PART III – Elections, Council & Judicial Board
Do you think there is enough advertisement for CSU jobs? Are qualified people applying?
In terms of the way jobs are advertised, it’s a four-prong attack. First thing, the posters go up all over Concordia but they get lost within hours as people poster over them – everything else seems to take priority over a CSU job poster. Second, it goes on the website and gets sent out in an email to about 7,000 people.
Personally, I only got one email right about the time of the ‘Day of Action’ and I didn’t get any job offers!
We sent out at least one once a month since December. We had problems with our list too. Because we’re based off the university server indirectly, when we send out 7,000 emails, spam filters pick them up and they get trashed. We’ve got to figure that out too. That’s something we’re working on right now.
The other approach this year that’s been interesting, has been Facebook, using that as a network to get everything out there. Our [job for the] CEO was pasted all over Facebook. We had a councillor create a Facebook group, invite as many people as she could and that’s how a lot of our hiring has been done, in terms of the smaller jobs. Getting people to help us move sound equipment, we put an ad up and a Res[ident] student responded and said, “Hey I’ve got nothing to do and I’m interested.
And the final way, the way that I’ve received the most criticism for is, using my network. I’m friends with some pretty qualified people for all sorts of things and its unfortunate that I’m friends with them. The only way you know and trust someone is that you’ve worked with them before, you’ve been in a class with them before, you’ve built a relationship with them. And that was this whole thing with Beisan [Zubi]. I guess I didn’t know her well enough, but my sister spoke very highly of her and said she was a competent, qualified individual. And I take my family’s word, my family comes first with me in everything, my family doesn’t lie to me. If you have to go through your personal networks to get something done and bring someone to the table, it’s still council’s decision, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. I know the CEO is a contested position, because they have to be in autonomous and all that. With all the other jobs, if students aren’t a=pplying, if students aren’t interested and I happen to know qualified people who do give a shit and who would be great at the job, should I not call them because of who I am? That’s beena big thing for me to battle with all year. I don’t know where students stand on that. Would they rather someone who comes out of the woodwork and doesn’t know what’s going on, or someone who’s been plugged in and who does know what’s going on, who’s trusted and can ask for help when they need it.
It’s kind of a weird battle. For most positions, it’s not such a big deal. To find a student senator, it’s not difficult, for the CEO, it is a big deal. But when I see that no one else is interested, no one else is applying, I feel that responsibility to at least try to find someone who can do the job.
Why are student CEOs allowed to work what is arguably the most important job in the school, that of ensuring a fair election?
If we start hiring outside the university, we leave our elections susceptible to the university. It’s much easier to take advantage of someone from outside of Concordia who’s not a student and has nothing to lose than of a student who has their education to lose. There’s a lot to lose if I’m a student and my degree is verging on whether I can run a clean election and if I get accused of a number of mistakes, I’m going to be a lot more cautious. If it’s someone from outside, and [you] don’t give a shit about anything, they can be as mean to anyone they want to, they can say whatever they want to say and none of it’s going to come back and hurt me.
Why not someone from Elections Quebec?
That’s an interesting option. The elections Quebec thing is definitely an interesting route. I think we’d scare the shit out of them. The guy last year said, “You guys would win municipalities with the way you run campaigns here.”
Since Tara Tavender was CEO, she set up the regulations for CEOs, there hasn’t really been anyone who knew what they were doing.
Yeah, I mean Mark Small was a pretty decent CEO, but at the same time he was also a kid. Like everybody. I think it’s something that needs to be looked at properly, and the Custodial committee spent a good chunk of time at that this year. But because of everything that happened with their “unreleased document” that turned in to the scandal of the century, with student media and student groups on campus having to get voted on every three years, that kind of got diluted in the solution. It never really got looked at.
The idea flying around now is that the Judicial Board is “kept dormant” until elections.
For the record, the Judicial Board isn’t even ratified right now. Council minutes have to be ratified in order for appointments to be ratified and Judicial Board is out there doing what they’re doing… and I think it’s great that people are out there taking initiative but if we’re going to respect procedure, which the Judicial Board is there for, then we haven’t respected procedure.
What happened with Bra Bessisso’s resignation and the running of the JB?
Naz [Noorafshar] was really the heartbeat of that. At the beginning of the year I talked to Naz and Bra and… I said ‘We want to help you in any way, shape or form. You have a $5,000 budget and if that’s not enough then we’ll help you.’ They wanted to re-write the code of procedures, find out how to get the JB more integrated and effective and get new members. I said ‘Listen, anytime you want to do any of these things, we’ll help you, my door is open. You want to hire people? Get me the info and we’ll put it on a poster and get it out there. We’ll call a lawyer that we have on retainer and get him to draft a legal document for a new code of procedures.’
