The Students’ Society Council voted in confidential session on Thursday to publicly censure President Zach Newburgh. While this limited information was all that was initially offered to students, it is now known that the censure was the result of Newburgh’s involvement with a new company, Jobbook. Debate on the issue, which began as a motion to impeach the president, was conducted in over six hours of confidential session—all non-councillors were barred from the meeting and councillors were prohibited from discussing the proceedings. Only because of reporting by the campus media do we know anything more than that Newburgh was censured.
From the Architecture Cafe to the GA reform process, “consultation” and “transparency” have been the buzzwords of the year in McGill’s student politics. It’s unfortunate, then, that Robert’s Rules of Order swear Council to secrecy when dealing with punishment of its members. A public censure means little if students are not privy to the circumstances surrounding it.
Some of Newburgh’s actions did lead us to question his judgment, such as unilaterally entering into business negotiations on behalf of SSMU; signing the initial confidentiality agreement; and having a personal financial stake in the Jobbook project. He certainly owes students and Council a full explanation and public apology. No one, however, has provided proof that he violated any of SSMU’s by-laws or its constitution. It’s unfair to definitively condemn or defend Newburgh’s actions unless more information becomes public.
An editorial published by the McGill Daily on Saturday called for Newburgh’s immediate resignation. On the basis of the little information currently available, any call for Newburgh’s removal from office is both premature and an incredible overreaction. Not only is it problematic for Council to impeach or censure someone without releasing any information on why it’s deserved, it’s also irresponsible for those outside of Council to align themselves on either side without more information.
Newburgh may have exercised poor judgment at some moments in his dealings with Jean de Brabant and Jobbook. Given what we know, however, neither SSMU as a corporation nor any individuals involved were harmed by his actions. Though Newburgh has failed in at least one aspect of his job description—leading and maintaining unity among his team of executives—the burden of proof is on those calling for his resignation to prove that his offence was grave enough for him to resign. Perhaps such information will come to light in the coming weeks, but given the details at hand, there is no reason for Newburgh to leave his office.
Mookie Kideckel, Managing Editor, is Zach Newburgh’s roommate. He did not contribute to this editorial or review the Tribune’s coverage of events surrounding the issue.
A prematurely published version of this article contained numerous factual inaccuracies. The Tribune regrets the errors.