URSU By-Election meddling 

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A graphic depicts a garbage can with the URSU logo on fire inside it, and several wall-mounted security cameras directed at it.
Seemingly small and routine, a dumpster fire is as dangerous as a structural fire. OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay, manipulated by Carillon Staff

URSU’s Fall 2023 By-Election nominee submissions tampered with, CCTV footage captures “bad faith” actions 

The Fall 2023 semester came to a rough close for the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) as it dealt with serious allegations of misconduct against Executive Vice President of Operations and Finance, Birpartap Singh, as well as Gurjinder Singh, past President and past Interim General Manager.  

Both have since been stripped of URSU membership and barred from URSU spaces following an URSU board meeting on Dec. 19, 2023, as was announced by URSU through social media accounts on Jan. 25, 2024. A statement signed by Tejas Patel and Style Dayne Stenberg – members of URSU’s Human Resources (HR) Committee – to URSU stakeholders claims that “B. Singh and G. Singh colluded together in order to negatively influence the free and fair democratic elections of URSU.” 

“They have willingly acted in bad faith against our Constitution, Bylaws, Policies, and, above all else, our values we have inherent to our organization specially [by] this current administration: accountability, transparency, cooperation.”  

In an interview with the Carillon, Stenberg explained the purpose of URSU’s HR Committee as handling issues with “executives, and then also the management within the institution, and also any internal board conflicts. So, for example, if there was a conflict of interest that was brought to our attention, we would be asked to deal with it.” 

According the Patel and Stenberg’s statement, on Nov. 8, 2023, David Ennis – URSU’s Chief Returning Officer (CRO) for the Fall 2023 by-election – brought to URSU’s attention that someone had willingly meddled with its elections by forging signatures of students and URSU staff members on two nomination forms that were placed in the safe where nominations were stored after the official nomination deadline. 

“With these two extra nomination papers that were signed, sealed, and delivered,” said Stenberg concerning the by-election, “the individual whose signature was forged came forward right away and said, ‘Woah, woah, woah, this is not my signature!’ And that’s when it was first flagged.” 

“I believe it was [Mohammad] Talha [Akbar] who was flagged right away, which makes sense because he’s the first point of contact for office employees,” explained Stenberg. “Then it went up the chair to Mr. Ennis, and David said, ‘Yeah, we didn’t accept any of this.’ And he encouraged us to dig deeper, and that’s when Tejas was alerted. Then Tejas reached out to me and said ‘We might have an HR issue here.’” 

An internal investigation was then triggered to determine the legitimacy of the information. The investigation was carried out by URSU President Patel and URSU Board Director Stenberg as HR Committee members, which Stenberg states was part of their HR Committee responsibilities. “Not only is it board oversight because they’re a Board of Directors, but also they’re a paid employee of the students’ union, and at the end of the day it’s protecting student fees.”  

Difficulty was noted in honing in on exactly which bylaws or codes B. Singh and G. Singh infringed upon. “It was fairly difficult to really pin it on one piece of the constitution, or the employee contract and the Codes of Conduct, and the Non-Academic Misconduct, and the Codes of Conduct from the university,” Stenberg recounted, commenting on the grey area an infraction like this fall under. “Like, don’t steal money. You know you don’t steal money. Nowhere in our bylaws does it say ‘Don’t forge student signatures and try to get nomination papers in after the deadline.’” 

URSU’s Election and Referendum Bylaw 3.4.2. states requirements for the Executive Committee that include adhering to the “rules and regulations of the Election, By-Election, and Referenda that are laid out within this bylaw.” The Election and Referendum Bylaw Campaigning Guidelines 3.1.15. outlines forbidden actions within elections and by-elections, including attempts to “e) Jeopardize, or take any action which could reasonably be expected to jeopardize, the integrity of the Election.” 

Through the accounts and information gathered during their investigation along with supporting CCTV footage, the HR Committee concluded that there had indeed been meddling with the by-election nominations. B. Singh and G. Singh were subsequently held responsible by URSU for forging both student and URSU staff signatures, compromising the integrity of URSU’s by-election.  

In Patel and Stenberg’s statement, the timeline of the incident and the following investigation is outlined. On Nov. 7 at approximately 5 p.m. Ennis had emailed a confirmed list of the six received and approved nominees submitted before the nomination deadline of Nov. 7 at 4 p.m. The board also met on Nov. 7 to discuss extending the same-day deadline of nominations. 

Directors had a couple of reasons for desiring to extend the deadline, both noted by Stenberg: “One of the rationales was the Education Director [position] was improperly posted. It was posted late, so we decided to keep that one open a few extra days if people wanted to get their nominations in for the Education Director. Apparently, our website was down for a brief time during the nomination period which could’ve affected people’s ability to download the nomination package, and that was one of the arguments on the side to keep it open for an extended amount of time.” He noted, as does the statement, that B. Singh was in favour of extending the nomination deadline for all positions; the motion was ultimately defeated, and only the Education Director nominations deadline was extended. 

