Referendum question on change to CSU bylaws

CSU wants to change bylaws to allow easier removal of councilors who committed misconduct

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) is sending a question for referendum to change bylaws regarding the CSU Code of Conduct and Sexual Violence and Safer Spaces Policy, ensuring that these regulations are cohesive with the CSU bylaws.

According to Isaiah Joyner, the general coordinator of the CSU, the Sexual Violence and Safer Spaces Policy and the Code of Conduct don’t properly reflect the bylaws. This means that if there is a dispute, or a councillor violates the regulations, the process is tedious to remove them from the CSU.

The questions going to referendum will ask students if they support two changes to the bylaws, allowing for easier enforcement of the Sexual Violence and Safer Spaces Policy and the Code of Conduct.

Joyner explained that the proposed changes will allow for a more streamlined way to remove councillors, where the issue will be brought to the Judicial Board or another CSU committee “empowered by such policy and Code of Conduct.”

As an independent and impartial branch of the CSU, the Judicial board has the mandate to pass judgement on cases brought before them. They interpret the bylaws and standing regulations, and judge over a myriad of issues.

The motion to put this change to referendum was made on Feb. 17 during a special council meeting, which, according to Joyner, is the only time council can change to the bylaws.

Bylaws are the governing rules of an organization. Meaning that no matter the policy or regulation, if there is a dispute, council must defer to the bylaws. However, these bylaws currently disagree with the Code of Conduct and Sexual Violence and Safer Spaces Policy.

For the CSU to implement certain rules, such as changes to the bylaws, the change must be put on referendum, where students will vote on whether they support the modification. The upcoming referendum, which will include several questions for students to vote on, will be held during the CSU’s general election period in November.

“There is no such thing as a perfect policy,” said Joyner. “But this is the first step towards a better and more accountable CSU for serious issues.”

The new proposed system will have the Judicial Board make a decision on the issue and then send a recommended action to the CSU.

“If the Judicial Board or other committee so empowered by such policy or Code of Conduct determines that a Representative or an Executive committed a misconduct under such policy or under the Code of Conduct, and determines that the appropriate sanction for such misconduct is removal from office, then, the Committee [Judicial Board] shall prepare and present to the Council of Representatives [CSU] a report of its findings and recommended sanctions,” states one of the proposed amendments to the bylaws.

When asked if the common claims of the CSU being a toxic environment had a role in creating this new system to remove councillors who committed misconduct, Joyner said it was not.

“This is something that should have taken place a long time ago,” he said. “This has been a long standing issue, so now it is finally being put to rest and resolved”

Joyner stated that one of the goals of this new proposed system will be for the CSU to be a safer and better environment for people that want to participate in the union.


Graphic courtesy of the Concordia Student Union (CSU)


Judicial Board rules in favour of council

In a unanimous decision late Wednesday night, the Concordia Student Union’s Judicial Board ruled in favour of plaintiff Gonzo Nieto on the matter of choosing a new CSU president.

In its decision, JB cited CSU bylaw 6.3C and standing regulation 52 as the fundamental basis for the conclusion that council is not forced to appoint the only vice-president who is willing or to remain leaderless. Bylaw 6.3C states that council will “act as the final authority on appointments of the student union” while standing regulation 52 states that “all internal and external appointments by council shall be by ordinary resolution.”

The complaint, originally submitted by councillors Nieto and James Vaccaro, stems from a regular meeting held on Feb.13. During the meeting, the executive presented VP clubs and internal Nadine Atallah to replace former President Schubert Laforest, who resigned due to health issues.

After hours of arguing, clashing over bylaws and threats of legal action, council rejected the proposal and Atallah refused to rescind her candidacy, leaving the CSU in a deadlock while the issue was sent to JB.

The central issue of the case was two separate interpretations of bylaw 7.4, which states that should there be a vacancy in the presidency, council shall appoint a president from the vice-presidents and should no vice-presidents be willing then a councillor may be appointed with two-thirds majority of votes.

The executive believed that council was violating the bylaws since Atallah was the only vice-president willing to take on the position. Conversely, council expressed their discontent, asking for a second option from the executive or to appoint a councillor.

During the hearing, Nieto represented the councillors who had issue with the idea of being forced to choose Atallah, while Atallah and VP external Simon-Pierre Lauzon represented the executive. Over the course of the two-hour meeting, both sides argued their points before the five members of JB. After two hours of closed session deliberation the decision was made public.

