Concordia student Laura Beach has issued a mise en demeure – a notice of potential legal challenge – to three members of Concordia’s administration, including one who will take up a post at McGill later this month.
The mise en demeure is the latest in a series of student reactions to the renewal of Concordia’s exclusive beverage contract with Pepsico last Friday. The university’s current contract expires on December 10. Several student groups, including Sustainable Concordia and TAPThirst (Tap Drinkers Against Privatization), which Beach founded, opposed the renewal of the contract. They pointed out that renewing the exclusive contract would contradict the advice of Concordia’s own environmental advisory committee.
The discovery by Concordia students that a new contract was being signed on October 29 prompted a rally and sit-in to oppose both the contract and the secrecy with which it was negotiated. Beach was among the speakers at the rally, which took place on October 27 in Norman Bethune Square at Guy and Maisonneuve.
The mise en demeure, however, does not address the contract itself, but rather the lack of student consultation about the renewal of the contract. Beach claims that the university acted in bad faith by signing the contract while claiming that negotiations were not taking place.
Beach, also the Sustainable Ambassadors Coordinator for Sustainable Concordia, wrote in an email to The Daily, “The members of admin (Marc Gauthier and Johanne De Cubellis) made a verbal agreement with myself and Faisal Shennib that no negotiations/decisions regarding the beverage contract would be made prior to a meeting with myself, Faisal, Johanne, Marc and a representative from Pepsico. This verbal agreement was made in a meeting on May 12.”
“This promise was reiterated in an email from Johanne De Cubellis a month later,” she continued. “In September I received another email from Johanne, stating that there had been ‘no movement on the Pepsi file’ – however, by all administrative accounts an agreement in principle had already been signed with Pepsi at that time.”
The administrators to whom the mise en demeure was given are Marc Gauthier (Executive Director, Finance and Business Operations) and Johanne De Cubellis (Associate Director, Hospitality Concordia), with whom Beach claims to have made an agreement, as well as Michael Di Grappa.
For Di Grappa, the mise en demeure came during his last days as an administrator at Concordia. Di Grappa, who served as Vice-President (Services) at Concordia, is starting as McGill’s Vice-Principal (Administration and Finances) on November 15. He could not be reached for comment.
The mise en demeure is not a notification of a lawsuit, but instead the notification of the potential for one. “It pre-empts the legal procedure. It requires someone to address the situation or to admit wrongdoing,” explained Pawel Porowski, External Communications Officer at Sustainable Concordia.
Thus far, however, none of the Concordia administrators have moved away from their position on the contract, maintaining that the university is not guilty of breach of trust. Chris Mota, the university’s Director of Communications, told Concordia’s The Link that, “the university is confident that we handled everything according to the best practices.”
“The admin have responded by denying having acted in bad faith, denying having ever made a verbal agreement, despite the email evidence I have provided,” Beach responded. She has not yet decided whether she will go ahead with legal action.
“I would be happy with a formal apology from the administration, a formal commitment to the creation of an institutionalized framework for student consultation on future contract negotiations, and a formal commitment to the creation of an enforceable ethical purchasing policy.”