MUNSU under microscope

Kerri Breen
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Students' union exec resigns amid investigation of spending controversy

About 80 students showed up at the Memorial University Students' Union meeting Wednesday to demonstrate their loyalty to the organization and an executive whose resignation was announced.

One student sitting on a cramped bleacher in council chambers in the University Centre held a sign saying "Residence supports MUNSU."

A MUN Students' Union meeting during which a director's resignation was announced drew a large crowd of students from residence Wednesday. Photo by Kerri Breen/The Telegram

About 80 students showed up at the Memorial University Students' Union meeting Wednesday to demonstrate their loyalty to the organization and an executive whose resignation was announced.

One student sitting on a cramped bleacher in council chambers in the University Centre held a sign saying "Residence supports MUNSU."

The union's finances have come under scrutiny after it lost more than $100,000 on a concert in September and received an anonymous letter accusing some executives of indulging in perks.

The allegations in the letter are being investigated by an internal ad-hoc committee, but members of the five-person executive have admitted to availing of a bottomless beer tab at The Breezeway campus bar, which was sometimes unpaid and recorded as spillage, as per procedure.

Bradley Russell, a business student in his third year as executive director of student life with MUN Students' Union (MUNSU), resigned in the heat of the controversy, citing "unforeseen medical circumstances."

Russell, whose responsibilities included The Breezeway, societies on campus and the organization of events, was not present for the meeting, but another director read a letter on his behalf.

"I wish all the best to both MUNSU and the board of directors in their future endeavours," Russell wrote.

He could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Executive director of external affairs Cameron Campbell and director of finance Travis Collins voted against a motion to accept Russell's resignation, which was effective immediately.

"I feel that Brad has done an excellent job and he cares about this more than anything," Campbell said. "I don't necessarily think that in an ideal world we would be passing that resolution."

When asked, Campbell said he wouldn't speculate as to whether the allegations of misconduct against the union had contributed to Russell's resignation.

The motion passed.

The union won't have time to hold a byelection to replace Russell, so a part-time student co-ordinator will fill some of his roles until a general election is held near the end of the winter semester.

Michael Snow, vice-president of Barnes House in Paton College, spoke on behalf of the mass of students in attendance, saying he hoped the controversy hadn't caused students to dismiss the work MUNSU and Russell have done.

"Bradley's resignation is the loss of one of our greatest advocates," he told the crowd.

"It's sad to think that this administration is going to be remembered for the controversy that has been stirred for the last two weeks," he said.

Canadian Federation of Students organizer Keith Dunne, who chairs the biweekly public meetings, said he hasn't seen a crowd of students that size in the past nine years.

Russell is credited with spearheading Breezeway renovations, bringing more students out to the bar and engaging students in many successful campus events.

In response to the anonymous letter and criticism within the union itself, in recent weeks MUNSU has ditched the beer tabs and developed expense and credit-card regulations. Some board members are calling for a whistleblower policy.

At the meeting, the ad-hoc investigation committee's chairman had nothing to report, except that members are making progress on how the review will proceed.

Campbell said criticism and revamped policies can only make the union stronger and better suited to serving its mandate.

"That's the way the students' union works. If people think something should change then we put forward polices and change it. That's how any elected body works," he said.

The union handles more than $1 million in undergraduate student money a year through mandatory fees. It administrates student health and dental insurance, oversees services like The Breezeway and lobbies the province and the university on students' behalf.

kbreen@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Paton College, The Breezeway, Memorial University Students University Centre Barnes House Federation of Students

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