Following the decision, Lauzon told The Concordian that the decision would allow the process of choosing a president to move forward.

“The decision defined the boundaries between which we can work,” Lauzon said.

Nadine Atallah told The Concordian that she was happy to have a ruling from the Judicial Board that would allow them to move forward with a discussion.

“I’m glad they were able to clear things up, and I’m glad they recognized that there needs to be some change to the policy as it is unclear,” she said.

The executive is set to present four executives as options: Atallah, Lauzon, VP academic and advocacy Hajar El Jahidi and VP Loyola Stefan Faina.

Nieto said that he was pleased with the decision the Board had reached but admitted that neither bylaw 6.3C nor standing regulation 52 were included in his argumentation despite the role they played in deciding the issue. Atallah also told The Concordian that 6.3C was not included in any of the arguments presented, and that its inclusion in the decision was a matter of the Judicial Board’s own research.

“We were debating this particular by-law, 7.4, and so we were arguing about how to interpret it rather than the entirety of the bylaws,” she said.

Vaccaro said he hopes the CSU can move forward from the impasse and that he was happy that JB recognized the importance of council.

Bylaw 6.3C “recognizes what the executive seems to be repeatedly neglecting,” he said. “The council of representatives is there to look out for the interests of students and represent them at all costs. The executive is elected to execute the will of council, which represents the will of students in lieu of a meeting of members.”

Nieto said that going forward he hoped other executives would present themselves as candidates, citing VP sustainability Andrew Roberts as an example.

“The thing with [Roberts] is that he keeps bringing up this thing about not liking the politics side of the position, and that’s exactly why we want him, because he’s been a very forthcoming, open and transparent person that’s shown the ability to listen attentively to both sides,” said Vaccaro.

The next regular CSU meeting is this Wednesday where the issue of presidency will be addressed.

With files from Kalina Laframboise


A resolution in the works

Photo by Marilla Steuter-Martin

The Judicial Board is expected to render a decision on the issue of electing a new president for the Concordia Student Union, where an impasse is preventing council from moving forward.

Following the unexpected resignation of Schubert Laforest in early February, councillors and executive remain divided over who is best to lead the organization for the last months of the mandate. In a contentious council meeting on Feb. 13, the executive’s recommendation of VP internal Nadine Atallah to fill the empty position fell flat with the councillors.

Not a single councillor voted for Atallah, who the executive felt was best for president. A compromise was not reached as both sides adamantly refused to reconsider their choices — including Atallah who did not want to rescind her candidacy.

Councillors Gonzo Nieto and James Vaccaro filed a complaint to the JB, where the three members will rule Wednesday on the issue of presidency and provide clarity on the CSU’s bylaw 7.4.

Bylaw 7.4 states that should there be a vacancy in the presidency, council shall appoint a president from the vice-presidents; should no vice-presidents be willing then a councillor may be appointed with two-thirds majority of votes.

However, the bylaw does not state what to do if only one vice-president is willing but council does not agree.

To end the complaint, Nieto wrote that he hoped the JB could remedy the situation and provide clarity on the bylaw.

“It is our belief that this situation should be handled the same way as if there were no vice-presidents willing to fill the vacancy of the presidency — namely, that a member of the council of representatives would be appointed to fill the vacancy of the presidency, as per bylaw 7.4,” the complaint read.

Vaccaro said that he hopes the issue will be resolved quickly so that the CSU can move forward.

“I’m hoping the JB can clarify the bylaw because as written, it is unclear and does not state how we should proceed if the only willing executive is not appointed by the council,” said Vaccaro. “I would be happy to see another executive state they are willing as I’m sure their team dynamic would be best with a leader they’ve been working with throughout the year.”

Conversely, Atallah hopes that other than volunteering herself for the position of presidency, she hopes that JB will offer different interpretations of the bylaw.

With files from Robin Della Corte.


A violation that led to a resignation

Councillor Ramy Khoriaty officially resigned from the Concordia Student Union less than an hour before a Judicial Board hearing following an allegedly unintentional violation of the standing regulations.

During the last regular council meeting, Councillor Chad Walcott brought forth the issue of Khoriaty’s employment as orientation director for the CSU’s two-week long orientation that starts off each school year.

