A string of miscommunications have escalated a dispute over an annual Frosh fee paid by the Education Undergraduate Society (EdUS) to the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS).
As early as 2004, Education students have participated in Arts Frosh, with EdUS compensating AUS $2,000. When planning for this year’s Frosh events began in May, AUS President Jade Calver increased the fee to $8,000.
Kady Paterson, EdUS SSMU representative and former design editor for The Daily, said AUS initially asked for $10,000.
“We cannot pay $8,000, and will not pay $8,000. We negotiated; we said we’d be willing to pay the $2,000 that we normally do. AUS said they wouldn’t go anything lower than $6,000,” said Paterson.
Calver maintained, however, that EdUS was willing to pay up to $10,000. “Obviously that was a little much, so we decided on $8,000 together,” she said.
“[Paterson], in front of all five of my other coordinators, agreed numerous times on this amount,” Calver continued.
Paterson, who sat on the AUS Frosh Planning Committee this summer in lieu of EdUS VP Internals Elizabeth O’Dwyer and Talia Kelly, described the fee as “essentially a donation to Frosh.”
“They keep all of our Froshies’ registration fees, they keep all of our leader registration fees, all of the liquid sales – so all of the beer that in the past has been included in ticket price but now is being charged for, they are now keeping all of the profits off of that,” she continued.
According to Calver, the increase was the result of calculating the cost per student for Frosh – which included insurance, the hiring of Frosh coordinators, and labour over the summer – a measure AUS took after financial mismanagement of AUS Frosh last year left the society with a severe deficit.
Paterson brought a motion to EdUS Council a few weeks before the start of Frosh to authorize the $6,000 increase. The motion was defeated.
Paterson said the council, which runs EdUS events on a $30,000 annual budget, “didn’t really see why $8,000 was justified.”
She also spoke to the fact that she never had the authority to agree to a fee increase.
“I don’t have the authority to promise anybody anything. [Calver] knows this. Her rep to SSMU couldn’t do it either; neither can I. And she also knows that changes of budget do need to go through Council. I can’t willy-nilly guarantee money and not tell anybody on Council – especially for us when it’s a 400 per cent budget increase,” she said.
Nevertheless, Calver maintained that it was “made fairly clear to us that [Paterson] was sent to us on behalf of EdUS.”
“[Paterson] said they had the payment ready to go,” she continued.
Paterson did have an $8,000 check from EdUS, signed by President Vanessa Harman and VP Finance Susanne Farag, but was only authorized to give AUS the check once Council approved the increase.
Once EdUS Council defeated the motion, Paterson claims she tore up the check, at which point she also alleges Calver threatened legal action.
“[Calver] informed me that there had been a verbal contract – which I was completely unaware of – and that we had breached the contract,” said Paterson.
Paterson also said that Calver “would be consulting with a lawyer and looking to take legal action, which is something she has expressed to us further since then.”
Calver said legal action would be a “last resort,” and that AUS had not begun any legal proceedings. She would not comment on whether she has spoken with a lawyer about the dispute.
“I don’t seek to hurt them financially,” said Calver. “Obviously I’ll do everything in my power to enter into negotiations with them before we ever pursue legal action.”
Apart from one meeting between Calver, Paterson, Farag, and AUS VP Events Jason Karmody several weeks before Frosh, no negotiations have taken place.
Paterson said Calver refused EdUS’ request for a mediator, after which SSMU President Maggie Knight offered to mediate negotiations. Calver refused Knight’s offer.
Knight said she had been “willing to mediate as a peer, as a student,” though not as SSMU President, as it is not SSMU’s role to mediate disputes between student societies.
According to Knight, Calver initially said she didn’t think it would be appropriate for Knight to mediate.
Last weekend, the Education Froshies who were not registered for Arts Frosh, along with Education leaders, participated in Science Frosh. According to Paterson, the Science, Management and Engineering faculties all offered to take the roughly 100 Education Froshies and ten leaders for free.
Paterson emphasized the importance to Education – one of the smallest faculties at McGill – of having their first-years experience Frosh together.
“There are almost more people attending Arts Frosh than there are in my entire faculty,” said Paterson. “We’re just trying to actually give our students something tangible to do, and things to bring out of Frosh aside from a hangover.”
“The AUS has had a habit of not reclaiming the money that is owed to them,” said Calver. “That’s what we agreed upon during our meetings, that’s what they owe to us, and it is now Arts students’ money.”