This was the first year since 2010 in which there were two (nearly) full competing slates for the UTMSU executive committee, but from the outset it’s always clear that “competition” is a little too positive a word for what really happens. It took us a few days to determine which slate was the favourite of the incumbents, because surprisingly, both slates had members who currently have various roles in the union. But it quickly became clear.
Did you know that your president Hassan Havili, VP campus life Francesco Otello-DeLuca, and possibly VP equity Melissa Theodore have been on leaves of absence? Otello-DeLuca was running, but Havili, Theodore, and student union classic Munib Sajjad (he ran in the 2010 elections) were the campaign managers for Rise. Havili’s leave was two weeks long.
Meanwhile, the Elections Procedure Code says candidates are not allowed to benefit from any help they get solely as a result of their position in the union—including the help of staff. I’m sure our hardworking representatives will argue, as has been done in the past, that friendship alone motivated their temporarily putting aside their jobs to help the next slate get elected. I doubt the Elections and Referenda Committee will take issue with that. Just remember: a vote for president is a vote for his friends the year after next!
Of course, let’s not kid ourselves. These are really the friends of a much wider circle. Presidential candidate Ebi Agbeyegbe estimates that oh, only four or five people from other universities decided to come campaign and help poor UTM Rise get elected. It’s tradition. After all, if they don’t, the slate might lose.
Another stipulation of the EPC is that any decisions about violations have to be posted in the UTMSU office. For a while they used their “Wall of Transparency” to post these things. The last notice there is dated March 4.
I guess it’s possible there have been no violations since then, but with the Campus Police–reported incident of a Rise campaigner grabbing the arm of a student as she walked by in the hall, I’d be just as surprised if there hadn’t been one. The official violations list in the code includes “breaking university, municipal, provincial, or federal law or regulation”, an offence for which the CRO and the Elections and Referenda Committee determine the number of demerit points. It may be that no law has actually been broken, but surely behaviour like that merits a response…
It doesn’t matter much, anyway. The CRO and the Election and Referenda Committee don’t even have to assign demerit points if they don’t want to. They can instead fine the offender no more than $20. That’s the equivalent of a few demerit points’ worth of fines, but could be handed out instead of an offence worth up to 35 points. And they can increase or decrease demerit points at their discretion. Both teams had enough to be disqualified earlier in the elections but were conveniently forgiven some of them, because there has to be some election, right?
Actually, besides the difficulty verifying whether any punitive action was taken here or for any other possible offence that hasn’t been posted on that wall, there’s plenty else that we’ve had trouble verifying. There isn’t even any accessible proof that the CRO was hired by the appropriate committee and approved by the board, since those minutes are not posted online. When we ask for them we rarely get them. (We did actually get a set recently and should be thankful for that.)
Even the past minutes that were up for years disappeared with UTMSU’s website change in September, replaced with the message “Details to come!” I don’t know if you know this, but that’s an outrage.
These observations are just from one election. A lot more has to change. One question I hope The Medium of next year, not to mention the average student, pursues is what can be done with the stockpile of $1.1 million. Actually, we got an answer on that recently from presidential candidate and current VP external Ebi Agbeyegbe. He says it’s there in case the university ever withholds UTMSU’s student levy.
That’s among the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. For one thing, no such threat has been made to UTMSU lately. For another, if it had been, it would likely be because the union would have failed us in some way. For another, the annual student fees are currently over $800,000, but are not $1.1 million, so I don’t know how much they plan to accumulate or for just how many years they would hunker down and spend their (read: our) savings. Finally, students simply didn’t have any say in this self-preserving, not service-providing, use of their money.
UTM Reform might have lost. We’ll find out later today when they release the vote counts. And maybe they wouldn’t have made a difference either. But reform, however it might come, is needed.