When Nas left, it left a lot of pressure on Bra and Chris, who were the only two really left, because Alina [Maizel] was away too. And they both had very hectics lives, on their way to graduate this year, and it became too much.
Who takes responsibility for the fact that it was just left with no one on board?
A reporter from the Link told me ‘It’s your fault’ and I asked ‘How is it my fault?’ ‘You didn’t do anything about it,’ they said.
I didn’t know I was supposed to do anything about it. I thought the JB was an autonomous body that kind of stuck to itself, that came to us when they needed things. And that’s the role that we offered. I don’t know, maybe that was a wrong perspective, it was maybe my perspective and it wasn’t a perspective that a lot of people shared. Maybe we should have stepped in, forced some kind of coming together of new JB members, of a new code of procedures.
But honestly, with all that was going on this year, there was no way we could have done everything. It’s weird that we would have had to step in when they’re already an accountable elected body there to do it themselves. Now we have four JB members who are going to get hit with an election.
It’s interesting that they’ve already made a ruling. They were lacking in institutional memory, they didn’t have a code of procedures, and they weren’t necessarily as experienced as they could have been. . . That was reflected in the way the decision was made: they made a decision, but they weren’t aware of how that would have to been enforced, it didn’t get enforced properly, which caused a whole bunch of crap, which meant they had to revert on the decision.
IMPACT, specifically Beisan Zubi, came out with 75 posters on poster night. She said it wasn’t clear in the rules [how many posters they were allowed]. GO and Unity both had 1,000 posters. She went to the CEO and he said no, it was tough – if posters come down, she could put up some of her own. But she didn’t think that was good enough so she went to JB. JB said, ‘You have until noon tomorrow to put up 80 of your posters and take down 40 of each of the other slates.’
In an ideal world, that’s a wonderful thing to do. But a) who’s going to enforce it. b) who’s going to decide which posters where come down? c) is it fair on the people who fought religiously for that poster space by lining up on poster night to get it? d) who’s going to escort you around to make sure that we don’t start a war in people just ripping down posters and e) how do you make a decision like that without undermining the authority of the CEO, who is in charge of an election? And his word is final. And yes, JB can overturn decisions, but when you step into the ring so early, you ruin the credibility of the person who’s supposed to be running an election.
The CEO is supposed to deal with contestations, with irregularities during an election. You’re supposed to go to the JB after that, and I think they jumped the gun this year in terms of going to the JB first.
What needs to be changed for the JB in terms of making it an accountable body?
I think we need a JB of at least 5 people, first of all. We need a code of procedures that is religiously lived by, not some 9-page document that can barely be read because it’s been photocopied so many times. And every year, or every time there are new JB members brought in, there needs to be a JB info and training session, either by a completely outside, neutral source, or someone within the university who understands the framework, who can teach them what their purpose is. Because I think their purpose can be greater than just elections.
Anytime a student feels like an injustice has been committed to them by another student. I guess the best example would be media on campus. I should be able to go to the JB and ask for a ruling when a newspaper lies about me, because that’s what a JB is there for. They’re there to deal with disputes between students. I should be able to make an appeal when I feel like my name has been slandered. Anything along those lines. If you want to talk about an accountability measure for student media on campus, that’s not a bad place to start. Not a bad place at all.
What do you feel the tone of council has been this year? Was there a lot of discussion, debate?
At no point in time do I believe we silenced anyone on council. Everyone had the opportunity to express themselves. However, people very rarely had an opinion on council.
It’s hard to have an opinion if you’re not willing to do the work to plug yourself in the system that you’re supposed to be commenting on. A lot of councillors this year. I think the council itself needs to fundamentally change. This year, we had a lot of involved people in their own world, but they we’re necessarily able to give up the time needed for council. It’s not to say that we didn’t have a strong council this year, we had a handful of strong and dedicated councilors who read all the council documents that we provided, who came to every meeting, but then again, as a CSU executive, as a joke from time to time, we’d put in blatant fallacies in our exec reports to see if anyone read them. And more often than not, nobody would comment on them. Angelica put in that she increased club budgets by $100,000. And no one saw that one coming. I put a 47-page RFP in my most recent council report, basically a report that I worked on the whole month of February on the Hive, and not a single person had a single question about it, not a single person read it. And that’s cool, but then people expect us to read 47-page documents when it comes to university Senate and the Academic code and we do it, because we’re elected, responsible individuals. But council this year has been kind of. it’s also kind of tough when you sweep council.
