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Student protest at U of O had a point

SFUO board of administration need to follow their own policies, too


 

It’s going too far to compare the students’ union at the University of Ottawa to the line of despots tumbling to protesters in Africa and the Middle East. But that’s not stopping students.

The student union’s board of administration voted through a motion to remove the student arbitration committee from all electoral processes. Then the very next day voted to remove a winning candidate from the election, naming the second-place candidate the winner.

The big problem being that the now-defunct arbitration committee is the winning candidate’s only recourse against the decision to remove him from the race.

In his words, it’s “anti-constitutional.” But students angry at the seemingly anti-democratic election are taking matters into their own hands. A small group of students took over the offices of the student union yesterday to protest the March 2 disqualification of Tristan Dénommée.

Like most stories, this one is likely more complicated on the inside than we can tell from the outside. But therein lies the Board of Administration’s problem.

The action of justice being done is equally important to the appearance of justice being done. People need to see justice in action, and believe in it, to legitimize the system.

By naming themselves sole arbiter of everything electoral and then naming a preferred candidate in one fell swoop, they give the impression of being power-hungry, rather than acting in the best interests of students.

Under the electoral by-laws governing the U of O’s student elections, any vacancy in the executive positions, which includes the thrown out vice-president-elect of finance, is to be met with a strict set of procedures.

The Board is allowed to appoint an interim person to hold the position until a by-election is held. The key words being “interim” and “until.” If the Board wants to appoint the second-place candidate, they are free to do so.

But given the student reaction, and the convenient annihilation of any recourse for the winning candidate, the Board is faced with only one option that will solve all their problems: Announce a date for the by-election. Policy states that it must run between Sept. 15 and Oct. 31 this fall.

To preserve the image of justice, showing students their voice does in fact matter, the board needs to follow through on their own policies.


 

Student protest at U of O had a point

  1. The following facts are missing from this blog:

    First, Tristan Denommee broke numerous elections rules receiving many minor and one major penalty.

    For example: distributing false information (did not comply with the penalty), used sfuo resources to gain access to Marion building during closed hrs (against elections rules) (did not comply with the penalty), used false evidence to attack the campaign and credibility of SJK by reporting a picture of one of sjks leaftlets near a ballot box that had been staged by a student and reported to a poll clerk and the CEO of elections, went above the spending limit allocated by the electoral regulations.

    Not to mention that the CEO of Elections, Jason Benovoy, had this to say about Tristan Denommee: “The sanction of a major penalty toward Tristan Denommee follows a continuum of offenses, with increasing intensity. From failing to comply with two rulings issued by my office, to harassing and threatening my office,” (Incident report of events February 10th and 14th)

    Tristan Denommee was disqualified because he cheated. I understand that students are angry with the boa/sfuo but this is Tristan’s fault. He threw student votes away when he made the decision to systematically cheat, over and over again.

    Also, the Student Arbritration Committee has not been abolished. The current President of the sfuo, Tyler Steevees, did not hire a SAC. When the elections were already over and appeals were being filed, they BOA was made aware of this. At this point, it was too late to hire a SAC that would be impartial to the electoral process (that is why they are usually hired months before elections) and it would take weeks to go through the hiring process. The boa decided, given these very specific circumstances, to bring the appeals right to the boa (the highest decision body of the sfuo. Filled with elected officials per faculty).

    Next year, the SAC will be back! As long as the sfuo president fills it. The situation is not ideal but the boa did follow the constitution and elections rules to a T.

    Students get informed. Don’t simply rely on blogs as most of the information is false

    • Actually, there is a SAC.

  2. Yes, students. Don’t listen to journalists. Listen to people who comment on blog postings using fake names with no obvious ulterior motives… *NOT*.

    The fact remains, a by-election should be held. He was elected, and then subsequently removed. The position is vacant, whether or not Sarah-Jayne King (the supposed VP-Finance elect) and her friends on the BOA like it.

  3. The “winning candidate” in question broke rules, failed to comply with minor penalties, went over the spending limit, and harassed and threatened elections employees. The fact that this article fails to include the fact that he CHEATED is a testament to the bias of this news magazine.

