SciFormal policies come under fire

Senior Chair of Engineering Review Board speaks out against dismissal of grievance

SciFormal tickets cost $120 for students who put in the appropriate number of work hours.
SciFormal tickets cost $120 for students who put in the appropriate number of work hours.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

A referendum has been launched after the Engineering Society (EngSoc) refused to refund almost $300 of Science Formal fees for one student.

The student was unable to complete the necessary hours for SciFormal and was subsequently charged a total of $402.50 to attend the event, which included the cost of the ticket.

Currently, SciFormal policy dictates that engineering students need to complete 40 hours of work for the annual event, in addition to purchasing a ticket, which costs $120 this year.

For every hour of work uncompleted, students are charged $10. If they have 10 hours remaining, it’s bumped to $15 per hour.

A reduction of work time is decided on a case-by-case basis and sometimes given to students in need who have on-campus jobs and therefore can’t complete the necessary hours.

Prior to November, a student referred to only as “Elliot” by EngSoc for confidentiality purposes didn’t qualify for a deduction because their job, a 20-hour-per-week commitment, wasn’t on campus. Elliot completed a total of five hours of work before filing a grievance with the Engineering Review Board (ERB) — a group which deals with complaints made towards EngSoc. The complaint was filed the same week SciFormal took place. After the ERB launched a week-long investigation into the complaint made by Elliot, the Board recommended to EngSoc Council on Nov. 15 that it refund $282.50 worth of charges made to Elliot for incomplete hours. Council dismissed the recommendations on the basis that it couldn’t award cash funds to students.

Eric Goldfarb, the Senior Chair of the ERB, then helped Elliot launch a referendum campaign in an effort to appeal EngSoc’s decision. Goldfarb, Sci ’14 said the policy of reducing hours for students with on-campus jobs isn’t official and contravenes human rights principles stipulated in the EngSoc policy. Because of his involvement in this campaign, Goldfarb was temporarily suspended from his position on the ERB on Dec. 19 after he was accused of having a conflict of interest. He has subsequently launched an appeal against EngSoc’s decision.

“I didn’t break the policy,” Goldfarb said. “They didn’t run a proper investigation and didn’t interview all of the parties.”

Goldfarb’s appeal will be discussed this Thursday at EngSoc Council, where it will also be decided whether his suspension will be lifted.

The referendum, concerning Elliot’s case, has so far garnered 8 per cent support from EngSoc members. After it has been officially submitted, the referendum will be put to question during the EngSoc presidential nomination period later this month.

Current EngSoc President Taylor Wheeler said that EngSoc wouldn’t award Elliot a refund because it would be inconsistent with SciFormal policy.

“There was an assumption that since it was after the event and they could not reduce [Elliot]’s hours, they would award [them] cash instead,” Wheeler, Sci ’13 said. “That was something Council has never done before and since it was not consistent with the past, we didn’t award this person the money.”

Elliot could not have been awarded a reduction of hours because of the date the grievance was filed, he added.

“Unfortunately because of the time line involved, [Elliot] got a hold of them so late,” he said. “They couldn’t come to a decision until after the event and therefore couldn’t have reduced [Elliot]’s hours of work after the event.”

Reduction of hours is awarded to students in need with on-campus jobs because of greater accountability, he added.

EngSoc is working on implementing a new policy for SciFormal next year, Wheeler added.

“Hopefully it will be more realistic and more in line with the realities of the students and better communicated,” he said. “Students who are unable to meet the hours will contact us long before and there will be better accommodations.”

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