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URSU election update

author: john loeppky | sports editor

credit Brett Neilsen

 

Election controversy continues

In an update, the Carillon has been informed that the only person who is authorized to speak on the organization’s behalf in regards to the result of the emergency board meeting from this past Monday is VP of External Affairs, Abby Rutko and that, at this time, the voting breakdown has not been released, nor has the reason for Maria Aman’s disqualification. Decisions related to the election will occur at next Tuesday’s board meeting, to be held at 6:00 p.m., which will include a ratification vote regarding the results.

The following is a prepared statement written by the Chief Returning Office [CRO], Caileigh Beckman.

“I cannot speak of particulars as I do not want to be seen as betraying any confidences of my office or possibly favour or disfavour any candidate or candidates. I did not treat any candidates any differently. I treated all candidates the same. Aman complained that I was biased. As the CRO, I treated her allegations very seriously. I took measures to ensure that I was not involved in dealing with the reviews of her behaviour. To ensure transparency and fairness and remove any possible appearance of bias, I removed myself from consideration of her behaviours, relinquished authority to the election committee and ultimately the board. The committee conducted an investigation. My conduct was reviewed and all of my decisions and dealings with her and other candidates were upheld. I did not disqualify Aman. I always followed process as directed by the election bylaws. The CRO is a thankless job. When I make a decision someone is going to be disappointed, no matter what. It is not unheard of and it is somewhat expected that people are going to be unhappy with decisions the CRO has to make.” Beckman added, “I respect the executive, I respect the board, and I respect the decision that they had to come to. I don’t think it came to them lightly and I think all of those concerns were addressed when it came to that decision.”

A source has confirmed that Maria Aman accused the Chief Returning Officer of being biased in her decision resulting in the CRO recusing herself from issues concerning Aman in the lead up to the election results. The source also confirmed that racial allegations were made against the University of Regina Students’ Union [URSU] as an organization, though they were in passing rather than being formalized. The issues with the election began with early campaigning and then became a means, it seems, to use the CRO position as way to disqualify other candidates rather than people conducting their campaigns in a fair manner. It has also been confirmed that the time of the polls closing was always going to be midnight and that the candidates’ had made a presumption regarding a five o’clock end time, as in previous years. The name of our source has been withheld for their protection.

URSU President Jermain McKenzie had previously highlighted what he felt was a restructuring of the CRO’s role to include a committee to oversee the process, writing a clarification in the comment section of the Carillon‘s Facebook page. He established his support of Beckman, saying that she had come to him with concerns after the article’s publication and that she had, “cleared up certain perceptions that I [McKenzie] had previously held. I want to thank her for her service and her responsiveness throughout the election. Her work was made even more difficult for the lack of clarity surrounding the bylaws and the actions of various persons throughout the campaign.” McKenzie would go on to confirm that, in his view, “…an elections committee that is made up of students outside of the URSU Executive and Board will be the best way to move forward.”

Many students have come to Aman’s defense, most vocally her sister Sofia, in questioning the actions of the URSU executive and the response by the VP of Student Affairs, Shawn Wiskar. Some students are contesting the transparency of the organization via social media, while the executive contests that the decision is a matter of privacy for those involved. When reached for comment, Sofia Aman voiced her discontent.

“I’m shocked, outraged and disappointed by what these representatives are trying to pass off as a legitimate election. I’m just another student asking for accountability and transparency regarding Maria’s sudden, suspicious disqualification. We’ve been left with no information regarding the reasons for disqualification as well as why the voting period was randomly extended without notifying students. The URSU executive and management are entrusted by students to do their job with a bit of integrity and ethics and so far I haven’t seen that done.”

Maria Aman, when reached for comment, said that she did not have anything to add at that time – that time being Wednesday evening. She had stated previously that she would be considering taking further action. It is unclear at this time what action that would mean.

 

The following is an update that was written immediately following the URSU Board meeting on March 28, the first board meeting after the emergency session

 

The University of Regina Student Union’s board meeting occurred on March 28 as a follow-up to the emergency board meeting that occurred on March 20. The meeting began with regular business, a presentation by UR Investing, followed by a presentation by the campus’ entrepreneurship club. The main issue under debate was the contesting of the Vice President of Student Affairs position.

The disqualified candidate, Maria Aman, published a post detailing her issues with the board’s decision to remove her following the emergency meeting. The post was made on the morning of the regular board convening. These were issues that she shared with the Carillon in an earlier interview. Below are excerpts from her Facebook statement.