  4. If there is no by-election, then my vote literally counts for nothing, as do a significant amount of those who voted for Tristan Denomee. While this many not be true for every Denomee vote, there are many students who would want their votes to be a resounding “no” for Sarah Jayne King.

    There are also the issues of some alleged personal attacks. LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR: if a running candidate states that budgets had not been posted for the current year and that this is a problem, it is not a personal attack on the current VP Finance (that happens to be SJK). It’s truth. Even if I were to state that SJK didn’t fulfill her duties as VP Finance (as she did NOT provide any type of budget for students to see where their money is going), it’s not libel. It’s not slander. You’ll find you can’t cry wolf when someone states that you haven’t done your job (and you haven’t). It’s called a defense of justification.

  5. Whether or not Tristan was disqualified, students should have a chance to vote for their given representative. It is unfortunately not the opinion of the BOA. The SFUO constitution says they have to hold a by-election when the election process has been compromised. If they believe that the rules broken by Tristan were severe enough to disqualify him, they are admitting that the election process for the race of VP Finance has been compromised.

    If they don’t believe that the election process was compromised by Tristan then his election should stand.

  6. Nobody can say that he cheated nor did mislead people to vote for him. Was he granted a decent appeal things would have been different. Please guys get informed. He was never condemned for harassment and the suposedly insult he Proclaimed were using the world bailout which is according to the boa negative…! (it is nevertheless used by the us congress…!) Stop believing everything the boa says and hear both size before you speak. They clearly are the most biaised people ever. Has Tristan cheated or not, this is a democracy. You can’t give a position to someone saying: here forgive us for the conduct of that candidate. I still believe SJK did a horrible job last year and was the cause of many scandals i do not want her to be vp finance. My vote has been cancel because the boa thinks I’m stupid enough to get corrupted by false statement and beautiful speech. This is an insult to the student population. Since the chosen candidate is, according to their constitution, the one who has plurality of vote or was acclaimed by a yes no vote. SJK did not do any of these. SJK is therefore not a legitimate executive member. I call for democracy and for accountability of the people who pay their salaries and who elect them. University of Ottawa is no place for a second soviet union where if you are not part of the clique you don’t rule and if you protest we take care of you ( ie Jackson Ryan who got fired as a DJ for the student bar, and mr denommee who got suspended for ” supporting” the protest). Good luck for next year SFUO.

  7. In the event of a by-election, they would not have allowed any new candidates other than SJK, according to the constitution. So she would be running alone on a yes/no vote. But actually, the constitution states that in a by-election for an executive position that is UNCONTESTED, that candidate is appointed WITHOUT a yes/no vote. So we arrive at the same outcome.

    See an interesting discussion regarding all of this below:
    http://campusaccountability.org/2011/03/08/our-response-to-the-boa-decisions/#comments

    • In response to Maxime, this was also posted on the website by Uncle Ted:

      Because we maintain that the Disqualification was not valid in the first place (simply due to the fact that it happened after the Election, not even taking in to account the issues surrounding the reasons for it), we believe that this situation should be treated as if Tristan was removed from the Executive after taking office, in which case a by-election would be both mandatory and open to new nominations.

    • Why would not anyone be allowed to run? Its antidemocratic and not in the constitution. And if our lovely BOA would prefer not “penalizing” SJK by allowing other candidates to get in the run, then they would have to put her through a yes or no vote anyways, its just fair. She was not elected, therefore CANNOT be vp finance. I think that point is more important than anything the constitution can say about by-elections. The BOA clearly put that section aside when they took their decision and onyl focus with the by-election problem, which is really anti-democratic. Shame on SJK for accepting a position she clearly does not deserve.

  8. 4.16.1
    When a position on the Executive becomes
    vacant, the Board of Administration
    shall:
    a. when the vacancy arises on or before
    the last working day of the month
    of October, order a by-election under
    the provisions of the relevant sections
    of this by-law

    seems pretty black and white to me…. Tristan WAS an exec, he was elected as such. He got disqualified, which means there was a vacancy. Point being by their constitution, there should have been a by-election.

