First-ever Loyola General Assembly to wrap up what previous one couldn’t
The Concordia Graduate Student Association (GSA), which represents around 6,500 graduate students at Concordia, will have its second general assembly of the semester on Dec. 1, and many hope will go smoother than October’s raucous meeting.
The previous assembly held in October proved to be a fiasco with claims of voter intimidation, disruptive behaviour, and lax enforcement. All of these failings were best represented during the election for VP Academic and Advocacy between candidates Dina Alizadeh and Trevor Smith in an initially contentious vote of 58-57, respectively, that went through several recounts as students left, further widening the lead. Attempts to decide the voting by secret ballot failed, leading to shouts, flailing hands, and walkouts. The chaotic voting atmosphere ultimately caused the vote to be tabled and rescheduled for the Dec. 1 assembly after some GSA members and executives claimed the open ballot was easily abused by the largest voting bloc present: the engineering students. They, for their part, claimed their victory wasn’t honoured and displayed a violation of democracy.
The Engineering and Computer Science Graduate Association’s (ECSGA) VP of Finance, Mostapha Marzban, went before the GSA council on Nov. 18 to defend himself against a sanctioning motion calling him a key figure in the disruptions. (Marzban, in addition to VP Finance, is the husband of Alizadeh.) An amended motion was passed to that effect but some have expressed concern it was watered down to the point of being completely ineffective and overly vague. As it was in closed session, the details cannot appear in print. The GSA may expel an individual from the immediate general assembly but there exists no formal method of punishing members aside from a theoretical funding blacklist that has seldom, if ever, been used.
“It would be a lot more productive if we simply asked him to acknowledge what he did was inappropriate,” said GSA Councillor and Senator Keroles Riad, who originally suggested the location move for December’s general assembly primarily to more closely involve the GSA’s 300 or so Loyola members, and in the hopes the change of place may relax tensions.
Marzban for his part is unrepentant and says he has not received any official document from the GSA notifying him of the association’s decision, or what the sanctioning will mean. He admits to being angry at the assembly, but says it was brought on by the organizers’ bias.
“Accusation of only me, while everyone including executives were supporting their desired candidate with their power, is not fair and constructive,” he said, adding that he’d given the recount the benefit of the doubt at first but found the final decision to table the vote as incomprehensible. He also considers the subsequent write-ups of the event in The Link and personal blogs as disrespectful to the engineering students.
Marzban says the way forward is to detach the voting from the general assembly.
“If the GSA council of directors want to make sure this will not happen anymore—executives clearly supporting one candidate and [while] other students are disagree with them—they should change the rules in a way that elections happen outside of GA. In my point of view, [the general assembly] happens two to three times a year and this is a very precious time … we should not waste that time with stuffs [sic] like elections (which takes almost all of GA) while we can do them outside of GA through secret ballot.”