On Campus

McGill student president nearly impeached

Zach Newburgh failed to disclose stake in company, raising conflict of interest allegations

McGill’s student president has barely escaped a formal call for his resignation over his failure to disclose his involvement with a new social networking website, Jobbook.com. At a Thursday night meeting that carried well into Friday morning, the students’ society’s council initially voted for Zach Newburgh to resign as president, but after further deliberation settled on public censure.

According to reports in the McGill Daily and the McGill Tribune, Newburg had entered a business relationship with Jobbook’s founder Jean de Brabant back in September, but failed to inform council or the society’s Executive Committee. Newburg, who had a financial stake in the company, had agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement because Jobbook was not patented at the time. Jobbook is a site designed to match employers with students from elite universities. In promoting the new service, Newburg traveled with de Brabant to several universities in the United to States and Britain throughout the fall semester. He also intended to promote Jobbook to Mcgill’s students’ society and negotiated a deal with de Brabant that would see the union hold shares.

It wasn’t until mid-January that he sent a memo informing the Executive Committee of his involvement with the company, and it wasn’t until the Feb 3 meeting, where he was censured, that council was informed. Just prior to that meeting he elected to end his formal financial relationship with Jobbook. The meeting took place in closed session, and the Daily reported that “Several councillors refused to publicly comment, or requested to remain anonymous for fear of legal reprisals.”

One member of the executive, Joshua Abaki, did speak to the paper on the record. “There was definitely harm done to the Society. In my view, there were policies that he clearly went against, and he’s lost the moral authority to guide the Society,” he said.

In an interview with the Tribune, Newburg admitted that signing the confidentiality agreement was “poor judgment” on his part, but he denied any official wrongdoing. “There was no violation of any kind of policy, and this was always done in the best interests of students,” he said.

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