  9. I find it very disappointing that a magazine as prestigious as Maclean didn’t get their facts straight or properly verify the information mentioned in this article. I am a uOttawa student, who is involved and aware of what goes on at the Student Federation. This interpretation of the story is extremely biased, and therefore unjust.

    What Maclean failed to mention was that the elected candidate for the position of VP Finances at the SFUO cheated during his campaign, and failed to comply to the several penalties given to him for his misbehavior. As he did not respect the democratic institution in which he was a candidate, he was disqualified with grounds.

    The reason for which the candidate’s appeals were not heard before the student arbitration committee rather than the board of administration was because the members of this committee were not appointed before the elections as it should have been done. Filling the seats of the arbitration committee after the elections would have been harmful to a healthy democracy as it would have certainly been comprised of biased members. Therefore, the board of administration put in place a new procedure to hear the appeals of the candidates for this year. As all appeals go through the Board of Administration at one point or another, they decided to handle the cases of the appellants and defendants themselves. I’d also like to highlight the fact that this procedure was adopted according to the SFUO constitution, and all decisions made on sunday march 6th were also made accordingly.

    Since the elected candidate was disqualified, the runner up in the electoral race, whom did not get herself disqualified by following the elections rules through her campaign was named the next VP Finances. No where is it written in the SFUO constitution that in a case like this, there should be a by-election.

    I’d also like to add that the Student Arbitration Committee should be filled all year round, and not only during the time of elections. The SAC is not defunct, but simply non-functionnal at the moment.

    Nothing in this year’s. SFUO elections was unconstitutional or undemocratic, and I think the Board of Administration handled these elections in a just manner.

    Thank you

    • Technically not a “runner” up. Just another candidate, who the majority of student did not vote for. What is so difficult to understand in that? You cannot appoint someone just because there is no way to find a democratically elected person to replace the elected candidate. THE SFUO CONSTITUTION STATES THAT THE PERSON WHO WILL FILL IN THE POSITION WILL BE ELECTED IN A DULY ELECTION BY A PLURALITY OF VOTE OR A YES OR NO VOTE. Pretty straight forward. By elections or not. It still stands. And there is absolutely no way around it. Running against someone who cheated does not make you the winner or the person people want to see as their VP finance. It’s democracy. Am I the only one who can do maths and/or use logics or can read a constitution? I understand the people who want SJK to win will adopt that position. I believe a majority did NOT want her as VP finance.

  10. I’m not going to discuss “facts” nor am I going to comment on the legitimacy of really either candidate and their respective campaigns. My concern lies with the whole entity of the Student Federation at the University of Ottawa. I have been a student for 4 years now; I have endured professors who do not care if you come to class and learn, professors who are merely there for a paycheque and really have no concern in the student’s personal achievements. I have endured teaching assistants who are too high on their horse and grade so unfairly that it makes me want to cry. I have dealt with professors who care too much, and therefore take their ‘craft’ too seriously to be open to external and varied opinion. I have met professors who will forever have an impact on my life. I have dealt with the boarderline incompetent administration board much to my dismay. The last, good thing that I can take advantage of to enhance my student life is my student federation – my voice, my ideas, my support for the complete fulfillment of my academic career. This has failed.

    I’m not going to say names, but I lost confidence in the SFUO a few years back when I educated myself of the matter of the CFS and their actions on other campuses. The biggest factor in my distaste for the executive council that is supposedly representing me, and my MONEY, is that it is run into the ground with rumours, and drama. We should all be working towards a common goal, however the rumours of all candidates and their connections run so rampantly that it’s confusing sometimes as to what political party we are engaging ourselves in. Oh wait… it’s student politics. While some take it seriously, I think the past few years have been absolutely horrendous. Rumoured money lost from students ‘fees’, rumours about executive members and their various relationships, rumours of misuse of power and legitimacy.

    I think the issue here is student representation. Our student executive is terrible. We, as the future of this city have no, zero representation. We are swarmed and consumed with a rumour mill full of only damaging claims.

    I’m over the bullshit. Spread the word – we want representation. Real representation. It is the STUDENT’S FEDERATION, is it not?

