A recent comment left on the Capilano Courier’s website has levelled accusations of mismanaged funds and failure to follow up with constituents against the CSU
Greta Kooy, News Editor
On Jan. 22, the Capilano Courier published an article titled Was CapRocks Really Worth the Cost?, an op-ed covering the Capilano Students’ Union’s (CSU) recent attempt at large-scale engagement on the North Shore campus. Following publication, the Courier received a comment posted under the email firstname.lastname@example.org, outlining specific concerns for a possible future petition.
The petition, written “on behalf of a group of concerned students”, covers issues “over CSU spending” and “mismanagement by its president and executive.” The unnamed students believe that “the CSU has failed to follow through with students who have emailed and requested in person for CSU services from executives, board members, and staff.” The comment criticized the CSU for being self-indulgent, alleging the organization is mishandling student funds and is “focused on profiting off of students with a healthy cash flow and distributing that money to their staff and executive.” A main concern was the lack of communication between students and CSU executives when requested. “We are tired and angry of their executive team padding their resumes and using student dollars to make themselves look good while failing to make real change on campus by responding to student requests for appeals, changes, advocacy, and planning which actually affect us as students for the positive,” the comment read.
Anna Rempel, CSU president and vice-president equity & sustainability, was the only person called out by name in the comment. “I want students to know that I am available to talk with them. I’m happy to meet with them, I’m happy to make sure that their emails are answered,” she said. “Same with our Executive Director [Christopher Girodat]. If there is a concern on any level, we’re always happy to talk and make sure that students feel like they are fairly represented because that’s what we are here to do. That’s why the Students’ Union exists, and I take that seriously.”
Rempel acknowledged the criticism the CSU has received for hosting expensive on-campus events like Captivate and CapRocks, even though CapRocks was sponsored and the University requested the CSU’s help in hosting the event. She also brought attention to the more educational events they put on. “When it comes to doing events… we’ve got a board of directors that wants to really increase engagement on campus,” she said. “We want to improve student life, that’s one of the four pillars of our strategic plan because we know that there’s a significant lack of it on campus. We’re trying to provide something that we think students want and that they’ll be able to enjoy. But not everyone wants to go to a party, and that’s alright.”
Yats Palat, vice-president student life, defended the CSU’s decisions to host large-scale events on campus, despite the criticism. “No matter what you do, you’ll always have someone who doesn’t agree with what you’re doing,” he said. “I cannot allow my leadership capacity to be intimidated every time someone puts out a statement saying, ‘I don’t agree with this’… because I have to live for the bigger perspective.” Since assuming his current role in 2017, Palat has been outspoken about increasing engagement among students on campus, making it a primary focus for the CSU.
“As I think with any student union, you do hear from students who have concerns around what exactly their fees are going towards, and we try and respond to those quickly and make sure that students are aware that all of our fees are decided on democratically,” said Rempel. “We are very transparent about what we’re spending money on.”
The CSU’s budgets are made available publicly online, along with their meeting agendas and minutes. Their meetings are also open to the public. “I think that it’s coming from a frustration of the way that the CSU does things, or from their perspective [on how the CSU] does things. But I welcome them to approach me directly about it,” Rempel said of the accusations leveled against the CSU.
The comment left on the Courier’s website included three requests: that the CSU implement a policy that all student requests are followed up with through email within 72 hours, that “students have their requests followed through by the correct individual,” and better, more transparent communication between the CSU, the University and its students.
According to Rempel, the CSU has not been contacted about a petition or received these requests. Every ask will be considered if someone does come forward and request specific changes. “We’re always going to do our due diligence and make sure that we ask the relevant questions and come to a decision that we think will benefit the society and the students the most,” she said.
The Capilano Courier reached out to the concerned individual(s) on several occasions requesting clarification, but they could not be reached for comment.