Nearly a fortnight after the Students’ Society Council issued a public censure of President Zach Newburgh for his involvement with Jobbook.com, a social networking website designed to connect students at elite universities with employers, new details have emerged about the efforts by several councillors to remove Newburgh from office.
Certain councillors first learned of Newburgh’s involvement with Jobbook on February 2, according to a councillor present at the meeting. Three members of the Executive Committee—Vice-President University Affairs Joshua Abaki, VP Clubs and Services Anushay Khan, and VP External Myriam Zaidi—met with them to discuss a motion to remove Newburgh from office. Abaki led the effort, the councillor said.
At the Council meeting the following day, eight councillors—the minimum number required to begin impeachment proceedings—voted in confidential session to impeach Newburgh: Clubs & Services Representative Maggie Knight, Music Representative Katie Larson, Senator Tyler Lawson, Arts Representative Kallee Lins, and Senator Amara Possian, in addition to the three executives with whom councillors had met the night before.
But not all the councillors who voted to impeach Newburgh necessarily wanted to remove him from office, the anonymous councillor said.
“Most of us just wanted to talk about it,” the councillor said.
Councillors never actually voted on whether or not to remove Newburgh from office. By the time the motion came up for a vote, it had been amended to censure Newburgh instead, with Education Representative Kady Paterson substituting her name for Possian’s. Seventeen councillors voted in favour of the censure in confidential session, with six opposed and one—Newburgh—abstaining.
According to interviews with councillors and executives, the Executive Committee has made an effort move forward with business, with one exception—Joshua Abaki.
In an article published online on February 7, the Chronicle of Higher Education quoted an email message to the publication in which Abaki said that Newburgh had “lost the moral authority” to lead SSMU.
“It is further troubling,” Abaki told the Chronicle, “that he is more concerned about Jobbook’s prospects than amid all this rather than the great harm he has done to [SSMU].”
In addition, Abaki refused to stand at the front of the room with the rest of the Executive Committee during the SSMU General Assembly on Thursday while they present their Executive reports.
“It’s clear that Josh and Zach are still not getting along,” Maggie Knight said.
Abaki and Newburgh are required to work closely together in dealing with the McGill administration, including the current negotiations to renew SSMU’s lease on the Shatner Building and its Memorandum of Agreement with McGill.
The two are scheduled to meet with Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson on Tuesday—their first such meeting since the censure. Newburgh declined to comment on his relationship with Abaki for this article and Abaki was unavailable at press time.
Other members of the Executive Committee, however, have made greater efforts to patch things up in the past week.
“I think things are relatively amiable,” VP Internal Tom Fabian said. “But there is a wound to be healed.”
SSMU Council is scheduled to meet again for the first time since the censure on Thursday, but it is unclear whether Newburgh’s dealings with Jobbook will come up again.
“There are councillors who would like to see Zach removed from office,” said Clubs & Services Representative Max Zidel, but added that he didn’t think councillors would bring forward another motion to impeach him without a request from students.
Such a request could come on Thursday in the form of a student-initiated referendum question, which would require the signatures of 200 undergraduates. Despite rumours that such a petition was being prepared, Knight and other councillors said they had seen no solid evidence that one would be brought to Council on Thursday.
According to Speaker of Council Cathal Rooney-Cespedes, however, it is unclear whether a such a move to remove Newburgh would be allowed, as Council has already tried Newburgh for his involvement with Jobbook.
“There might be some ambiguity,” he said, “because you’re talking about trying someone for the second time based on the same accusation, and there are laws that prohibit that.”
Despite the lack of support for another impeachment motion, several councillors have said that a formal apology and the release of more information—what Knight called “an act of good faith”—might help Council move forward with new business.
“I think the issue needs to be cleared up, personally, to prove or disprove what’s been said in the media,” Kallee Lins said.