Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

Dear JMSB, Engineering & Computer science, Arts & Science, Fine Arts students and everyone else at Concordia University,

Soulaymane (Soulay) Elalaoui and Omar Riaz are your peers too. You deserve to know the truth.

Full disclosure: I served as President of CASA during the 2016–2017 academic year. Soulay served as my VP Events. Omar served as Chairperson to the CASA board of directors. Both are my friends and I am triggered by the hate and lack of fairness during this entire ordeal.

Context

You’ve probably heard by now of the 2 Concordia Student Union (CSU) executives that “have been scolded for taking gifts” according to The Link Newspaper. Let’s put things into context. Soulaymane Elalaoui and Omar Riaz were offered plane tickets by CSU’s insurance provider, Alliance pour la Santé Étudiante au Québec (ASEQ), to attend the Student Union Development Summit (SUDS). The reason those executives attended was to see how other student unions operate and bring back knowledge to share with council and their team. In fact, upon their return, they submitted a 12-page report with their observations and recommendations to improve the CSU’s offering to students.

That being said, the CSU council last year did vote on a motion that all “gifts” should go through council before being accepted. Soulay and Omar did not present the offering to council, so I have to admit that this was a mistake on their part. However, most of the CSU executives (if not all of them) were informed and knew that they were going to the conference.

Representation

There are over 36 000 undergraduate students at Concordia and the CSU claims to represent ALL of them. Let’s not play ourselves, a vast majority of students don’t even care enough to vote. According to The Link, only 1074 (2.98%) students voted in the last election. During my 3 years of student involvement, I’ve heard a great deal of students tell me that they don’t understand what the CSU does. What surprised me the most is the number of students that tell me that the CSU does not represent them.

In the last election, a few JMSB students decided that they wanted to shape the union to become a union for the people and not a union for the-people-that-yell-the-loudest. As a result, a record breaking 30% of the votes were from JMSB alone and JMSB students Soulay and Omar won.

The Argument for Hierarchy (within reason)

One of the points in their recommendation report that was heavily criticized was about the implementation of a hierarchy. Let me be clear, they are not asking to be called Supreme Leader or to eliminate democracy. Hierarchy (within reason) allows everyone to know who oversees what and holds them accountable. If Canada had a General Minister as opposed to a Prime Minister, what do you think the international community would think? If Apple’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tim Cook, became an Executive Officer, would Apple continue to have tremendous growth? There is no definite answer to that question because no successful company or nation operates that way. Therefore, it is safe to assume that this structure would fail.

So to the members of CSU who refuse to even open the discussion, I encourage you to be more open-minded. If you are unwilling to argue why your point of view is better, then how do you know it actually is better?

Excessive Punishment

I agree that a formal warning and perhaps an apology would be a fair punishment for Omar and Soulay. But in addition to that, Council has voted on making them reimburse ASEQ out of their pockets (approximately $1000). That is an incredibly high amount, even if they were given 90 days to pay. The reason why I believe it’s excessive is because their motive was to actually learn and bring back value, not to gain from a “free trip”. The proof is that they made a recommendation report before anyone asked them to do so.

The bottom line is that Soulay and Omar received an opportunity for their executives to develop themselves and improve what they can offer to students. Their intentions were not to start the school year with drama, but to bring fresh ideas.

Alternative Facts and Bias

My message to The Link is the following: students pay your salaries. I’ve had bad articles written about me and it sucks to read them. If you’re going to write about the mistakes of student leaders, the least you can do is get your facts straight. Furthermore, The Link is supposed to be an unbiased student newspaper. An editorial is an opinion piece. If The Link writes an editorial, did it express it’s opinion (showing bias) or is it still an unbiased newspaper? I’d really like to know.

Words of Encouragement

To Omar and Soulay, every day I am astounded by your continuous courage to want to bring change to your school. I know you were trying to do the right thing, but just know that no matter how many negative voices you hear, there are 10 times more positive voices that support you. We are ALL grateful for your desire to make our university lives better.

To anyone that would like to read the recommendation report, you can find it here: http://bit.ly/2xESEu1

I have nothing, but respect for those that decide to get involved with student life, even those I don’t agree with. I encourage everyone to participate in a big or small way.

One love,

Evan Pitchie

Correction: It is written that Soulay and Omar must pay back ASEQ. They must pay the CSU and then CSU will pay ASEQ.