid, so what’s your take on doing interviews?

Andrew W.K.: I like it and I’ve liked it always. I remember the first interview I did as Andrew WK and I couldn’t believe this person really just wants to talk to me. And even if they don’t, they’re being paid to talk to me. They have their questions, they’ve looked up things about me, I mean it’s a huge ego boost. So of course in that way I like it. But after that you wonder what can you do with this. Now that you have this chance to talk with someone what can you say. I’ve tried to keep it not only entertaining for the readers and for the writers but also for myself as well,, to find new answers. It’s like psychoanalysm or something, it really is. I’ve learned more about myself from doing interviews than any amount of psychotherapy ever could have done. And I guess it’s because you’re trying to come up with reasons for like ‘why did you write this song?’ Well I’ve never thought about it. It’s interesting, it’s very self-indulgent but I think it’s fun, it’s healthy. A long as you’re aware while you’re doing it that it’s completely absurd that anyone would want to talk to me to this degree, then everything’s okay. If you get too swept away with interviews you can enjoy them too much or grow to hate them like many people do. But to me it’s just a pleasure that you want to talk to me at all.

So you’ve been keeping busy, between your music, motivational speaking, your television show Destroy Build Destroy, the club that you own, you’re working on a breast cancer awareness campaign right now, etc. So how do you balance all of those things and which is your favourite?

My favourite is entertainment, show business, performing, or however you want to define this realm. As much as I am doing different things, they all fit under the same umbrella very, very clearly. I mean it’s easy for me, I’m not doing mathematics on one hand, social studies on the other hand; it’s pretty much partying and entertainment, all the good stuff. I grew up as someone who was into drawing, and painting, and music, and theatre and it just became very obvious that the entertainment industry would allow me to do all of those things. They are all justified, they all fit […] Anything I could ever think to do, not only has a place here, but is valuable here. So that’s what I love about it, I feel like I was born to work in this field.

So I noticed you tweeted this week that every day you write a to-do list, and the one you posted was : 1)party 2) party 3) party hard 4) call mom and dad 5) party harder. So where does work fit in?

Work is an interesting word. I used to kind of think you weren’t supposed to want to do work, and work isn’t a good thing and the whole goal of life was to work so hard that you wouldn’t have to work or something. But work, of course, is what life is all about. You’re working at all times at least just to survive. The only time you don’t work is when you’re going to sleep, but for me even that sometimes takes some work. But for me, if you enjoy the work that is like the greatest thing because putting energy and effort into something that you love and then seeing results from that, that may be one of the meanings of life. To have something to do and to do it well. To me that is partying hard. […] Work is different than a job. I don’t really ever want to have a job. I’ve had jobs and they sucked because that’s the type of work that is not fun. But work doesn’t have to be a job, it’s something I’ve just been realizing now. I work harder now than I actually did when I had regular jobs. But it’s a work that is so full of joy that I would never call it a job. A job is not good vibes.

What about the Arts Matters event drew you in?

Well for one I’m a big fan of Canada, so that was the easy part about it. And two, a fan of Montreal, I’ve spent quite a bit of time here. I also worked with some of the organizers for this event at a Canadian festival called Sled Island that I enjoyed very much. But at the same time this is my first university lecture anywhere in Canada, so I was very pleased. I mean I just can’t believe that I get invited to do this stuff so part of it is just embracing it before they change their mind and uninvited me.

What can one expect from an Andrew WK lecture?

That I will show up. That’s about the only thing that you can expect […] I have arrived, I’m here. And expectations beyond that? We’re just going to party hard.

What do you hope students get tout of all this?

That it puts them either further in touch or back in touch  or amplifies with whatever excitement or will they already have to party, enjoy themselves and to do what makes them happy. I’m just here to facilitate more of that feeling, to be a spokesperson for joy.

As someone who uses the word party extensively in songs, what’s your best party story?

Well it’s going to be a party story that we write tonight, I imagine, at this event. I leave it open. The greatest party is always ahead of me, the time of your life that you’ll remember forever is always in front of you and ideally every day is the best day you’ve ever had.

Let’s play the word association game:

Canada: St. Hubert

Destroy: Build

Fox News: Screaming face

Party: hard

Charlie Sheen: Winning, I guess. Bi-winning.

This week FASA will also be posting a full podcast of Andrew W.K.’s lecture on their website, fineartsstudentalliance.ca.

Categories
News

ASFA elections a mix of competitive and nonexistent races

Alex Gordon was elected president of ASFA with 662 votes in an election that saw a few tight races. Photo by writer

With very few people running, some candidates had little to worry about during last month’s Arts and Science Federation of Associations general elections. As the only candidate for president, for example, Alex Gordon was easily elected with 662 votes, representing 77.4 per cent of the total.

“I knew it was coming, so it wasn’t like it was a shock to me,” he said with a laugh. “But it was still a relief to know the elections were over and I could go back to not campaigning.”

