During its meetings on October 7 and 21, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council convened to discuss the ongoing Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) negotiations with the University as well as the future of the VP Finance position.
Memorandum of Agreement negotiations
President Jacob Greenspon reported on the ongoing MOA negotiations between AUS and the University. Last year, AUS received an email calling into effect a cease-and-desist order on SNAX’s sandwich sales.
Speaking to Council, Greenspon said, “We have not been able to hear from McGill what they think, despite assurances that they wanted to wrap up our MOA negotiations earlier rather than later.”
Sent on behalf of Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, the email stated that selling sandwiches was in violation of the MOA. “It has come to our attention that the AUS is selling sandwiches at SNAX in Leacock. Please note that […] AUS is not permitted to sell sandwiches,” the email read.
Since then, the University has agreed to discuss letting SNAX serve sandwiches in new MOA negotiations. According to Greenspon, the University proposed to let SNAX sell sandwiches with the condition that AUS grant the University the power to raise SNAX’s prices to “a fair market price.”
“In negotiations with McGill this year, [the University] has been more open to allowing SNAX to sell sandwiches, but asked for several concessions from the AUS. That is okay with us,” Greenspon said in an email to The Daily.
In addition, Greenspon explained that the administration has since moved away from the proposal that gave the University the power to alter SNAX’s prices.
“I’m optimistic that McGill is simply taking the time to study our counterproposal in order for our next meeting to be as productive as possible, and we look forward to moving these renewal negotiations forward,” Greenspon told Council.
VP Finance position under scrutiny
VP Finance Mirza Ali Shakir presented the AUS 2015-16 budget to Council, which included information regarding the Frosh budget. Shakir reported that AUS had projected a loss of $1,504.39 for this year’s Frosh, but managed to accumulate a profit of $6,202.65.
In an email to The Daily, Shakir said, “From a VP Finance perspective, the true victory is turning a $30,000 deficit from last year into a projected $6,000 surplus this year. We faced […] many difficulties in budgeting for Frosh since we were initially operating under the assumption that Frosh 2014 made a $10,000 deficit and only in June did we come across accounting mistakes understating the Frosh 2014 deficit.”
After the budget presentation, councillors held an open discussion regarding the VP Finance selection process.
Shakir explained that AUS’s financial troubles the past few years are related to the fact that AUS does its bookkeeping internally, which means the VP Finance requires a higher degree of technical knowledge.
“Our financial troubles in the past have largely resulted from people with no accounting background running the VP Finance portfolio and so there is a huge correlation between lack of accounting knowledge and troubles – such as no taxes [being] filed [between] 2008-2012,” Shakir continued.
The unfiled taxes resulted in AUS having a sum of $100,000 frozen by the Quebec government in 2012.
Greenspon said that this was why an open discussion regarding the AUS VP Finance selection process was added to the meeting’s agenda.
Councillors proposed multiple ideas, such as having a screening process before candidates are put up for election and having Council appoint the VP Finance as a committee.
“This is a continuing conversation that has been happening both inside and outside AUS for at least ten years. […] In the past, VP Finances have been elected in the general election like any other AUS executive. However, the VP Finance position is unique among AUS executive positions, in that there are many specific technical skills required for the job,” Greenspon told The Daily in an email.
During the Council meeting on October 21, a motion to amend the VP Finance selection process by referendum was brought up by Shakir and Greenspon. According to this motion, a referendum question would propose three options: the VP Finance would be appointed solely by Council, the candidates would be screened by a “Screening Committee,” or an external bookkeeper would be hired, as done by AUS before 2013, which would require a fee increase.
The motion was withdrawn at the meeting in favour of a discussion and a straw poll. It will be brought back to Council on November 4.