The statement continues to claim that following Ennis’ email with the list of confirmed nominees, Patel placed the physical copies of approved nominations into the URSU safe at approximately 7:20 p.m. that same day. Citing CCTV footage which the Carillon has received photos of, the statement goes on to say B. Singh entered the URSU Administration space at approximately 7:30 p.m. and, using his phone’s flashlight, entered the room where URSU’s safe is stored. At 7:40 p.m. Patel received a call from B. Singh claiming the safe would not lock.  

An excerpt of Patel’s statement to the election committee is included: “I ran upstairs and tried to close it apparently [sic] it was jammed and was not accepting the right password. It seems was on froze [sic] for 5 minutes. However, a minute later I tried and locked the safe. I immediately ran as my ride was waiting downstairs. Also, to be noted that when I arrived B. Singh was not present there and he left the safe open.” 

Patel and Stenberg’s investigation statement continues to claim that Ishita Patel of the URSU Operations Team noticed in the morning of Nov. 8 that there were papers scattered around the vault, and opened it to find the two extra nomination forms present. This was reported to then-current URSU general manager Akbar and Ennis the same day.  

Stenberg noted during the interview that “I recognized a name on one of the nomination papers that was forged, and I reached out to this individual and I said ‘Hey, do you know so-and-so, the candidate?’ and they said, ‘No, not really.’ And I went “Oh, well you signed their nomination papers,’ and the response was, ‘Oh uh, yeah, I did that for my friend Gurjinder,’ and I went ‘Hmm, interesting.’” 

Unfortunately for Stenberg, Patel, and URSU in general, those involved are hesitant to go on record with their experiences. When Stenberg asked the individual noted above to make a statement on the record, “They said yes, and then when I did a follow-up and said ‘We want you to sign this piece of paper,’ they said ‘Let me double-check,’ and then a ‘No.’” 

Individuals’ hesitancy to go on the record is also addressed in Patel and Stenberg’s statement, where they claim “G. Singh has begun intimating and making  
threats towards our staff and more importantly students. These students have come to URSU with the allegations but wish to remain anonymous.”  

While Stenberg would not comment during the interview on who has received threats or precisely what they were to protect the anonymity of those choosing to speak with URSU, he did note that, “Things like, ‘I wouldn’t do this if I were you.’ have been said to folks in a tone.”  

“I can’t give specifics because it might… people can tell, but blackmail,” he also claimed. “You know, Gurjinder’s been around for a long time. He knows a lot of shit about a lot of people, and whether those accusations of blackmail are true or not, it’s still not the avenue you take.” 

On Dec. 8, 2023, the HR Committee suspended B. Singh from his position which he officially resigned from on Dec. 16, one day before the board was scheduled to meet and hear his defense against allegations.  

According to Stenberg, university administration has been briefed on the situation. “Our whole mandate this year is being transparent and accountable, and we respect the university administration because they also respect us, […] if this happened on our watch to our institution, they need to be aware of it because also these people are within their organization. Gurjinder works for the university. He’s on university payroll. Birpartap had access to not just student ID numbers but also financial information and all that other jazz, so that opens up a whole can of worms, and then that’s why we informed them this happened on our watch. These folks have access to your stuff as well; act accordingly.” 

The Carillon contacted University of Regina President Jeff Keshen to ask for a comment on the situation and was told by email on Jan. 25, 2024, that, “I have no idea at all about the by-election – so I don’t think I’m the person to speak to on this.” Keshen responded to another request for comment on Jan. 29: “I did see that URSU put out a Facebook post about two of their employees. I don’t do Facebook, but it was brought to my attention. Most unfortunate. If I recall, this is not the first time there have been issues with their elections. But that would not have anything to do with university admin.” 

The Carillon also contacted Saqib Khan, the Interim Dean for Hill School of Business, to ask about these allegations against Hill Business School’s Events Manager, G. Singh. Khan did not agree to an interview, but his response email on Jan. 26 included the following: “Thank you for your inquiry, however due to the University’s obligations under privacy legislation, it would be inappropriate to discuss confidential details related to any employee. The University of Regina is committed to providing a safe and welcoming working and learning environment for our students, faculty, and staff.”  
Both B. Singh and G. Singh were sent interview requests from the Carillon. B. Singh has not responded by the time of publishing, and G. Singh responded by email on Jan. 11, 2024 with the following: “Unfortunately, I am not aware of any allegations against me pertaining to any bi election [sic] of URSU. I have not been contacted regarding any allegations, so I am not entirely sure what you are referring to. My employment with URSU ended last year and I have not been involved with URSU in any capacity thereafter; hence, I take this as news and cannot comment further on an unknown matter.” 

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