Following a dispute between two clubs over alleged liquor theft, the McGill Ukrainian Students Association (MUSA) challenged a SSMU executive at the Society’s highest ruling body.
In a formal complaint filed in January, the Spanish and Latin American Students Association (SALSA) accused MUSA of stealing 10 bottles of wine from their shared office, an estimate increased to 14 bottles in February. After discussions with MUSA, VP Clubs & Services Marcelle Kosman and Head of Security Wallace Sealy revoked the club’s space privileges, hurting their chances for securing the space this upcoming academic year.
“There are no rights in question. No club has the rights to office space. They get given those privileges,” Kosman said.
But MUSA executives accused SSMU of acting without a proper investigation, and the case wound up before the Society’s Judicial Board – a body of five upper-year law students nominated to serve one-year terms.
Outgoing MUSA President Artem Luhovy maintained that his club had not committed theft.
“There is no evidence that it was anybody in MUSA who took the wine,” he said.
An interim hearing at the Judicial Board on Friday turned the decision back to SSMU Council, who could overturn Kosman’s decision if desired. The Board has issued MUSA an injuction which allows them to retain their office space temporarily.
Alexandre Bien-Aime, MUSA’s student advocate, said the club will appeal Council’s decision and return to Judicial Board after April exams if Kosman’s decision stands.
After the allegations surfaced, Sealy conducted an investigation and concluded that the theft had resulted from an access-control problem – meaning students without direct access to the door code had been permitted entry to the club office, causing a security breach.
Luhovy was permitted extra time to respond to the charge, as it came during MUSA’s national conference of Ukrainian students’ associations. None of the statements that he collected from club members identified specific individuals responsible for the theft.
Kosman’s administrative decision finds MUSA accountable as a whole.
MUSA approached SSMU with a proposal to restrict office access to MUSA executives only, but Kosman said it was problematic since it would absolve executives of responsibility.
“It removes their responsibility for their club members,” she said.
In response, MUSA moved to bring the contested decision before the Judicial Board.
However, it is unclear whether the case can be checked at the Judicial Board, because under SSMU by-laws, matters of theft must be resolved by the Head of Security and the General Manager. Roberto Ghignone, U3 Law and an employee at the Student Advocacy Office, said that despite this by-law, administrative decisions had been brought to the Judicial Board in the past.
Kosman was frustrated that her decision may be overturned.
“It’s unacceptable for the [Judicial] Board to take away my right as VP Clubs & Services to penalize clubs who abuse the Constitution,” she said.
Luhovoy said the incident was unfortunate, pointing out that it both tarnished the club’s reputation and distracted it from other work.
“This issue is interfering with the rest of our club’s activities this semester,” said Luhovy. “It’s getting in the way of our fundraisers for orphans and radiation victims in Ukraine.”
But Kosman stressed that many clubs do not have office space, and that clubs should not abuse the privilege of free office space.
Until the issue is resolved, SALSA and MUSA will continue to share their club office space in Shatner – a possible sore spot, since SSMU is not punishing SALSA for liquor possession, which violates SSMU’s liquor license.
SALSA executives did not return The Daily’s requests for comment. Sealy refused to comment.