The standing regulation 225 states that a member of council is eligible for disqualification for six reasons, one of which is being hired after they took office as a councillor. Khoriaty was elected in March 2012 and the current slate and councillors’ mandate began in June. Upon being hired by the CSU as orientation director, Khoriaty violated standing regulation 225, article C.

Khoriaty stated in his letter that he stepped down because “under no circumstance should the standing regulations be broken” and that he wanted to lead by example since he was in fact in violation of the rules that govern the CSU.

“… I would like to apologize to my constituencies and assure them that as ENCS councillor, my objective was only ever to use experience I’ve gained from my previous job as executive to try to improve the events of the student union; my actions were always in good faith,” the letter read.

Regardless of Khoriaty’s resignation, the JB still held a meeting to discuss standing regulation 225 and the position of orientation director during fall 2012.

Those present included Khoriaty, Walcott, VP internal Nadine Atallah and VP external Simon-Pierre Lauzon. The executives who interviewed Khoriaty for job of orientation director were not present. According to Khoriaty, the interview was conducted by VP student life Alexis Suzuki, VP Loyola Stefan Faina and VP sustainability Andrew Roberts, and possibly President Schubert Laforest.

It came to light during the meeting that Khoriaty was interviewed for the position on June 23 and that his last paycheque from the CSU was on Oct. 11; although he was unable to confirm, Khoriaty believes he received $470 every two weeks as a salary.

As Walcott confirmed he knew of the violation in October, he explained that he was waiting to bring the issue to the policy committee. When Khoriaty questioned why Walcott did not address the issue of Councillor Jordan Lindsay’s potential violation of the same standing regulation, Walcott simply replied that he voted against Lindsay’s appointment to oversee ongoing issues with the CSU’s information technology services.

“It was all in good faith and I never meant to take advantage of that position,” said Khoriaty. “One week before council I had no clue about standing regulation 225; neither did any of the councillors.”

When asked by JB if a hiring committee, which are often static, would be aware of Khoriaty’s position on council, Atallah confirmed that those interviewing applicants would have been aware.

While JB questioned the roles of the individuals in charge of interviewing and hiring students for jobs at the CSU, Khoriaty said he felt that the standing regulation severely limited the pool of applicants for any future volunteer or paid position.

“This is a waste of experience,” said Khoriaty.

Following the hearing, JB issued a provisional decision and recommendations regarding Khoriaty’s violation and the CSU’s hiring policy.

JB addressed the need for clarification of the word “employee” in the standing regulations and was concerned with the hiring process of students by the CSU including the lack of written formal procedure for the recruiting of non-unionized and unionized positions. Furthermore, JB formally reprimanded the individuals involved in the contracting of Khoriaty as orientation director.

“The CSU Judicial Board formally reprimands all those persons involved in the hiring of Rami Khoriaty, including both the orientation hiring committee and Rami Khoriaty, for violating standing regulation 225 C,” the provisional notice read.

Lastly, JB recommended that all councillors and executives take the time to read and understand the CSU bylaws and standing regulations in order to avoid such discrepancies in the near future.

With files from Robin Della Corte.

Concordia Student Union News

Concerns raised at first CSU meeting of the year

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

Concerns were raised at the first 2013 meeting of the Concordia Student Union over the amount budgeted to the CSU’s Judicial Board, which councillor James Vaccaro said could lead to a potential conflict of interests in the future.

According to Vaccaro, the JB, which can be called on to interpret bylaws and settle disputes between members of the CSU, has only been budgeted one-tenth of what is meant to be given to the JB according to the standing regulations. Despite the regulations stating clearly that a global amount of no less than $5,000 is to be given to the JB for their work that includes funding for legal fees for lawyers and consultations, to date only a figure of roughly $500 was allocated to the board in the budget.

Vaccaro voiced concern that should the JB be asked to step in on a matter involving the CSU, it would be forced to first go to the CSU to ask for funding before it would be able to take any actions, something that Vaccaro said would cause a clear conflict of interest.

Nadine Atallah, VP clubs and internal affairs, told council that historically the JB has almost never used more than a few hundred dollars each year, which was why so little was budgeted to them this year. Atallah also proposed sending the matter to the policy committee for review, saying that the matter did need resolving but that altering the standing regulations to more accurately fit the financial needs of the JB might be a good idea.

