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Editorial: ASFA would be wise to stick to the rules

by The Concordian October 18, 2011

Last Saturday the Concordian broke a story describing how several electoral violations had been committed by the chief electoral officer himself during the Arts and Science Federation of Associations’ Oct. 12 and 13 by-election.
Information brought to the newspaper’s attention showed that at least one polling officer, Nicole Devlin, was ineligible to work as an electoral officer because according to ASFA’s Annex A, former and current ASFA executives are barred from working in elections. Nicole Devlin is a former ASFA VP internal.
The CEO isn’t hiding this. In fact, Marvin Cidamon openly admitted to breaking the rules when interviewed by the Concordian. He indicated that it was his “prerogative” to hire who he wanted to work at the polling stations, and that he would take the blame for violating ASFA’s Annex A by hiring Devlin.
The matter has now been referred to ASFA’s judicial committee, which was scheduled to convene Monday evening to conduct preliminary inquiries into what it described as “two requests regarding the recent ASFA byelection.” It remains unclear if the above mentioned violation warrants declaring the recent byelection invalid. But what can the JC do anyway? Cidamon has already said the JC was aware of Devlin’s hiring since the beginning, and yet they said nothing. Cidamon indicated that the only reason he found himself referring the matter to the JC this past weekend was because “somebody complained” to ASFA.
In an email to the Concordian, JC member Justin Famili indicated that the JC will not be commenting further until the JC’s investigations have been completed. But if Cidamon’s statements prove to be true, a serious lack of accountability has just been exposed at ASFA, the second-largest student association on campus after the Concordia Student Union.
On the surface, breaking one rule regarding who works at a polling station may seem to be very minor in nature. It certainly looks that way to everyone involved. ASFA’s president Alex Gordon even said during an interview that this type of violation is still not as serious as if it was a violation committed by a candidate.
On the contrary, the violation of any rule clearly outlined in an organization’s bylaws is wrong, without exception. ASFA’s Annex A, a 10-page document, exists for a reason. It is there to clearly explain to CEOs how to carry out fair and transparent elections. Again, these are rules to be followed, not to be discarded “just to make things easier.”
Once a person breaks one rule, more or less out of convenience, how many more rules are they allowed to break before they get caught? How many more electoral rules were broken during this recent byelection by the CEO? Apart from Devlin’s hiring, we also know that Cidamon failed to ensure that executive summaries were placed at every station on the first day of polling, although the situation was soon rectified by ASFA’s VP internal Schubert Laforest.
What’s even worse are the claims that ASFA’s JC members knew the rules were being broken, but remained silent. The judicial committee is in place to act as the guardian of ASFA’s bylaws and ensure they are being followed, yet the committee’s members seemed to have failed in their duty this past week.
Cidamon was appointed as CEO at the last minute, and only had about a week to prepare for the byelection. There are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes when rushing to get everything ready for election day. But this excuse does not apply to the judicial committee. The three committee members have been at ASFA longer than one week, and, hopefully, know the rules better than Cidamon. To sit idly by and allow the CEO to violate ASFA’s annexes is unacceptable.
Equally unacceptable is the fact that there is no direct way to contact the judicial committee. There is no centralized email address, in contrast to the CSU’s judicial board. Although the JC members’ names are a matter of public record – Nikos Pidiktakis, Justin Famili, and Shawn Millman – their email addresses are not, and the ASFA executive is hesitant to hand them over. The Concordian was only able to contact Famili after the paper received his email address through other channels. So how exactly does an ordinary ASFA student get in touch with the JC if they have a matter they need judgment on? But that’s a whole other debate.
The recent ASFA byelection has shown that things have yet to really improve at the federation, despite the large number of recommendations made to improve the system last year by former CEO Nicolas Cuillerier, who was widely praised for his role as a CEO by the book.
Apart from the violations mentioned above, the CEO also kept the general student population in the dark with regards to the election results. Annex A clearly says that the results must be announced within 24 hours of the closing of the polls. Cidamon says he texted the candidates with the results, and then emailed them. He later emailed the results to members of the student media, but only after this information was requested. If journalists hadn’t asked for the results, Cidamon admitted he would have never given them out.
This bizarre stance, as well as Cidamon’s failure to post the results to a platform accessible to the general public, had many arts and science students take to Facebook and Twitter the day after the elections musing about the missing results. Students – or should we say, voters – should not be denied the results of the election in which they voted for candidates who will now be paid honorariums stemming from student fee levy funds.
When asked, both Gordon and Laforest said it was their “understanding” that Cidamon had posted the results, but neither of them were able to pinpoint where, both indicating that they had decided to give Cidamon some space to run the elections.
At least ASFA is trying to make things better. Laforest has promised to meet with his internal and administration committee as well as the policy reform committee to ensure that “tighter, more explicit legislation” is in place and that ASFA “stop relying on convention.”
Let’s hope this actually happens. Let’s hope that the results of these efforts to better ASFA’s electoral system include a judicial committee, a CEO and ultimately an executive who are more accountable to students, and who read the bylaws much more carefully the next time they decide to organize a byelection, let alone a general election.

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