KPIRG’s Autonomy Agreement with the KSA Could be at Risk

KSA Executive Director Jeremy McElroy and KSA President Tanvir Singh at the KPIRG annual general meeting on March 28, 2018. Singh specified that he was attending the meeting not as the president of the KSA, but as a concerned student. (Braden Klassen)

Following a Kwantlen Student Association Council meeting on April 6, newly elected President Caitlin McCutchen said that she is currently unable to confirm whether or not the KSA is planning to take steps towards defunding KPIRG in response to the alleged fraud committed by KPIRG founder and former staff member Richard Hossein.

“We have the autonomy agreement, and this mismanagement of funds, essentially, is in breach of a few different parts of this autonomy agreement,” says McCutchen. “If there are breaches or violations, we have the option to stop remitting funds to them, which would not mean that we’re shutting down KPIRG. It would just mean we’re not giving them the funding.”

Kim McMartin, a current student senate representative and former KPIRG board member who worked closely with Hossein, voluntarily excluded herself from an in-camera discussion that took place during the meeting. This was due to a conflict of interest, and she declined to give any other comment on the record.

Former KSA President Tanvir Singh attended the meeting as a “concerned student” and was included in the in-camera portion of the meeting.

“Through all of my roles, I’ve never had a good relationship with KPIRG,” says Singh. “I’ve talked to multiple students and most people don’t know what they do. I think that this situation [with the Hossein lawsuit] in and of itself is the nail in the coffin. I think it’s time for students at KPU to seriously consider defunding KPIRG.”

Hossein was one of three original KPIRG signatories on the autonomy agreement, which includes provisions that allow the KSA to terminate it for breach of contract or by referendum.

The actions alleged in KPIRG’s notice of civil claim against Hossein may have constituted a fundamental breach of article 7 of the autonomy agreement, which states that KPIRG’s KSA-sourced funds must be used “exclusively towards accomplishing those purposes set out under the KPIRG constitution and for no other purpose.” They may also breach article 8, which states that “all transactions that KPIRG enters into with third parties must be commercially reasonable and comply with KPIRG’s constitution, bylaws, and the Society Act or any successor Act.”

Article 33 of the agreement states that, in the event of the termination of the autonomy agreement, “any funds or property in possession of the KSA, at the time of the termination of this Agreement, shall remain in the possession of the KSA, and deemed to be the lawful property of the KSA. All unremitted fees shall be transferred into bursaries for KPU Students with criteria relating to social and environmental justice oriented individuals in financial need.”

Students at KPU currently pay 80 cents per credit to fund KPIRG, a fee that is levied by the KSA on behalf of the research group.