The dispute between the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) and the University 1 Student Council (U1SC) was effectively resolved March 10, with the majority of UMSU council voting in favour of a proposed solution by the union’s finance committee.
The dispute concerned a September 2015 contract of doubtful authority under which U1SC agreed to pay $40,000 to support Frosh Fest in exchange for logo placement, gift certificates, tickets, and other items.
The contract was signed by UMSU president Jeremiah Kopp and then-U1SC president Luigi Imbrogno.
In January, U1SC alleged that the contract was invalid as per the UMSU bylaws. The bylaws state that any contract in excess of $15,000 between the union and another party must be signed by two UMSU signing authorities and approved by UMSU council.
Kopp was the only signing authority listed on the contract and council never approved the agreement.
On taking office in January and finding their accounts empty, U1SC councillors brought a motion to UMSU council demanding that the contract be annulled and all fees remitted.
The motion, brought to UMSU council Jan. 28, also asked for an apology letter to be sent to U1 students. UMSU council chair Kyle Mirecki referred the motion to finance committee, as he felt it did not meet the requirements for an emergency motion.
Finance committee proposal
Finance committee’s solution, presented to council and passed Thursday, accepts the contract as valid but provides a $10,000 refund to U1SC and covers U1SC’s $17,300 debt to UMSU with a zero-interest loan to be paid back over five years. It also pays out $5,000 from the UMSU endowment fund to cover the cost of U1 scholarships and either $750 in gift certificates to Degrees and the Hub or $500 in cash.
The proposal also suggests that amendments should be made to the bylaws of both UMSU and U1SC to prevent similar situations in the future. The motion as passed by council does not include mention of an apology letter.
According to Zach LeClerc, finance committee chair and vice-president internal of UMSU, finance committee met as often as they could to try and come up with a viable solution to ensure U1SC’s functionality and ability to support their students.
“I’m happy that we got to meet so quickly and come to a resolution, and that this is finally taken care of. They need finance to function as an organization,” LeClerc told the Manitoban.
Finance committee’s recommendation focuses on bringing U1SC back to a functional level, emphasizing the need to resolve the situation rather than argue over the legitimacy of the contract.
“It’s nice to see council ultimately did realize the importance of looking towards the future and to get U1SC to a functional state rather than focusing so much on the specifics of the contract,” added Karen Batchelor, finance committee member.
According to LeClerc, because an exchange was made between the two parties and components of the exchange – such as the advertising for U1SC on Frost Fest promotional material – cannot be returned, they were forced to consider the contract legitimate for the purposes of trying to come to a workable resolution.
Conversation at the UMSU council meeting revolved primarily around the legitimacy of the contract signed between the two parties and the unique relationship between UMSU and the student associations.
Now, focus shifts to UMSU’s policy and bylaws committee, which will meet soon to determine how to prevent similar situations in the future. One of the possibilities to be explored by the committee is sending all transactions over $10,000 to UMSU council for approval.
Current U1SC president Darnell Walker is satisfied that the issue has been resolved, though he still questions the validity of the original contract.
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Walker said of the money provided by UMSU to keep the council running, adding that he looks forward to improving the bylaws to alleviate any ambiguity about the process for sponsorships of major union events.
Part of the restitution provided by UMSU in their motion was to give U1SC the opportunity to participate in re-shaping the U1SC bylaws in co-operation with its policy and bylaws committee.
“The best way we can actually make change, I’d say, is providing consultation on their policy and bylaws committee and working with them that way,” Walker said.
The Manitoban is actively updating its coverage of this story and a number of others that broke at the March 10 UMSU council meeting: