The Carleton Undergraduate Students’ Association (CUSA) has filed a legal suit against the GSA, instead of following through with planned mediation over the 2012-2013 University Centre (UC) fee.

Under a 1999 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Carleton University and a recently terminated 2004 MOU with CUSA, the UC fee was collected from graduate students. A significant portion was transferred to CUSA from the GSA for health plan administration, the ombudsperson office, student service centres, and clubs and societies. Some of the benefits to graduate students included: an on-campus health plan administrator; access to all student service centres, clubs and societies, and; opportunities to conduct outreach through service centres, clubs and societies.

CUSA broke health plan contracts with the GSA and stopped providing health plan administration in 2012. At least some graduate students were refused full access to student service centres and clubs and societies while the CUSA executive ordered all service centre staff to remove all materials that referred to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). Given that the GSA logo includes reference to the CFS, all GSA materials were purged. Furthermore, the CUSA executive continues to refuse to provide the GSA with a financial breakdown for graduate students’ contributions, and for information on which clubs did or did not receive funding.

As a result of the actions of the CUSA executive, the GSA informed CUSA that the full amount of the UC fee would not be transferred because services for graduate students were not fully rendered. With support from senior administration at Carleton University, the GSA asked CUSA to enter into mediation with the Ombudsperson. This was intended to avoid the costs associated with legal action. However, unbeknownst to the GSA, CUSA had filed legal action on July 25, 2013, even though CUSA President Alex Golovko indicated to the Charlatan in August of the same year that no legal action was planned. This indicates that the negotiations to arrange mediation were only, at best, a delay tactic and, at worst, a failure to go forward in a good faith dialogue with graduate students.

The GSA Board of Directors believes that graduate students should not have to pay the full price of services that were not, or were only partially delivered. Rather than transfer a blind lump-sum to CUSA, the GSA has previously proposed using the UC fee to directly fund student groups – including graduate departmental societies – through an application process that ensures graduate students can participate. This will ensure that graduate student money is being handled and is accountable to graduate students.

The GSA is confident that its position is reasonable and is preparing a Statement of Defense that will correct much of the factual inaccuracies contained within CUSA’s legal suit. By filing a lawsuit rather than participating in mediation, and by his inaccurate statements in August 2013 the actions of the Alexander Golovko and the CUSA executive have given the GSA additional reasons to question CUSA’s ability to handle funds from or services to graduate students.