“This month I put myself forward in the University of Regina Students’ Union general election for the position of Vice-President Student Affairs. I ran because I believe that students need a strong representative who is committed to defending student rights and building a stronger, better URSU…To date neither the Chief Returning Officer that oversaw the election or the Board of Directors of URSU have provided me with a reason why I was disqualified. Instead URSU is trying to force me to sign a confidentiality agreement in front of a Commissioner of Oaths.”

Vice President of Operations and Finance Matt Mutschler has confirmed the request for a confidentiality agreement because the information being shared was provided in camera, in other words in confidence, in front of the board and they would need to have another vote in order to release those results. Much of the March 28 meeting was also conducted this way, leaving a small group of students outside. This issue was raised in an interview with Aman earlier in the week.

“I know that there’s wrongdoing on their part and that they are trying to conceal that.”

In her Facebook statement, Aman says that she believes a small group of URSU executives created the situation.

“When the polls closed, URSU announced there was a delay in announcing the results of the VP Student Affairs position. I believe that instead of announcing the results a small group of current URSU executive members decided to disqualify me at a Board Meeting that was taking place four days later. Following the URSU board meeting on Monday, March 20 the URSU Board of Directors Chairperson verbally told me I was disqualified. He did not provide me a solid reason, or point out a bylaw that I broke. At no time I was given an opportunity to defend myself.” Aman also said in the separate interview that URSU board chairman Brad Lulik’s words to her were “vague.”

Another charge made by Aman is the way in which the board acted which she believes is not in the spirit of the bylaws or democracy.

“The Board of Directors does not have the authority to disqualify candidates. The Bylaws state that the CRO “shall have the authority to enforce provisions of this bylaw, and to investigate any alleged or perceived offences” The role of the Board of Directors, as it relates to offences, is to hear appeals that candidates may file. When the Board of Directors interfered with the CRO’s responsibilities and more importantly took action to disqualify me they did so without having authority. I have asked the Chair of the URSU Board of Directors to show me where in the bylaws it says that the Board of Directors may disqualify candidates but I have not received a response to the question. The Chair simply said they had the authority.”

Previous reports from the Carillon indicate that the CRO had stepped away from any dealings with Aman over allegations of bias and that those duties were then transferred to the board. Aman has said that after the emergency meeting, Lulik withheld the documents that came as a result of the meeting.

“I was told by the chair of the board, which I might add is not his role, the role that should be telling me about my disqualification is the CRO and there was no sign of the CRO at that meeting. I was told very briefly by Brad a very vague description of why I was disqualified and I did not really have a good understanding of why I was disqualified. I requested to see the documents that they had discussed in the meeting, because that should be my right after all is said and done, and the chair informed me that, no, there are changes to be made on this document and edits of the Executive Committee so I am not able to give this to you right now.”

Below are the demands made by Aman prior to the board metting regarding an election in which she says, “Students at the University of Regina deserve better.”

“1. Release the result of the election including the number of votes I received.

  1. Release the information about the reason for my disqualification to me.
  2. Drop the demand that I sign a confidentiality agreement.
  3. Remove any board member who participated in the disqualification decision from participating in hearing the Appeal to ensure I have a fair process.”

Tuesday’s board meeting was largely held in camera. A number of students attended who are not a part of the board, many who seemed in support of Aman. Executive session was entered at 18:26 and had not concluded by press time

According to Aman, she made a request for an appeal to be heard, a request made at the beginning of the in camera session and confirmed once leaving the room with the others who were deemed to have a conflict of interest

Prior to leaving the room, Maria Aman could be seen in conversation with board chair Lulik from the opening directly in front of the Women’s Centre and a lengthy discussion occurred between all remaining members of the board. The students who remained outside the room said that they felt their democratic rights were being infringed upon and that the meeting should not have been conducted the way it was, sentiments that current University of Regina student Sara Wysman echoed.

“It kind of feels a little bit like they [URSU] don’t really take the students very seriously when it feels like there is a huge lack of transparency in the process and, for those us who would like to know exactly what the heck is going on with our students’ union, it’s a little discouraging and a little disquieting that we’re being shut out from the process.”

A statement is expected to be released after press time, meaning that an update with URSU’s comments will be available on the Carillon’s website as you read this. The election results were ratified with the exception of the Vice President Student Affairs position. The VP position will look to be ratified during the next board meeting on April 11. Other topics that were included in the meeting included the move over budget for PAC funding, various department reports, the GM’s report, discussions about the area in the rainbow pit that may occur, Education Dean Jennifer Tupper accepting a new position and the resulting need for a dean search, and the large portion of the meeting that was in camera, a session that lasted an hour and a half. More updates to come.

 

About John Loeppky

I am an athlete with a writing problem, or a writer with a sports problem, you decide. When I'm not editing, playing wheelchair sports, or advocating for the disabled, you can find me de-stressing with friends.