Vaccaro explained that he was disconcerted that it needed to be brought up at council and that councillors who knew of the issue weren’t concerned.

“The thing that I found a little odd is that the executive is putting $500 in the budget for the Judicial Board, knowing full well that their minimum allowed budget is five thousand dollars,” said Vaccaro. “So right off the bat as your budget is being accepted, you’re going against the regulations of the union.”

He went on to explain that the appropriate funds should be made available in spite of not needing the entire sum in the past.

“It feels to me that the executive feel this is a non-issue, but if it does become an issue it will be a matter of importance.”

Council voted to send the issue to the financial committee and the policy committee for review.

Post-mortem orientation report

During a discussion of the upcoming winter orientation, councillor Melissa Kate Wheeler brought up the ongoing issue of Alexis Suzuki’s orientation post-mortem, a document submitted earlier in the year that Wheeler and others have raised complaints about in the past. The document, meant to be a summary of the successes and failures of orientation as well as recommendations for possible improvements, was considered short and unfocused by councillors like Wheeler, who told The Concordian that none of the failures of the orientation were mentioned and that its successes were played up to be greater than they were.

“There were a lot of problems with orientation. There was low attendance at a lot of the events and it sort of screamed poor planning in a lot of ways,” she said. “It’s a learning experience every year and no orientation is ever perfect, and nobody expected it to be perfect, but there were a lot of problems and they went completely unaddressed in [Suzuki’s] post-mortem.”

The wording of the post-mortem was also an issue for Wheeler, who said that nowhere in the report were words like ‘failure’ or ‘improvement’, compared to words like ‘success’ and ‘amazing’ appearing 12 times and nine times respectively.

Another point of contention remains Suzuki’s proposal to write a how-to guide for future orientations. Chad Walcott, another councillor to raise concerns over the post-mortem, told The Concordian that he was uncomfortable with the idea of Suzuki writing such a guide given that this past orientation was what he called the “least attended Orientation that I’ve seen at Concordia in the last 5 years.”

“To date, she has not demonstrated that she is able to be self-critical of her work, and as such I believe this limits her ability to give future VPs any insight into effective ways of running orientation,” he said.


A new executive to kick off December

Photo by Madelayne Hajek.

The Concordia Student Union appointed Hajar El Jahidi to VP academic and advocacy during a regular council meeting last Wednesday.

Following a ruling from the Judicial Board, the position of VP academic and advocacy that was tendered for the byelections by concerned councillors was officially closed because it was never legally opened. The decision stated that regulations were not adhered to when council put forth the initial motion, rendering it defunct. In accordance with the CSU bylaws, only the president may appoint someone to an executive position.

El Jahidi was the only candidate for the position formerly held by Lucia Gallardo, who stepped down in September due to her inability to resolve her registered student status issue. Since Gallardo’s departure the portfolio of VP academic and advocacy had been split between VP external Simon-Pierre Lauzon and VP sustainability Andrew Roberts. Council, however, expressed concerns over fulfilling the mandate of an executive who was no longer there.

Schubert Laforest, president of the CSU, motioned to appoint El Jahidi for VP academic and advocacy. As of last Monday, El Jahidi underwent training for the position.

When asked why Laforest (who was initially opposed to opening the position) had changed his mind, he said it was the “responsible” thing to do and that “it would be detrimental not to” considering the higher education summit to address the governance of post-secondary institutions this February.

El Jahidi said she is collaborating with Lauzon to prepare for the higher education summit to ensure that Concordia students have their voices heard. She went on to say the she is hoping to implement CSU tutoring services in the near future as part of her mandate. Furthermore, El Jahidi hopes to use the additional money from VP academic and advocacy’s unused salary to date for student bursaries.

“For now I’m mainly getting up to speed with the rest of team and catching up on the work that’s been done since the beginning of the year,” said El Jahidi.

Similarly, the postponed motion to appoint a John Molson School of Business student to the university’s Senate was approved by council, appointing Melissa Lemieux.

“I am ecstatic that JMSB has a representative in time for the December 7 Senate meeting, which is long overdue,” Lemieux said.

