SU responds to criticism over coast-to-coast trip to promote conference

Individuals who asked to remain anonymous recently approached the Gauntlet claiming Students’ Union executives Eric Termuende and Raphael Jacob took a trip in late January to promote SU health and dental care provider Gallivan & Associates. These sources claimed the trip represents a conflict of interest, but both executives say this is nothing more than a misunderstanding.

In late January, Termuende traveled across Canada promoting the Leaders Hall (Lh) conference, visiting over 25 schools, including the University of Victoria, Dalhousie University and the University of New Brunswick. Jacob joined him towards the end of the trip.

Sources who approached the Gauntlet claimed the trip and the conference were used to promote the health and dental provider Gallivan & Associates. Both executives denied this, saying Gallivan was not discussed at the conference or in conversations with members of other Canadian student unions.

“This has absolutely nothing to do with Gallivan,” Termuende said. “Even at the conference, they have no logos up or anything. The conference is not about them.”

lh is a professional development conference with participants from student unions across Canada. The conference is funded and organized by student unions from the University of Calgary, SAIT, Mohawk College and the private insurer Gallivan.

The U of C SU was one of the conference’s founding members. lh has seen a decline in the number of attendees in recent years.

Jacob said the mission of his and Termuende’s trip was to encourage student unions to send attendees, thus keeping the conference afloat.

“Our general manager was a little hesitant to continue hosting [lh] when we started to see declining numbers,” Jacob said. “The goal was to revive the conference and make it so our stake in it wasn’t for nothing.”

When asked why students should support any time or money spent by the SU on the conference, Termuende said it helps train SU executives at the beginning of their terms.

“The ability to represent the students who put you in office becomes that much greater after a conference like this,” Termuende said.

SU executives do attend meetings with Gallivan every year to discuss their health and dental plan, though Jacob said this is separate from discussions about the conference.

Jacob acknowledged that SU executives, including former SU president Hardave Birk, have been offered jobs with Gallivan after completing their terms. He said these offers were based on merit, not a special relationship with the company.

Funding for the flights, a rental car and some of the meals for the trip came from a fund pooled by the four founding lh organizations. Each organization, including the U of C SU, gave $2,000.

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