URSU election: the aftermath

  1. authors: kristian ferguson & john loeppky | news editor & sports editor

The results are in/Ella Mikkola

Now that campaigning is over, what is next?

Now that the campaign season is over, the University of Regina Student’s Union [URSU] is beginning to settle into a more regular schedule. Planning can begin and things start to progress towards a new semester.

However, with any election comes change, and while Jermain McKenzie was able to continue in his role as president, not all of the URSU executives are returning veterans.

Most notably, Derrick Gagnon is taking over as Vice-President Operations and Finance from Matt Mutschler, and Haris Khan is taking over as Vice-President External Affairs from Abby Rutko.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this election though, is that, until recently the position of Vice-President Student Affairs had yet to be decided.

The URSU website previously stated, “The results for the VP-Student Affairs position are on hold due to pending ratification of decisions of the Elections Committee by the Board of Directors.”

On Monday, March 20, an emergency meeting was held to decide the winner of the process.. On the night of the meeting, Maria Aman told the the Carillon in online correspondence that she would be contemplating further action, but that she had not had time to collect her thoughts after the meeting had concluded four hours earlier. Aman also reiterated her commitment to transparency, but expressed a need for publication on her own terms and in a manner that “met her best interests.”

A public Facebook post by Jermain McKenzie posted less than an hour after the meeting concluded seemed to address some of the tensions that have rose during the last few weeks at URSU headquarters, though he would not confirm as such.

“Democracy should never be underminded [sic] by the decision of a few! History has taught me that tyranny can take many different forms and I will never compromise in my defense of democracy and social justice! The future depend [sic] on us standing up for the principles that are needed in creating a society based on justice and equality!”

Though it seemed that the post had been deleted it was found at the bottom of the page at a later date

When reached for comment McKenzie asserted that the post was not solely focused on the election and that he would be taking further steps as president to ensure that the CRO be replaced with a committee to oversee fair elections. On the subject of his further action McKenzie had much to say.

“Well for those who are privy to what has transpired they can take from it whatever they will. However, that is just one small act in a multitude of things that I have born witness to that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I would say that as a student I would not rest until I have information about what exactly as happened in the election as it does look rather fishy for a position to be pending when all other results have been posted. I have distanced myself as much as possible, but I also have questions as to whether executives who have close relationship with a candidate making such a critical decision. Whatever has happened does not speak well for the organization and will have to be addressed in great detail in an appropriate channel.”

Here’s another section of his answer to a question regarding what he feels were the questions he had about the election.

“What were the results of the vote? Why was the voting time changed without prior notice to the candidates? Did the CRO act in ways that could be perceived as bias? What was the reason for disqualifying a candidate? Did the other candidate involved get knowledge of the results before filing a complaint against the other candidate?”

The committee he proposes to replace the current CRO structure, a role fulfilled by  Caileigh Beckman, would be made up of students and appointed by and overseen by the board. McKenzie takes issue with the fact that, in his view, the CRO had too close of a relationship with other candidates.

At the time of the interview, claims of a candidate being disqualified could not be confirmed but as of Tuesday, Maria Aman was officially disqualified and a press release sent via the URSU website, which gave little insight into the Aman’s disqualification. Aman says that she was told she was disqualified because of “not following proper processes.” She says she was given no documentation and that she feels the move was quote, “intentional.”

When asked whether a non-returning VP’s claims of inappropriate credit being taken by McKenzie were true he replied with a definitive denial.

“The behaviour of a certain executive who was not running in the election and who made a post that could be seen as attacking me in a certain sense. My name wasn’t in the post. The post was talking about how I was trying to take credit for something that that candidate, that executive, had worked on.”
When asked what he would say in response, McKenzie was very direct.

“I would say it [the allegation] is blatantly false and I told that person in a private message that that was blatantly false because the idea was mine and, if the idea is mine, even though you helped work on it, doesn’t mean that I cannot take any claim for it.”

The person who this was directed at was quite clearly, given the circumstances, Rutko. She says that the program was a group decision and that programs such as the pantry program were decided upon by the former person in her position, Lynn Barber.

“Ideas absolutely he can take credit for, but I also don’t think the work that other people put into that shouldn’t be recognized and I think that my post on my social media wasn’t discounting his ability, it was me explaining that there wasn’t just one person involved and that those ideas weren’t the direct result of coming from him.”

Because of the sensitive nature of the topic and the circumstances, other members of the executive were reluctant to speak on record as the release had not yet been made public as of Tuesday morning and Wiskar himself declined to comment. Outgoing VP Rutko did, however, reiterate her belief in the current electoral structure.

“Student politics is a very wild beast of its own and I think we have to entrust the work of the appointed officials, mainly the Chief Returning Officer, abide by their authority and autonomy to do that position as they are hired to do. And I think that, even though there were some…hiccups, you might say, I think the CRO did a phenomenal job.”

When reached for comment about her disqualification, Aman was clear that she felt she was wrongly treated.

“It was unjust and unfair as I didn’t break any election rules. It was a targeted attack on myself because I questioned the inconsistencies of URSU regarding voting as well as implementation of election bylaws. I essentially held them accountable to those terms, and that wasn’t viewed too kindly and ultimately led to my dismissal.” Aman says she is contemplating her options, which may include an appeal to the board.

Another one of the bigger items on the URSU ballot was a referendum regarding the fees related to URSU. Last year, URSU was able to approve changing their fee collection structure so that it provided a slightly decreased base fee, but included a fee per credit hour so that students who were only on campus for one or two classes were paying the same amount as a full time student. VP External Abby Rutko confirms that the base structure was redone to even out the per-credit hour amount and base fee to be fair to all students.

Pete Kytwayhat filled the Aboriginal Students’ Director role that was empty in last year’s URSU line-up. Previous director Zach Almond also vacated the Fine Arts Director role. Part-time Students Director Maria Aman also vacated her role, as well as Megan Cousins from the Social Work Director role.

Colton MacDonald and Eman Mohammed took over Arts Students’ and Business Students’ Director respectively from Faith Ogundipe and Eric Holloway. Carly Hill was also elected as Campion Director, taking over for Derrick Gagnon. Rylan Jensen was elected as Education Students’ Director taking over from Conor Woolley. Rishabh Dutta also took over for Engineering Students’ Director from Sam Dietrich.

Skyler Anderson won with 51 votes for First Nations University Students’ Director from Trevor Dubois. The Graduate Students’ Director is Imran Ahamed, taking over from Umair Aslam. Rashid Jahan took over as International Students’ Director from Umar Ahsan. Sena Debia maintained her seat as Kin and Health Students’ Director. Harvey Gibson took over as LGBTQ Students’ director from Emily Barber. Khansa Irfan also maintained her role as Women’s Director. Campion student director will be Carly Hill

Roles that remained vacant, for those of you who may be interested in running next year, were Director for Students with Disabilities, Francophone Students’ Director, Luther College Students’ Director and Nursing Students’ Director

We will be providing updates as they happen on our website and in next week’s issue.

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