The student union elections have come full circle, as what remained of the chief electoral officer’s decision to disqualify both slates was overturned by council on Wednesday.
Council’s decision to pass both a motion to reimburse all campaign expenses and to reinstate the victorious Action candidates effectively returned the results to the same point as they were before the disqualifications.
Arts and Science Federation of Associations president and Action candidate for Arts and Science Aaron Green tabled both motions at a special meeting held before the union’s regular council meeting on Wednesday evening.
While the CSU judicial board reinstated Your Concordia at their hearing on April 27, they had refused to reimburse either slate, and had upheld CEO Oliver Cohen’s decision to disqualify Action.
Both motions were defeated at first, but councillor Menachem Freedman asked council to reconsider their decision regarding campaign expenses, a move that would prove to favour both slates.
Freedman amended the motion to clarify that council did not wish to overturn the judicial board’s decision, but rather to recommend that council allot the money that was meant for the candidates as an extra-procedural method “because they’re students, and they need to pay rent, and they need to buy food, and it’s just not a good way of sanctioning students,” he said.
The motion warranted some harsh words from Tuan Dinh, the only judicial board member present at the meeting. “By going beyond what the judicial board has ruled, you’re effectively bypassing the bylaws,” he said. “There’s no ambiguity in the actions in which [the candidates] have committed, they clearly violated rules and they should be held accountable, but the fact is we’re setting a precedent so that in the future people can continue to make these similar violations and that council will just come in and save them.”
However, after lengthy discussion most councillors felt it was merited to reimburse the candidates, and the motion was passed.
The second motion was brought to council on the grounds that the disqualification was robbing certain sectors of the student body of effective representation over the summer â€“ namely, the students from the John Molson School of Business, who elected six Action councillors.
President Heather Lucas spoke in favour of reinstating the candidates, despite originally intending to maintain her distance from the matter. “I feel that by disqualifying people that have been rightfully voted in democratically and disqualifying them based on the actions of the executive, I think that’s completely unfair,” she said.
Action presidential candidate Khalil Haddad was pleased to see council overturn the JB’s decision. “The election expenses were not as important for me, it was more for getting the councillors and senators that got elected to sit on council and on senate to represent their respective faculties,” he said.
The decision also strengthened Haddad’s resolve to help bring about sweeping reforms to the student union’s election bylaws and standing regulations. “It’s really going to help people in the future when they want to run for elections, that the CEO’s office is upheld, that the judicial board has a procedure that’s more efficient and more just in the future, and that regulations are more clear,” he said. “They won’t have to deal with these instances where ambiguity can go into different interpretations and people can take that and turn it into a negative thing or a positive thing depending on what context you’re in.”
Some of those reforms were introduced Wednesday evening at the regular council meeting. Lawyer Patrice Blais presented the changes to council after having worked on them with former CSU president Amine Dabchy, president-elect Lex Gill, Lucas and Haddad.
Their two goals in bringing about the reforms were to “clean up bylaws to make sure they are in accordance with Quebec law, as well to bring up electoral reforms in order to remove the consequence of our electoral system here,” which he said had turned into a winner-take-all situation with the executives and the councillors. “It basically creates two teams of 40 to 45 people that are clashing with one another,” he added. “It certainly produces a belief that a lot of people are voting because of a party name instead of for the value of the individual people running.”
Blais suggested council eliminate the affiliation system between council and the executive, as well as the Senate of Faculty Associations.
However, Green was strongly against removing SoFA. “In the event that the CSU does not act in the best interest of a particular faculty, this is a remedy in order to make things right,” he said. “The Senate of Faculty Associations act as a check and balance on the CSU.”
A hypothetical split between the councillors elected from arts and those elected from science also raised some doubts. “I feel that it is deepening the divide between Loyola and Sir George Williams,” Green said. “I know that’s how it works in McGill […] but I feel that we are stronger in our diversity.
Splitting up the representation would just be silly.”
Moreover, the policy changes would clarify the definition of membership in the student union. There would be two categories of members. An active member would be registered and paying fees, and would have the right to vote as well as to run for elected office. A non-active member would not be registered in any classes. While the latter would still retain certain rights â€“ Blais gave the example of access to the advocacy centre â€“ that category of member would not be able to vote or hold office.
None of these reforms were voted on on Wednesday; Blais specified that since they had not had the time to prepare a full document before council, this was both an introduction and an appeal for feedback. They hope to bring the reforms to a special council meeting within the next 10 days.