Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President (VP) Finance Arisha Khan has been temporarily suspended from her position on the SSMU Board of Directors until Oct. 30. The motion to suspend her was approved by the Board, with six votes in favor and four abstentions, during a closed session at their Oct. 16 meeting. The Board determined Khan breached confidentiality in forwarding a confidential e-mail correspondence between SSMU executives regarding the appointment of VP Student Life Jemark Earle to the Board to Dorothy Apedaile, a student not a member of the SSMU executive.
The Board approved a motion mandating SSMU General Manager Ryan Hughes to investigate alleged leaks to student media during their Sept. 24 meeting. At the Oct. 16 meeting, Hughes presented the findings of his investigation to the Board. SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva, VP Internal Maya Koparkar, and VP Student Life Jemark Earle were asked to leave the SSMU boardroom for the length of the closed session, and Khan, who was attending the Blueprints for Success conference in Los Angeles on behalf of SSMU, was absent from the meeting entirely. Tojiboeva, Koparkar, Earle, and Isabella Anderson, a member-at-large, abstained from the vote to suspend Khan, and all other members of the Board voted to approve it. According to Tojiboeva, members of the Board were notified of the presentation prior to the meeting.
“[The presentation] was scheduled in advance, and all Board members were notified that the General Manager would present two weeks in advance,” Tojiboeva wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “Further, as stipulated in the Constitution, members of the Board may participate by electronic means, […] meaning if Director Khan wished she could have participated even though she was out of the country.”
In an interview with the Tribune, Khan questioned whether the Board was made aware of the presentation prior to the meeting.
“This topic wasn’t in the agenda,” Khan said. “Obviously I would have made myself available to defend myself [….] I’m very confused [about] Ryan [saying he would be] presenting the results of the investigation in two weeks, because that’s not true.”
Khan said that the decision to suspend her was unfounded and that it sets a dangerous precedent for the Board’s definition of breaches of confidentiality.
“They made the decision without proper evidence, and without even giving me a chance to speak for myself,” Khan said. “If [the Board] is going to target [my email as] a breach of confidentiality then [they] need to seriously have a conversation about what exactly constitutes a breach of confidentiality.”
Neither the SSMU Constitution nor the Quebec Companies Act make any mentions of breaches of confidentiality, but all SSMU executives sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with SSMU upon their employment. Article 10.10 of the Constitution gives the Board the power to suspend any Officer from their position for any reason it deems sufficient through a majority vote.
As of Oct. 17, Khan claimed that the Board had not officially notified her of her suspension. However, Tobjiboeva denied this.
“The General Manager of SSMU informed the Vice-President Finance of her suspension,” Tojiboeva wrote. “The Board meeting ended yesterday at 9PM and the General Manager informed the Vice-President Finance [on Oct. 17].”
In an email to the Tribune, SSMU VP External Connor Spencer, who is not a member of the Board, expressed her disappointment with the lack of transparency in the board's decision to suspend Khan.
“I am appalled that the Board and our General Manager decided to present the information when accommodations had not been made to make sure VP Khan was there to represent herself,” Spencer wrote. “We are a union. We are literally here in order to ensure our members have representation and are not on their own to advocate for themselves. I am extremely disappointed not just as an executive, but also as a member, that this is the route the Board has taken this year with regards to the transparency of their decisions.”