  11. To reply to the first message by “Maanie”: IF it is the SJK poster in SITE that was brought up against her. It wasn’t staged. As a former SFUO poll clerk, I noticed in passing in eyeshot of the booth. It had been there for days. I am fairly certain that was the one brought up to the convener. I heard the poll clerk had a post-war freakout when it was brought up as it is his job to make sure that all posters are taken down – of course that is here-say and I don’t expect this comment to be taken too seriously as this is not the forum for such matters. I only post this message because this little article is weak and misinformed from both stand points. This article was not well researched at all.

    On a personal note, I am not impressed that the convener took so long to eliminate Tristan. Had Tristan been taken out of the running before the election was finished, that would be one thing. It begs the question, was the convener playing the waiting game to see if SJK would win; did Tristan ever really have a chance to win? It’s no secret where the BOA’s allegiance lies – I know them all personally and they are all friends. What I am summing up to is that my vote did not count. I did vote for Tristan, not because I am pro-Tristan – but because I did not want SJK to butcher that position, AGAIN. I call for a by-election.

    The SFUO did not act democratically. One thing I know for sure is that illiberal democracies ALWAYS fail.
    SFUO: Sic Semper Tyranus

  12. This whole thing seems pretty simple.

    1 – the majority of voters voted AGAINST Sarah Jayne King
    2 – their votes are ignored
    = someone that lost the election is put into a position they don’t deserve, taking away the students’ right to elect their representatives.

  13. Let’s bring this down to one basic fact: If the SFUO wasn’t acting legitimately, and this was indeed a breach of democracy, then SJK would make a statement about its legitimacy. She would call for a by-election. But no, instead she is happy to usurp a position she has no right to have. She knows her name would not survive a by-election. She is happy to be a passive recipient of a corrupt fed body’s verdict. It speaks to the weakness and corruption of her character. And by extension, the weakness and corruption of the body that restored her to VP finance. You can hate on Tristan all you want, but realize that dragging his name through the dirt does not legitimize SJK. Not all students are fools. You’re transparency is as plain as day.

    You’re right Alex – Sic Semper Tyranus

  14. To clarify, it is NOT the CEO that chose to disqualify Tristan, it was the Elections Committee.

    The CEO decided not to DQ, that decision was appealed by SJK, and the ELections committee heard the appeal, and ruled in favour of SJK. CEO isn’t involved in that decision, nor in that timeline.

    • Sorry, not I see that I didn’t mean the convener. I guess I meant the Elections Committee – I was trying to refer to the “authority” on the matter – not trying to take a shot at the CEO.

      But my point stands anyway

  15. “This whole thing seems pretty simple.

    1 – the majority of voters voted AGAINST Sarah Jayne King
    2 – their votes are ignored
    = someone that lost the election is put into a position they don’t deserve, taking away the students’ right to elect their representatives”

    False. You know what IS pretty simple? There are campaign rules set in place for a reason – This kid needs to grow up and realize that in an adult world, there are repercussions for non-compliance.

    In the real world, this is called “corruption” not democracy.

    Furthermore, whoever compared this event to events in North Africa, and the Middle East – Shame on you. I’d be interested to see how many defendants would stand in the way of a loaded gun, rather then a bunch of office admin.

    Annoyed Political Science Student, not at U of O.

    • Students are not responsible for the actions of a candidate, especially when he was declared guilty AFTER they voted for him. You can’y say: He cheated, therefore all the people who voted for him are idiots and they don’t deserve to have a vote. People who voted “the right way” will be listened. Yeah pretty democratic indeed.

  16. I voted for Tristan in this election.

    Had he been eliminated before election day, I would have voted “No” for Sarah Jayne King. But now she is VP of Finance when she won under 50% support.

    This has made me feel like my vote just doesn’t matter to the SFUO or the BOA.

    I just want my voice to be heard, my vote to count. I guess that’s too much to ask.

  17. Fulcrum pointed out before the election that SFUO elections get contested just about every year.

  18. Pingback: The student court needs to make a comeback - The Fulcrum

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