Update (March 20, 2017 at 7:00 a.m.):
The story has been expanded as more details have surfaced.
The University of Toronto Students’ Union released its primary spring election results on its online voting website on Thursday evening, with five candidates getting elected from team Demand Better, one independent executive, and one from We the Students slate.
Demand Better’s presidential candidate Mathias Memmel, current UTSU internal, won the position with 2,202 votes, while We the Students’ presidential candidate, Andre Fast, attained 2,027 votes.
“I’m indescribably grateful to have been given the chance to do some good. Faith in the possibility of something better was a big part of our campaign. Students put their faith in us, but also in people who didn’t run with us, so I need to have faith that those people also want something better,” stated Memmel in an email to The Medium.
Daman Singh, also from Demand Better, won the VP internal position with 2,122 votes, whereas Jackie Zhao, current UTMSU VP internal and We the Students’ candidate received 1,952.91 votes.
Carina Zhang was the only one from We the Students to win, taking the VP university affairs position with 2,119 votes.
The only independent candidate, Anne Boucher, was running for VP external and obtained 1,933 votes.
“Yes, I’m sad that we lost Josie and Fasiha, but I also want to make things work with Carina and Anne,” added Memmel to The Medium. “It won’t be business as usual at the UTSU, and we can’t afford another year of infighting. Things are going to happen very quickly, and I don’t intend to let anyone down.”
The other three positions: VP equity, VP campus life, and VP professional faculties were all elected from Demand Better. Chimwemwe Alao received 1,818 votes, Stuart Norton received 1,822, and Shivani Nathoo was elected with 505 votes.
According to the online results, a total number of 5,867 of 49,729 electors voted in the ballot.
Reboot U of T withdrew from the elections, fearing a disqualification after accumulating almost 38 demerit points, with the maximum points allowed being 35.
Some of the demerit points for Reboot were a result of transphobic comments made on their Facebook page.
“On Saturday March 11, the CRO received a complaint against the Reboot Team for deliberate lackadaisical approach to the moderating of their Facebook page, particularly in regards to recent trans-phobic posts and comments from followers on the Reboot Facebook page,” reads the rulings, which was issued on March 13.
According to UTSU’s Elections Procedures Code, “A Candidate using a website or online network as a campaign tool is responsible for the moderation of all materials so that they are in accordance with the rules of Fair Play. Violations of Campaigning rules on websites or online networks by Candidates or Arm’s-Length Parties are also subject to the penalties detailed in Article VI.3.”
When asked about the demerit points and withdrawal, Reboot life science director candidate Avinash Mukkala and VP internal candidate Jessica Leung told The Medium that, “Reboot did not withdraw; members of the slate withdrew from the slate, but not the election to avoid accruing further demerit points for the entire slate.”
They also explained that someone outside the team was the one who made the transphobic comment against one of Reboot’s executive candidates on Facebook.
“This comment was not policed quick enough, and hence the whole slate was penalized, and five members were disqualified. This comment was not made by any member of Reboot nor was it made by anyone affiliated with the slate,” said the candidates, further stressing that the issue was over not “censoring” the comment in a timely fashion.
An article written by The Varsity on March 13, “Five Reboot candidates, including Micah Ryu, obtain enough demerit points to be disqualified,” reports that Reboot received eight demerit points following a comment “left by an unaffiliated party on a Reboot Facebook page post.” It also explains that the CRO/ERC ruled that the comment “intentionally misgendered a member of the Executive.”
In response to the article, Mukkala and Leung alleged that Reboot requested The Varsity to clarify the article’s wording “on who exactly made the comment.” Mukkala added that the request was met, as The Varsity’s editor in chief, Alex McKeen, “corrected some of the implied meaning errors in that poorly-written Varsity article, and added an editor’s note at the bottom, clarifying the real happening of the incidents in question.”
An official explanation for the resignation of Reboot’s candidates from the slate was issued on Reboot’s Facebook page. The statement read that while many Reboot members were placed “on the edge of disqualification,” five had already been formally disqualified.
“This move [of withdrawal] is meant to ensure the best chances for election for the remaining candidates, based on their personal risk/benefit analysis of staying with the slate,” read the statement.
This year’s UTSU spring elections were considered historic, since it was the first time in years that four teams and two independent candidates raced for the seven executive positions in the union.
The elections ran from Tuesday to Thursday last week, and the results were released shortly after the ballots closed on Thursday evening. They are expected to be officially ratified.