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Judicial board trying to regain CSU’s confidence

by The Concordian September 27, 2011

Judicial board chair Cassie Smith expressed her concern that CSU council had lost faith in the JB. Photo by Navneet Pall.

The Concordia Student Union judicial board is planning an overhaul of its own code of procedures within the the next month amid concerns it has lost the confidence of the CSU’s council.
At the Sept. 21 council meeting, JB chair Cassie Smith expressed her concern that council had lost faith in the board’s ability to do its job after the previous CSU council overturned a JB decision stemming from the contentious March general elections.
The verdict in question revolved around then-chief electoral officer Oliver Cohen’s decision to disqualify both the winning Your Concordia and losing Action slates. In its April 27 decision, the JB overturned the Your Concordia disqualification, but upheld the disqualification of Action. That decision was ultimately overturned by CSU council in early May.
“They clearly thought we made the wrong decision, as if they didn’t trust us,” said Smith, who has been on the JB since 2009. “What happened last year bothered me. Even if you felt the JB was still too harsh, with our decision we wanted to send a message that all this negative stuff around elections had to stop […] I understand council’s reasoning to a certain extent, but I still wanted to address it at council.”
Smith also said she felt that JB members had not been given enough time to mull over the alleged electoral violations presented to them last April.
Rather than hold a grudge over a previous CSU council’s decision, Smith decided to attend the Sept. 21 meeting seeking help. She asked that council’s policy reform committee review the JB’s code of procedures and make recommendations on what items to modify.
Council cannot impose decisions on the JB, but Smith said the board would welcome any suggestions the members of the policy reform committee might have. She is especially looking to include in the rules that a lawyer be hired to train JB members and that members consider past JB decisions when trying to reach a verdict.
“Past decisions are currently not filed anywhere right now, they’re basically just kept on the chair’s computer. I feel like this is really an issue of accountability. Students at large need to have access to these documents,” Smith told council. She added she was open to suggestions on a better filing system.
The motion for the policy reform committee to delve into the JB’s code of procedures before the October council meeting was made by the student union’s VP advocacy Morgan Pudwell and passed council without any questions or remarks made about a possible lack of confidence in the JB.
Having just recently become chair, Smith’s main priority at the moment is to get enough members appointed to the board to reach quorum. There are currently two members on JB, including Smith. Two other members have since graduated, while one resigned in protest when council overturned the JB decision in May.
“I really encourage council to take immediate action and appoint as many qualified people to the judicial board as possible. We’re basically non-functional right now,” Smith told councillors last week.
Ultimately, Smith would like to see a more active judicial board take shape, one that serves as an advisor to the council. In order to accomplish this, Smith said she will ensure that JB members attend council meetings.
“I think having council there as part of the system works, but whether it acted appropriately last year is another question,” she said. “But the JB is also part of the system. If JB loses legitimacy, the CSU loses legitimacy.”

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