Student protest at U of O had a point - Macleans.ca

Student protest at U of O had a point

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

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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.