Prior to last Wednesday the JMSB faculty lacked undergraduate student representation on Senate, something that is mandatory in accordance with university bylaws. For Lemieux, she hopes that the CSU will amend its bylaws to reflect those of the university regarding undergraduate seats on Senate and hopefully address the lack of independent student representation.


Judicial Board releases decision on byelections

The Concordia Student Union’s Judicial Board nullified the opening of the VP academic and advocacy executive position by council while simultaneously deciding that additional Arts and Science councillor seats could be opened for the upcoming byelection.

The three members of JB discussed the case Friday afternoon with respondent and Chief Electoral Officer Justin Holland before issuing a statement later that day. As per the CSU’s request stemming from a regular council meeting Nov. 14, JB investigated the legalities of the vacant executive position and the potential opening of new seats following a slew of resignations.

Hajar El Jahidi, the only candidate for VP academic and advocacy, VP Loyola Stefan Faina and Holland were the parties present for the hearing. Councillors and plaintiffs, Chad Walcott and Melissa Kate Wheeler, cited work obligations for their absence.

The written decision produced by JB states that CSU bylaws and regulations were not adhered to when the vacant executive position was issued for the byelection, therefore legally never opened. In accordance with bylaw 7.3, council does not have the power to appoint an undergraduate student to the position but “should the president of the Concordia Student Union wish to appoint a vice-president academic and advocacy, he should do so with regards to Concordia Student Union bylaw 7.3.”

Furthermore, following numerous departures from council of Arts and Science representatives, JB rendered that all three positions were eligible for byelections if Holland so chooses to open them.

Faina stressed that retracting the executive position from the ballot and not opening the three seats would be detrimental to the CSU and representing the undergraduate student body.

“Technically should we allow these three seats to be open? No. Should we? Yes,” said Faina. “It’s miraculous to have people running for the CSU at this time. So let them, please.”

This was a choice Holland favoured when asked by JB Chairperson Nick Cuillerier if he felt it was appropriate to open the seats.

“I think it’s a grey area,” replied Holland. “I think if the position is in the same faculty and they have willing candidates, it would be in the best interest of the CSU.”

Since councillors April Underwood, Adriana Farias and Haneed Alatrash resigned prior to the campaign period, contrary to the plantiffs’ claim as proved by Holland, these additional seats can be opened. Therefore, if Holland does add the three seats, six Arts and Science seats will be opened for a council that is dwindling in numbers.

Walcott disagreed with the conclusion JB issued, feeling uneasy about opening the seats.

“I’m a little worried this decision will favour Arts and Science councillors,” Walcott told The Concordian. “It’s problematic.”

According to Walcott, he believes that concerned councillors will address this at the council meeting Wednesday.


Six councillors elect reinstated

The judicial board of the Concordia Student Union unanimously voted to reinstate six formerly disqualified councillors elect following a public hearing on Monday, April 23.

The councillors were there to appeal the decision made by the CSU’s Chief Electoral Officer, Ismail Holoubi, which disqualified them for not filing their election expense reports on time.

The councillors present at the meeting were Rami Khoriaty, Charles Brenchley, Bella Giancotta and Ali Talhouni. Holoubi was absent from the hearing, as were formerly disqualified councillors Veryan Goodship and Johnny Alexandar.

Khoriaty insisted that the CEO was late to file the motion to disqualify the councillors and that communication between the councillors and Holoubi had been unclear.

“We didn’t have any receipts because we didn’t have any expenses,” said Khoriaty. “We had nothing to send to the CEO.”

After Holoubi disqualified the councillors on April 5 for failing to hand in their paperwork on time, the councillors requested to appeal his decision on April 11.

According to Khoriaty, some councillors did not receive emails from Holoubi regarding the expense reports, and those that did said each one was different.

“For seven people to make a mistake, it wasn’t us, it’s a mistake done by the CEO,” said Khoriaty.

Before the meeting was adjourned, councillors emphasized that they had all been acting in good faith.

“We did not commit electoral fraud,” said Brenchley.

Following the hearing, the board released a preliminary statement reversing the decision made by the CEO and reinstating all six councillors for the 2012 – 2013 academic year.

JB Chair Ceejay Desfosses resigned unexpectedly from her position the day before the hearing in an email sent to CSU Chair Nicolas Cuillerier.

Desfosses wrote that she would be unable to fulfill her obligations to the JB due to a lack of time since she will be “embarking on other endeavors.”

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