An ideological impasse between the executive and council over who is best suited to lead the Concordia Student Union has left the organization without a president for an undetermined amount of time.
Following the resignation of Schubert Laforest as president last week, the executive issued their recommendation of appointing VP clubs and internal Nadine Atallah to replace Laforest.
However, the recommendation failed—not a single councillor voted for Atallah.
When the executive explained why they felt that Atallah was best suited to take on the position of president, it was quickly met with reservations from council.
Councillors, such as Melissa Kate Wheeler, voiced their concerns on what they perceived as a lack of transparency on Atallah’s part. There was also worry about Atallah continuing with the ongoing student centre project while fulfilling the mandate of president. An issue for Chad Walcott, councillor and former VP external, was that Atallah was not sitting as a student representative on either the Board of Governors or Senate.
Atallah immediately disclosed why, although she said that Walcott knew the response, saying that her academic standing prohibited her from sitting on the university’s governing bodies.
However, what concerned councillors the most and fuelled what ended up being a united front against the executive was that they felt backed into corner. Councillors were upset that a recommendation was made from the executive before the issue of finding a new president was brought to council.
“There isn’t even an option being presented,” said Councillor Gonzo Nieto. “That’s not how this scenario plays out.”
Nieto asked if any other executive would consider presidency and the seven vice-presidents adamantly refused. VP external Simon-Pierre Lauzon said that he would be unable and unwilling to work as president because he was “burning out” and that “if this had been six months ago it would have been different.”
The executive stated that Atallah was the only option—a belief that fed the backlash from council.
“As an executive our mind is made up about who we want as president,” said VP Loyola Stefan Faina. “If you want to discuss then that’s fine.”
The executive left the room at the request of council, allowing individuals to discuss their concerns candidly before Walcott moved to call the motion to appoint Atallah to question. It failed, with zero councillors in favour, seven opposed and five abstentions.
VP sustainability Andrew Roberts also refused a motion from Walcott to appoint him as president, citing that he was not into the politics that come with the position. He stressed that Atallah was the right choice for the CSU.
Several councillors, including Carlotta Longo and Fine Arts representative with ex officio rights Erika Couto, asked Atallah to reconsider her application.
“Clearly, no one chose you,” said Couto.
However, Atallah chose not to rescind her motion saying that while she understood the opposition to her candidacy, “it was not only her decision.” This left the CSU without a way to move forward unless Atallah agreed to step back.
As the impasse became apparent, the divide grew as each side maintained their resolve. The executive felt that council was breaching the CSU’s bylaws by not following the legal advice they sought about appointing a new president.
Bylaw 7.3 states that council may appoint a new president from the vice-presidents with a simple majority. Similarly, bylaw 7.4 says that should there be no executive willing to be president that a councillor may fulfill the role of president with a two-thirds majority.
“I feel uncomfortable sitting in a council where its members are knowingly breaching its bylaws,” said VP academic and advocacy Hajar El Jahidi.
When the notion of legal action was implied as the executive believed council was violating their own bylaws, Councillor Jordan Lindsay said he felt uneasy with the actions of the executive and that, should they sue council, they would be going down a difficult road.
“I hate being threatened,” said Lindsay. “Your threat is so empty.”
Council maintained that their concerns were not being taken seriously and that there was more than the options presented.
Nick Cuillerier, who chaired the meeting since Jean-François Ouellet was absent, said that “there had to be a way to move forward.”
It was decided that the matter would be sent to the Judicial Board to render a decision. The bylaws do not state what a solution is for the current circumstances. As Atallah was opposed and no executive is willing, it will be determined if council must choose from the executive or not.
Council must name a plaintiff in order for the case to proceed to JB and the members of JB can take up to two weeks to issue a decision.
Until then, the CSU will continue without a president.