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Letters to the Editor: Why I Moved to Sanction Mostapha Marzban After the Last GSA General Assembly

by The Concordian December 1, 2014
Letters to the Editor: Why I Moved to Sanction Mostapha Marzban After the Last GSA General Assembly

In response to the motion I presented at the November 18th GSA council meeting to sanction him for his behaviour at the last GSA general assembly, Mostapha Marzban argued that “accusation of only [him], while everyone including executives were supporting their desired candidate with their power, is not fair and constructive”.

My intention here is not to refute this statement, but to clarify that my sanction motion had nothing to do with supporting candidates. Elected leaders of department/faculty associations should be encouraged to support candidates. Who is better able to speak to the qualifications of candidates than their fellow student leaders? Voting for your friends is also acceptable, in my view, though ideally one should at least be familiar with the candidate’s platform. When asked by an attendee at the aforementioned council meeting, Marzban was unable to speak to Dina Alizadeh’s ambitions as VP Academic and Advocacy hopeful. But again, there is nothing sanctionable about supporting one’s spouse. If anything, this just demonstrates that Marzban is a devoted husband, and I hope that my partner would support me with equal enthusiasm if he were a Concordia student.

Obviously I did not propose to sanction Marzban for being devoted to his wife. However, while popularity voting is seen as practically an inevitability of student elections, creating an atmosphere of intimidation, in which some members of the assembly are not able to participate fully and equally, and voters are coerced, bullied, and instructed to physically pull down other voters’ hands, is not. I had hoped that after hearing my motion, Marzban would understand that this behaviour is completely unacceptable.

Marzban may not have been the only one contributing to this hostile atmosphere, but he himself admitted he was the one in control when his wife’s election was contested. “We will stay here until morning voting down your bullshit motions,” he promised. Not ‘I’, but ‘We’, implying that Marzban was confident that a majority of the members present would vote however he instructed them to. These are students who share classes and labs, and who see each other nearly every day. The Engineering Department is a small space to be in if you don’t get along with your cohort, and especially if you don’t get along with one of the VPs of your faculty association.

Marzban’s behaviour at that General Assembly also indicated a lack of respect for other attendees. Those who had taken precious time out of their day to vote on whether or not to take a stance on pipeline development or austerity; those who had questions about the GSA’s financial report, or simply wanted to see what their student association was all about. These members were cheated out of their General Assembly, and while I acknowledge that Marzban was not the only one who engaged in disruptive, disrespectful, and anti-democratic behaviour that day, he made it very clear that he was their leader.

It is unfortunate that, when Marzban spoke about my motion at the GSA council meeting, he framed it as a conflict between faculties. Rather than addressing the specific allegations I enumerated in my motion, he argued that engineers make valuable contributions to society. They build bridges, he said, without irony. Engineering is indeed an important profession, and ENCS graduate students should be proud of the contributions they are making in their respective fields. Marzban did a disservice to his faculty, who elected him as one of their representatives, by representing them so poorly. If engineers were misrepresented after the last General Assembly, it is because Marzban, and a few others, led by him, engaged in behaviour that was detrimental to  the honour and integrity of his entire faculty, not to mention to every other member of the Graduate Students’ Association. As a leader, he should take responsibility for this, and I invite him to do so by formally apologizing to
all GSA members at tomorrow’s General Assembly.

I hope this clarifies why I moved to sanction Mostapha Marzban.

-Isabelle Johnston

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