We had 21 out of 30 seats that were affiliated to us last year. And 21 out of 30 people tended to agree with us in the decisions we were making because they believed in the same set of values and had the same platform as we did. Whereas this year, we have a pretty even 50-50 split. And we’re going to go back to those years of people using racial slurs in council and it being really exciting, and sexism is everywhere. (laughs) It’s going to be a good year for these guys.
But in terms of how council changes, I have a bit of a vision for council. You need to have the faculties plugged in, this year, a lot of the faculty associations are clearly represented on council. You’ve got ASFA – actually, no, ASFA didn’t get on council this year. You’ve got ECA and JMSB both have seats on council this year, in terms of people who are directly plugged in to both faculty associations and CSU council. And I’d love to see council change a little bit to guarantee the president or a representative from each faculty association on the council, so each faculty has a voice on council. Fifteen arts and science councilors are supposed to represent arts and science interests. But if you’ve got no idea what A&S interests are because you’re only part of one club that happens to be a part of the CSU’s clubs and you just happen to be an arts and science student, it’s tough. Whereas the faculty associations meet with all the departmental and faculty associations every month and they hear what they’re up to, they feel what they’re feeling, and they can bring that back to the council level, they’re meeting with the Deans on a regular basis, and these are the people that we need to reach out to more and hear what they have to say. The faculties, especially with ASFA’s accreditation, are becoming more and more autonomous, and that’s not a bad thing, but that voice still needs to be represented in the CSU. If those voices aren’t being heard then we’re lacking key pieces of information.
With a whole slate running, our election process seems to be close to an American-style model of a two-party campaign. Why don’t we have elections for individuals?
I don’t know where I stand on that, but I do understand the pros and cons of both.
The pros of an individually elected system allow the best people for the job. If this person is best suited to be a President, they become President, etc.
But the cons, which are essentially the strengths of a slate system, is the fact that you get a group of dedicated people who understand each other, and that are willing to work together. And have a set of common goals and ideals they are going to adhere to.
When you put a bunch of kids that have four different values sets in a room together and you ask them to work on a project that only one of them really felt passionately about at the beginning of the year, you kind of hit gridlock sometimes and people kind of drag their feet because they don’t believe in what you’re doing and they want the resources to be put to something else.
Whereas when you’re on a slate, you campaign on a platform and a set of values that you all believe in, and the congruency that comes out of that, and, forgive me for saying this, the unity that comes out of that, is something quite special in terms of looking at the big picture and getting the bigger things done. You spend a lot less time arguing with each other because you already know what the other is going to say. You’ve already laid out a roadmap for your year together that you’re going to adhere to. And that can’t change because that’s what you’ve promised together. If you’re always dueling back and forth together with different projects and ideals, there’s no guarantee that that’s ever going to gel.
Wouldn’t some argue that there would be better representation with single candidate votes?
I don’t know if better representation does a better job. I don’t necessarily see that correlation. I think better representation is a great ideal to hold to, but I don’t think it will get the job done at the end of the day. I’m trying to think of a good example here, ah, the Iraqi Parliament! It has wonderful representation from all sorts of different people, different strokes for different folks, and it’s great, but they’re not accomplishing very much right now because everyone is so preoccupied with their support group that they came from. And nobody is able to shed that barrier because they are an individual. Whereas as a slate they can say, “I don’t owe anybody anything, except that I owe everybody everything.”
Why would electronic voting be such a bad idea? McGill seems to do it successfully.
It’s not, it’s not a bad idea at all. But it’s not something you spring upon Concordia – a school that is so heavily politicized, and so anti-change – like, quickly, it’s not an idea that you spring upon them a month before election. And I think that if you look at Concordia Council minutes from the past few years, electronic elections has been something that’s been looked at from all levels, at the ASFA Accreditation level, the CSU level, the Faculty level.
The research has been done, we even sat down to speak to the McGill people, the ones who do their elections for them. But on a personal level, there’s something that’s very exciting about putting a paper ballot in a box. That’s democracy. I mean, it’s not sitting in my bedroom at three o’clock in the morning, logging in to MyConcordia and going “Click, click, click. I have no idea what I just did.”
I think electronic voting could be something that we could embrace, it’s not impossible, it just needs to be presented appropriately. In September, come March, we’ve worked out the kinks, there are no questions, they are no threats of lack of accountability and we understand the system well.
Are we going to get a committee together at the beginning of this year then?
I would love to, and I think that Custodial has been looking at it all year. Again, they would have loved to come out and speak about it, until they got harped on because of something they didn’t really even…
Are you a little bitter about that?
I am! Because I really believe in the document that they produced. There’s a lot of changes that need to occur for a lot of these autonomous groups that we were speaking about. A lot of these groups are running around doing whatever they want, representing, their demographic, but they’re taking money from everybody.