Both the new VP social, Colman George Aucoin, and the new VP external and sustainability, Asma Omar, ran unopposed as well and were elected with around 70 per cent of the vote each.

But two of the other executive contests offered very tight races. The competition among VP internal affairs and VP academic and Loyola affairs candidates finished so closely that they will be subject to a mandatory recount this week, according to ASFA’s chief electoral officer Nick Cuillerier. As it stands, the victors of those races are Schubert Laforest and Christina Gentile, who beat out their competitors by only 11 and 25 votes respectively.

The recounts were put on hold during reading week because the CEO wanted both candidates present. Additionally, candidates have until March 8 to file contestations, though Cuillerier said he does not expect to receive any.

Among the remaining positions, Laura Gomez was elected as VP finance by a comfortable 16.7 per cent margin over her nearest competitor in the three-candidate race, and both Rachel Feldman and Madeline Griffin were elected as independent councillors, running without competition.

A byelection will be required next fall to elect a VP communications as well as third independent councillor in order to fill those vacancies.

Despite the end of elections coinciding with the beginning of reading week, president-elect Gordon says he has spoken to most of the members of his executive individually and that they will be meeting as a group soon. He will immediately be taking steps to strengthen next year’s ASFA by encouraging students who want to get involved to run for their member associations.

“[I want] to fill the member associations with people who really want to do good and who want to be involved,” Gordon said. “ASFA can’t function without the MAs and MAs can’t function without the students. So getting the member associations filled with good people is the next step.”

Categories
News

ASFA’s CEO focusing on election positives

The results of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations elections were released the Thursday before reading week and, while voter turnout decreased from a year earlier, there are many positives to be found, according to chief electoral officer Nick Cuillerier.

This year, the highest vote tally reached 888 according to the preliminary count, a decrease of approximately 33 per cent from last year which saw 1,317 students vote in the general elections. This year’s turnout represents roughly six per cent of the electorate and, while he was hoping for 10 per cent, Cuillerier said the smaller number of candidates, 12 to last year’s 28, should be taken into consideration when looking at the numbers.

“When you look at the amount of candidates running compared to last year, you’d think that we would have a lower voter turnout than actually occurred,” he said, explaining that each candidate’s campaign plays a big role in attracting voters.

The quorum of 375 voters, equivalent to 2.5 per cent of ASFA students, was also met on the first day, Cuillerier said, adding: “The votes per candidate were [almost] double what they were last year. So I think that’s an encouraging sign.”

This year two candidates received more than 600 votes, and a third was only 11 votes away from that number. In contrast, only two candidates surpassed 400 votes in 2010, but in those contests all votes were split between at least three candidates.

One of the other major positives the CEO has taken from the election period is the massive 90 per cent decrease in contestations, from 80 in 2010 to only four this year, only two of which resulted in sanctions. This is something Cuillerier credits to the removal of slates. “I was rather impressed with the candidate behaviour,” he said. “They filed contestations when they felt something was wrong, and sometimes indeed things were wrong. But in general the ‘individual slate system’ definitely removed a lot of the animosity that did occur last year in the elections.”

On that note, he also added that he believed this group of candidates was “focused on their own campaigns and not destroying other campaigns.”

More good signs to be found in this campaign according to Cuillerier were both the success of the Vanier Library lobby as a new polling station and the success of the executive summaries.

The VL lobby on the Loyola campus was the second most popular voting location out of the five ASFA set up this year, a 300 per cent increase compared to the votes garnered last year at the poll’s former location in the Administration building. “On the first day and halfway through the second day it was actually outpacing the Hall lobby which is the most popular voting station,” Cuillerier said.

As for the executive summaries, 75 per cent of voters at Loyola consulted the short candidate profiles, as did 40 per cent downtown, according to polling clerk tabulation. This amounted to approximately 500 people referring to the document at polling stations according to Cuillerier.

“The executive summary was by far one of the biggest successes in this election,” he said. “There was a lot of good feedback on it. I had a lot of people who came to the polling station and voted because they had those summaries there and they would have walked away if we didn’t have them.”

At the next ASFA council meeting, Cuillerier will be presenting his report on the elections. He said he will focus on three areas of possible improvement: The first will be a re-examination of the slate system, on which he will offer a recommendation as to how the lack of slates worked out; secondly, he will be advising the organization to adopt a social media policy into their annexes since “it’s not clear enough as to what candidates can and cannot do and this really hinders them in being creative [online].” Lastly, he will be examining “how to increase student participation while maintaining fairness.”

While voting totals didn’t turn out the way he hoped, and he would have liked to have seen more candidates, with all the changes made this past year Cuillerier said that they did achieve progress. “These are things that can continually be improved,” he explained. “The ultimate goal here is to get the average student interested in the voting process and I felt we started that foundation really solidly for years to come with this election.”

 

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