Last September, SSMU President Zach Newburgh embarked on a partnership with the networking startup Jobbook. Over the past five months, his actions have been consistently secretive and deceptive. He has abused his position as SSMU president, betrayed student trust, and engaged in a deep conflict of interest. He must resign now.
Newburgh held financial stake in Jobbook even as he planned for SSMU to become a partner with the company – only dropping his shares before Council on Thursday. Jobbook also paid for trips he took with its founder to England, California, and New York to lobby student leaders at prestigious universities to sign up for the employment site. The weekend trips were on personal time, but his role in promoting the company was inseparable from his position as SSMU President. On jobbook.com, launched last Wednesday, the company proclaims that it’s “entered into partnership agreements with the Presidents of the Student Unions of Caltech, Stanford, Berkeley, Imperial College London, University College London, Johns Hopkins, and McGill.”
Whatever his intentions for partnering with the company, Newburgh’s actions are unacceptable. If the site’s services are as valuable as he claims, he should have presented them to Council and the other members of the SSMU executive months ago. Jobbook may or may not be valuable, but to allow Newburgh to get away with this sets a dangerous precedent. It allows for an unchecked corporatization of the university without the student body’s knowledge and without any guarantee it will be in their interests.
In the early hours of Friday morning, SSMU Council voted to censure Newburgh. This isn’t enough. If Newburgh won’t resign on his own, it’s up to us to pressure him to. Write Newburgh at firstname.lastname@example.org letting him know how you feel and write your councillors telling them to force his resignation.
Students can also take this into their own hands.
A petition of 200 student signatures can force Council to debate and vote on Newburgh’s removal. It takes a two-thirds majority of councillors for this to be effective. It’s up to students to make sure this happens – start a petition and make your voice heard now.