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Cardona declined startup’s controversial stock deal

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Last fall, ASSU President Angelina Cardona ’11 received an offer from an Internet start-up that promised financial incentives in exchange for promotional work. The company, Jobbook.com, is an online job-listing site launched by Montreal lawyer Jean de Brabant.

Cardona said she personally turned down a contract that included shares of stock in the company because she “did not feel it was ethical to have shares” while serving as student body president, she wrote in an email to The Daily.

In an earlier email, she cited reasons for declining a possible partnership between the ASSU and Jobbook, explaining that the company “needed to grow before even considering any ASSU partnership.”

However, the official Jobbook website continues to list Stanford as one of the universities where it has “entered into partnership agreements with Student Presidents and Leaders.” It lists Caltech, UC-Berkeley, Imperial College London, University College London, Johns Hopkins and McGill as the others.

Following an inquiry from The Daily, Cardona said she has asked Jobbook to reword this sentence on their site to state that she has been “an advisor to them, but in no official capacity.”

Earlier this year, student leaders at McGill and UCLA were found to have agreed to contractual relationships with Jobbook.

In February, the UCLA Daily Bruin reported that a student government representative at UCLA, Rustom Birdie, accepted 1,000 Jobbook shares in exchange for promoting the company to students. The incident resulted in an ongoing investigation by the undergraduate student government’s judicial board.

According to The McGill Tribune, the student council at its university voted to censure student president Zack Newburgh because of a contract he signed with Jobbook.

Cardona said her involvement with the company was limited to reviewing its website design, giving input on student needs when asked via email and being added as an administrator to one of Jobbook’s Facebook groups. She said she did not receive any compensation for participating in this capacity.

“I decided to serve in an advisory role for Jobbook because it has huge potential to impact many student lives,” she said. “I want to see the project succeed so that my peers would have more opportunities to find employment after college. I know many people who are still looking for jobs right now and anything that could help them in this hard job market is crucial.”

Although not approached by the company directly, ASSU financial manager Raj Bhandari, a graduate student in management science and engineering, said he received an email on Feb. 7 about the offer from Jobbook. He said the company asked for “help getting out their word to Stanford students,” but did not offer any terms.

“It was a little bit vague,” said Bhandari, who is also CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE).

SSE did not choose to follow up on Jobbook’s proposal, Bhandari said, because they did not see it meeting the organization’s mission statement. According to Bhandari, this mission is three-fold: guaranteeing the financial viability of the ASSU, providing a service to the Stanford community and offering entrepreneurial experience on campus.

“The partnership just didn’t look that interesting,” he said. “It probably wouldn’t have brought very much money in for SSE. It probably wasn’t that much of a valuable service that students didn’t already have. Nor was it going to provide extra jobs for students here on campus.”

Bhandari said no comparable requests have come across his desk during his time in office.

Cardona, however, said it is not uncommon for the Executive Committee to receive similar offers from other outside organizations, such as social-networking sites and online book-buying companies, that are looking to connect with college students. Most of these requests, she said, are sent to an email list serve that goes to the ASSU president, vice president and chief of staff.

All potential partnerships between the ASSU and outside companies must go through a multilayered process before becoming a reality, Cardona said. This includes consulting the Office of Student Activities and Leadership (SAL) to make sure the relationship is in accordance with University policy, checking with the General Counsel to satisfy the ASSU’s 501c3 non-profit status and coming to a decision within the Executive Committee about whether or not the partnership fits with ASSU’s mission statement.

Cardona explained that if the ASSU were to pursue a partnership with Jobbook in the future, officials would also have to prove that it offered a service that would “compliment or enhance existing resources such as the Career Development Center.”

Cardona said she is not aware of any ASSU partnerships with outside companies that have met all these criteria in the past.

The Jobbook representatives did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, The Daily incorrectly reported that Rustom Birdie is being investigated by UCLA’s judicial board. In fact, his case is being adjudicated by its undergraduate student government’s judicial board.