Misinterpreted bylaws lead to three exec’s having applications disqualified
Union in the hot seat (again)
Three members running in the URSU General Election have been disqualified due to misinterpreted bylaws and Election Committee Campaign mishaps.
Hannah Tait received an email from the Chief Returning Officer which said that her application for Business Director had not been accepted because of a bylaw that states employees must resign before the close of the nomination period. Tait was confused because she was not an employee, she was an executive member. The Chief Returning Officer gave Tait the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Board of Directors instead of resigning from her current position as President of URSU.
In an emailed statement to the Carillon Tait explained, “I decided I would not resign, and if that first judgment was officially enforced, I would appeal and be able to explain my situation and the mitigations I wanted to undertake to prevent unfair advantages. I would be able to explain how I would not use my current position to get an unfair advantage.”
Tait was flagged by the Chief Returning Officer with violating Article V: Officers of the Corporation/ Terms of Office of the URSU Constitution. Notion (6) states “In the case of an employee wishing to run for an elected position with the Students’ Union, that employee must first resign prior to being nominated. In the case of a Board Member wishing to seek and hold a position as an employee of the Students’ Union, that person shall first resign their position as a Board of Director.”
After a few days Tait was informed that the bylaw would be applied to her application, interpreting her as an employee, giving her only a few days to resign.
“If I had resigned I would not have been able to complete the very important cofounded bursary for international students, not been able to carry out the launch of ULead, not been able to address certain aspects of gender based violence on campus, not been able to carry out collaborative innovation projects, not been able to consult or give perspectives on Bill 61 being discussed in the current sitting, not been able to complete URSU awards and upcoming gala, not been able to support an exciting community event that has been in talks for months, not been able to create transition plans for next executives, not been able to continue being an ally in the URvoice matters campaigns, or not be able to finally visit some of our rural and remote campuses,” said Tait.
Tait’s application was fully disqualified soon after. Her disqualification did not state any specific violations for which her application was rejected, and ultimately she was told she could not appeal.
Vice-President of Student Affairs, Ziyang Zeo Li was disqualified on the same bylaw as Tait. VP of Student Affairs is an executive position. At first, Li was also given the opportunity to reappeal after his application was rejected. He was given the option to resign or be disqualified. Before he submitted his answer, he was disqualified.
“They gave me a reason why I was disqualified,” said Li, “but it is an unjustifiable reason because they say we violated a policy, but didn’t tell us how we violate the policy, or bylaw, or Constitution.”
Li explained that the reappealing process would have been difficult because the Board of Directors was involved in the rejection of his application in the first place. He said that the turn around period was too short.
Tait explains that URSU’s benefits program provides staff with Protected Leave that includes “nomination/ election and candidate/ public office leave” under Section 3.2 of Benefits in the URSU Employee Agreement. “I should have been offered leave so I could campaign,” said Tait.
Vice President of External Affairs, Basmah Al-Mosallem’s application was disqualified because her application was submitted late. However, the Elections Committee originally marketed the end of the nomination period as March 8. It was moved to March 7 without formally notifying applicants.
To run in the General Election, applicants typically have to meet with the General Manager to properly inform and assess the commitments that they are making to their running position. Al-Mosallem was elected in the by-election only months ago where she was already informed by the General Manager about her commitments.
When she approached the Chief Return Officer about being excused from the meeting with the General Manager, she was informed that “all of the qualified applicants were selected for the election.” Al-Mosallem said the only reason she was given for her disqualification was a statement that read “all of the qualifying candidates have been put forward.”
Al-Mosallem explains that there was miscommunication during her rejection, appeal, and disqualification process as well. “They were contradicting themselves because they would say, ‘You can appeal’ on one day and then say ‘all the qualified candidates are confirmed’ the next,” said Al-Mosallem.
Tait explained that the Election advertising mix-up comes at the cost of the credibility of the campaign. “I didn’t receive a formal notification that the operation side had made a little mistake, and I had requested that we just do the 8th [as a deadline] because that’s what people think,” said Tait. “As a student union, with student members, we owe it to them to follow through on what we said, but we also want to make sure that as many people as possible can run in the election. Within like, all sorts of fairness, but this year, I don’t think that that was a goal to make sure that everyone could run.” Li said that the request to resign was “unreasonable” and “unfair.”
“As an elected member, we have to fulfill our fiduciary duty throughout the term, which is definitely not good or beneficial to see an executive member resign earlier than usual,” said Li. “It used to be I finished my whole year term and I complete my duty there.”
None of the three Executives resigned from their positions, and will remain in chair till the end of their term. Tait said that she will be taking a “step back,” and using some of her earned days off and her holidays that she never took over her term.
The Chief Returning Officer did not return comment for the Carillon’s press inquiries.