International Society irregularities

Published

A investigation by this paper has cast doubt on the way the University’s International Society is run and this is not the first time the society has been the subject of some controversy. Earlier this year the Society was disaffiliated by the SRC after a number of students complained that they had been mis-sold a trip to Liverpool and Manchester in March.

The investigation centres on the actions of the Society’s past president, Hojjat Heydari. Heydari first clashed with the SRC as s result of Freshers Week 2010. He was approached by the SRC to help arrange the Cultural Carnival, an event he had organised previously. The clash was sparked by Heydari’s refusal to produce detailed costings in advance of the event. Sources from within last year’s SRC Council indicated that “despite repeated requests” Heydari did not provide any detailed costings “beyond a reasonable early estimate of a couple of hundred pounds.” After the event Heydari submitted a claim in excess of £1300 (claiming after the event is prohibited under SRC Policy). This claim included £40 for his personal phone bill.

When the SRC refused to pay the £1300, but instead tried to reach a compromise with Heydari in line with his original estimate of a few hundred pounds, he flew into a rage accompanied by “verbal abuse to SRC staff”. Having then been ejected from the John McIntyre Building, Heydari went to the University’s Court Office and demanded to see Secretary to Court, David Newall, insisting that he had been “robbed by the SRC”. A member of the Court Office staff suggested at the time that “it was the most aggressive confrontation they had ever experienced in over 20 years working at the uni.” A compromise was finally reached for a figure above the original estimate but much less than the £1300 Heydari had originally claimed. Also when Heydari was asked to provide receipts to substantiate his claims, he produced a number of hand written receipts for cash payments.

The second flash point in this investigation is the series of complaints made to the SRC regarding the trip to Liverpool and Manchester in March. The advertising for the trip included, return transport, overnight accommodation, dinner and breakfast; all for £60. Students expressed dismay when their trip only made it to Liverpool, the complaints also reported a situation in which “two female students had to share a single bed” the complaints alleged that this was because “Hoijjat wanted a double to himself in the room ‘his friends were in’ ”. Other complaints indicated that the food advertised was basic at best, “it said a three courses meal would be included, but it turned out to be pasta” and breakfast comprised of “a box of cereal shared amongst the whole coach trip with not even enough milk to go around”. As a result of these complaints the SRC called for students to be refunded and the International Society was disaffiliated.

At the time, questions were also raised about Heydari’s status as President of the society. SRC rules state that officer bearers must be matriculated students, however it has been suggested that Heydari has not been a student for at least the past three years. In order to re-affliate the Society, a new President was appointed, Aleksandra Mackowiak, however the address details given to the SRC match those of previous affiliation forms submitted by Heydari. Despite the SRC expressing concerns to the University Senior Management Group, Heydari was invited to a student volunteers reception hosted by the Principal in May.
A recent investigation by Guardian has raised further questions about International Society finances. Despite the Society naming a Treasurer, recent board members have indicated that Heydari controlled the money:

Last year it was officially me, however as I wasn’t very experienced, Hojjat (the ex president) was dealing with the money.

Guardian also contacted a number of venues that had hosted International Society events. Arta, a bar and club in Merchant City, hosted the Society’s Annual Ball last year. The event costing provided by Arta suggest that the cost per head was £12.50, however members were charged £17 for tickets. Viper, a nightclub on Great Western Road, provided details of an event back in February, for which the Society received £1 per Society Member that entered the venue, the total revenue was estimated at £300. The explanation provided by last year’s Treasurer, was that when surpluses were made the money was used to “buffer lower prices” or
“it was paid in[to] the account as we don’t really keep large amount of cash around. You[‘d] have to ask Hojjat Heydari himself though.”

Documents handed to the Guardian cast further doubt on the Society’s finances, despite the belief of the former Treasurer that any money was held in the Society’s bank account. The bank account which is affiliated to the SRC is emp this account’s balance has been between £3.50 and £13.00 for the majority of last year. This would seem at odds with the Society’s own website that claims 2600 members, with a membership fee of £5, would indicate a potential fund of £13,000.

Despite calls and emails, Mr Heydari has been unavailable for comment.