URSU presidential candidate asked to leave student org after using groups’ social media to promote own campaign

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URSU logo in flaming trashcan Kate Thiessen

Other posts follow same pattern

With the University of Regina Students’ Union elections underway, one candidate is getting quite “ambitious” with their campaign.

Late Wednesday evening, posts appeared on the U of R English Students’ Association’s Facebook page and Instagram story endorsing URSU presidential candidate, Amir Said. The Instagram story read, “[Amir Said] is a hardworking individual, a passionate student leader, and the right choice for URSU President.” It was very similar to the Facebook post, which was shared around 7:45 pm and read, “Amir is a hardworking and passionate student leader, he is dedicated to serving students, and he is the right choice for URSU President!”

These posts came as a shock to the ESA co-presidents, Emily Lints and Breane McCormick, and several hours after the posts were made, they were deleted and followed by this statement:

“Dear Campus Community,

It has come to our attention that the ESA Instagram and Facebook account, managed by a current URSU presidential candidate, made a post on our social media today, that was perceived as an endorsement of an URSU presidential candidate. Once we were made aware of this, we swiftly took the action necessary to remove it from our accounts.

We will note that the presidential candidate who shared this post is no longer a part of the ESA executive, and more so, wholeheartedly condemn his actions. We recognize the importance of fair, student-led democracy, and recognize that the ESA should not, and will not, endorse student political candidates, as to ensure that the ESA remains a welcoming environment, regardless of student political affiliations.

We wholeheartedly apologize for this issue, and we thank those who brought it to our attention.

– Emily Lints and Breane McCormick
   ESA Co-Presidents”

In a personal interview with the Carillon, ESA co-president, Emily Lints said, “My Co-President and I had no idea that these posts had been made, being busy with school and meetings all day and not having checked social media. We do share access of our accounts with our social media rep and expect posts to all be directly related to the ESA and its activities, not other agendas, no matter whose. We are thankful to those that messaged the ESA page to express their concerns, which notified us directly of this issue.” [Full disclosure: It was Carillon news editor Sara Birrell, a former Vice-President of the ESA, who first pointed out the ethical implications of an URSU-affiliated student organization endorsing a candidate for URSU President.]

When questioned about using his access to the ESA’s social media accounts to promote his candidacy, without consulting with his colleagues or receiving permission to do so, Said told the Carillon: “I saw promotion through these platforms as a good way to share my platform with students, but I understand why there were some objections to the promotion on the ESA’s socials.” However, none of the posts actually contained any information about Said’s platform.

In addition to the ESA posts, there was also a post made to the Imprint at U of R Instagram story that read, “Amir demonstrated his passion, communication skills, and desire to engage with students through his volunteer work with the UBC Imprint Conference. Vote for him at…” This post has since been deleted.

The Carillon was informed that since the UBC Imprint Conference, that Instagram page has been inactive (since January 16, 2021) and without an executive committee. Another endorsement of Said from an IG account called “UofRStudents” uses the same images and style as the other unsanctioned endorsements. UofRStudents is unaffiliated with the university but uses the U of R logo. It currently has no posts besides the story promotion of Said’s campaign.

The post on UofRStudents’ Instagram story is still posted and reads, “We have worked with Amir several times; he is the best presidential candidate you could ask for. Amir will work for students, it is guaranteed. Vote Amir NOW.” Yet there are not any projects or content that has been produced or shared with the public via this account that is allegedly dedicated to sharing student stories, therefore there are no collaborations between Said and UofRStudents that can be documented, nor do students know who is running this account.

There are no explicit rules in the nomination packages barring candidates from seeking endorsements from student groups, however Said’s decision to use the social media of organizations he is affiliated with to promote his own campaign, without receiving permission from those organizations is ethically concerning, and his leaving the ESA executive speaks for itself.

Chief Returning Officer Amber Smale told the Carillon that there is currently an investigation into Said’s social media use and that this is considered “one of the more serious offenses.” The Carillon will update as more information becomes available.

The polls close on March 18, 2021, meaning that students have a few hours left to cast their vote(s) and have their voices heard.

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