The name of the game is change.
This was the message delivered by candidates for both the Representative Union (RU) and Team CANDO (Concordia Action Network for Democratic Organizing) slates Tuesday morning at a press conference launching the Concordia Student Union’s third executive election in the last year.
“The CSU is completely corrupt from the top to the bottom. Almost everything, every arm or institution it has is completely rife with corruption. This is one of the reasons why we are running. This completely has to stop,” said RU presidential candidate Chris Schulz in his introductory statement.
CANDO presidential candidate Sabine Friesinger echoed the same sentiment in her statement. “This past year the CSU has been the source of conflict and controversy, and frankly it hasn’t been benefiting students at all. We really hope to bring integrity back to the student union and to the Concordia community,” she told the members of the media assembled in H-771.
Wanting change isn’t the only similarity between the slates. Both slates’ platforms include fighting for accessible/affordable education, expanding CSU facilities at the Loyola Campus and improving the quality of food services on campus, particularly for students in residence.
The fact the platforms are so similar prompted Concordia University public relations officer Chris Mota to ask what, if anything, is the true difference between the slates.
“Is it more a case of different personalities?” she asked both slates.
Schulz immediately went on the offensive, responding that “CANDO doesn’t represent any meaningful change. There are some token representatives from new parts of the school who haven’t been involved, but for the most part they represent a changing of the guard that the CSU attempts every election.”
The “token representative remark” was in part directed towards CANDO candidate for VP finances Sameer Zuberi, who ran on Schulz’s slate in November’s by-election.
Ralph Lee, running as VP academic for CANDO, and who earlier had expressed hopes this campaign wouldn’t involve rehashing past CSU problems, was quick to respond to the accusation. “I feel to some degree that we have to defend ourselves after hearing that. I didn’t think the campaign would begin this negatively so quickly, I thought we would have a constructive debate.”
It is not surprising that tensions are running high between these two groups, considering most have been involved in student politics before, sometimes on the same side.
Both Friesinger and Schulz were part of Rob Green’s administration last year, Friesinger as VP internal and Schulz as clubs commissioner. The two have distanced themselves from that executive, which was rocked by a fraud scandal in which former VP finance Sheryll Navidad allegedly embezzled nearly $200,000 from the CSU.
In his defense, Schulz said that since he was a hired employee and not part of the executive, he was not tainted by the scandal.
According to RU candidate for VP Services Riccardo Filippone, the same thing can’t be said for Friesinger.
“She lived with [Navidad] during that year, she worked on that executive, but she never noticed anything. That isn’t the role we want in our president,” he said.
According to Friesinger, because of her duties as VP internal, she didn’t have time to check up on CSU finances.
“I should point out that Riccardo was on council last year, and it’s council that is in charge of scrutinizing the budget. We could throw arrows back and forth, but the fact is [Navidad] was a very good con artist. She conned the university, the bank, all of us,” she said over the phone yesterday evening.
Another link between the two slates was that Lee and Zuberi both ran with Schulz last semester, although the two eventually gave up their positions.
“I felt uncomfortable with issues on Chris’ slate,” said Lee, adding that he had problems with how Schulz ran his campaign and therefore quit after only three days. Zuberi was not available for comment on why he left the RU slate.
Filippone pointed out, though, that when ACCESS resigned Lee and Zuberi took on interim positions on the executive, which he says shows that CANDO will not bring about real change.
“Both Sameer [Zuberi] and Ralph [Lee] are on this mockery of an interim executive,” said Filippone, adding that CANDO represents the same politically biased mentality as the former ACCESS executive. ACCESS resigned last semester when it became apparent that a petition calling for the ouster of president Sabrina Stea would garner the necessary number of signatures.
The petition itself became a point of contention, when during the meeting Lee stated that he was in fact the one who began its circulation, and was later joined by Schulz and others in his campaign.
Schulz refuted this statement afterwards, calling Lee’s original petition libelous and sexist. “If the Representative Union had not stepped in [and reworded the petition] there would have been no by-election,” he said.
Although the Representative Union seemed to have no qualms going after CANDO’s past, CANDO members said they do not want to make this a smear campaign.
“We hope this doesn’t become a mud-slinging campaign,” explained CANDO VP Communications candidate Kaelia Curtis, a former member of the Judicial Board. “We should let the students decide on the issues. It seems like [the Representative Union] is struggling to make links [between CANDO and previous executives].”
Also brought up at the meeting was the fact that Tom Keefer, whose ban from campus was reinstated after the November by-election, is once again running for council. Although Keefer is not currently enrolled in any classes, he is allowed to run because he is still a member of the CSU in good standing, said Chief Electoral Officer Stephan Herman. As with the November by-election, Keefer’s ban has been lifted until polling begins. According to Herman, Rector Frederick Lowy has agreed to review Keefer’s case once again if he were to win a seat on council. Herman was not able to say at the meeting whether any other candidates for council are not enrolled in classes at Concordia.
Another vote on dean of students
In other election news, there will be a symbolic ballot on which undergraduate and graduate students can vote on the Dean of Students position. This move is in response to a referendum decision in November where students called for the democratization of the position. The incumbent dean, Donald Boisvert, will be on the ballot, although he says he will not be campaigning. Running against him will be former CSU VP finances and interim President Patrice Blais, and Concordia student Larissa Duteuil.
The name of the game is change.