Michael Di Grappa became McGill’s new Vice-Principal of Administration and Finances on November 15, but is still caught up in a legal struggle with students from Concordia, where he formerly held the position of VP Services.
In Di Grappa’s last few days at Concordia, he received a mise en demeure – a notice of a potential legal challenge – from Concordia student Laura Beach and the organization she co-founded, TAPThirst. Beach, also Sustainable Ambassadors Coordinator for Sustainable McGill, accused Di Grappa of breach of trust over the lack of student consultation on the renewal of Concordia’s beverage contract with PepsiCo. Beach claims that the administration promised, and failed, to consult with students prior to signing the contract.
Di Grappa, however, took issue with the idea that the administration had a responsibility to consult with Beach and TAPThirst.
“I can tell you that we always used to consult with the students, we would meet with the CSU [Concordia Student Union],” said Di Grappa in an interview with The Daily.
“To me, one of the issues here is, who is the authorized representative here for the students on this issue? It was not clear to us that Miss Beach was that. And I don’t think it was clear to the CSU that Miss Beach was that,” Di Grappa continued.
Beach claims that Johanne De Cubellis, Associate Director of Hospitality Concordia, promised Beach and her fellow Sustainable Concordia member Faisal Shennib that they would be involved in the negotiations between the administration and a representative from PepsiCo prior to any decisions on a beverage contract. Beach also delivered a mise en demeure to De Cubellis.
Concordia environmentalists have also raised objections to the PepsiCo contract itself, which, in the eyes of groups such as TAPThirst, represents a move away from the years-long fight for a bottled water-free campus. Di Grappa, however, said that he does not see a contract with PepsiCo and a bottled water-free campus as mutually exclusive.
“The issue of a beverage contract…is so much larger than just the issue of bottled water,” he said. “Because it involves whatever commission fee the university receives, and it involves the service on campus, it involves marketing opportunities, sponsorship opportunities, it involves summer jobs for students, it involves scholarships, it involves all the other beverages other than bottled water…. So in my mind, it was never a discussion of, say, until we resolve this issue on bottled water we can’t go forward on Pepsi. … But out of respect for the discussions that were going on, we said… ‘If the university ever decides that it wants to address the issue of bottled water in a particular way, it still has the option to do so.’ So frankly, I don’t understand what all the criticism is about.”
According to Chris Mota, director of media relations at Concordia, there has been no legal action subsequent to the *mise en demeure*.