Candidate contests his disqualification over a letter to the editor
The votes for the Graduate Student Association’s (GSA) annual elections have been counted and the United We Change slate, which won four out of five executive positions, will take on the task of improving the lot of a student association recently languishing from lack of participation and political irrelevance.
“We had a large turnout,” said incoming President Alex Ocheoha, who said the first order on his agenda will be to start re-involving students in the organization, as well as financial transparency.
“What we want to do is make sure member students benefit from their association membership,” he said.
The elections created their own share of controversy when candidate Keroles Riad, running for both Senate and as a Special Individualized Program/Individualized Program (SIP/INDI) candidate, was disqualified over a letter written to and posted by The Concordian.
The reasons given were rules stating that all campaigning communication have to be pre-approved by the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) overseeing the elections. Riad did not submit the letter to the editor prior to publishing it, and complaints to the CRO prompted him to disqualify Riad.
“It had nothing to do with the fact it was pre-approved. It’s just an excuse; they basically did not like what I said,” said Riad. As examples to unfair treatment he gives a less controversial letter to the editor submitted by Ocheoha to The Link which raised no eyebrows as well as another candidate’s punishment over elections violations that amounted to a 50-vote penalty.
The letter was highly critical of what Riad considered the GSA’s shortcomings, particularly poor mobilization and cases of undue influence by its governing body. An example given by Riad was brought up last December by council members looking to ban Facebook campaigning. It was voted earlier in March. Riad says five out of the 11 councillors attending the meeting were running under a current slate, as were three executives out of four.
“The GSA membership has a right to know of the abuse of power and conflict of interest being disregarded by the council,” said Riad, who said his claims are verifiable in the minutes. “This is a motion pertaining to an election they are running in. They are not only the ones putting forward the motion, but they’re the ones trying to change the rules of an election.”
He also questions his disqualification from his running for the SIP/INDI seat, pointing out to a previous announcement by the CRO that uncontested positions are automatically won by ‘acclamation.’
He is now in the process of appealing.
Edit: A previous version of the article stated that the United we Change slate won 5 out of 5 executive positions; they won 4. We regret the error.