“We shouldn’t make a joke out of this”

Elections re-rejected, but with a little more transparency

Ian Kaufman

From the claustrophobic, windowless boardroom where LUSU’s most important decisions are made, it can be easy to lose perspective. So when VP Finance Chris Vaillant proposed a motion humourously dismissing the concerns of a group of students, the Directors sitting around the table didn’t seem to flinch. Some laughed. Hey, I’ll admit it – I did too. Luckily for LUSU, Director Ayoub Ansari was a little more prudent in his response.

Let me first explain why the joke was funny (or as funny as a joke involving LUSU can be). When Vaillant chaired Thursday’s Special General Meeting, at which all students could vote, a motion was passed directing the board to reconsider its decision to reject the LUSU elections. Vaillant vehemently opposed the group pushing for this, insisting that a decision can only be reconsidered during the meeting at which it is made. He added that only the Board of Directors itself can decide whether or not to ratify an election – it can’t be done at a general meeting, let alone one set up to deal with an entirely separate issue (finances).

Despite his protests, though, the group prevailed, passing their motion largely thanks to a pile of proxy votes they had collected before the meeting (see Danny Bacsa’s cover story).

Given all this, it was a bit perplexing when, at Friday’s board meeting, Vaillant was the first to respect the group’s wishes, proposing a motion to reconsider the election’s validity.

It wasn’t until he followed up with a motion to reject the results of the election that board got the joke. Technically, they would be “reconsidering” the issue, while flipping the group challenging their decision the proverbial bird. There would be no additional information considered, no investigation into the election results – simply a gesture of defiance that would follow the letter of the SGM motion while flouting its spirit.

A few moments of silence hung heavily in the boardroom following Vaillant’s second motion. We’ll never know what the board would have done had Ansari not interjected at this point.

“We shouldn’t make a joke out of this,” he cautioned the board. “There should be a serious reconsideration taking place, or else this issue will just keep on going.”

“The reason the majority of the students have a problem with this, and it came out in the SGM, was that they saw that 22.22% of students voted and they felt that their voices were not heard,” he continued. “The second problem was that the discussion we did was in camera… so students were left in the dark on this issue.”

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“We cannot validate this election, because it breaks our own by-laws,” referring to the failure to place poll booths in one of the required areas – the art building – and the addition of extra polling stations without board approval.

Vaillant countered that the reported election turnout could not be verified since the poll boxes had been left in an unsecured room after the election.

“There were people [including candidates] who had access to that room – and the door may or may not have been ajar,” he reminded the board. “There was a timeframe between the end of the election and the ballot tabulation where someone could have come in and put blank ballots into the ballot boxes and crossed off names from the master list, because they were all located in the same room. So it cannot be verified that we in fact did have a 22% turnout.”

He concluded, “We cannot validate this election, because it breaks our own by-laws,” referring to the failure to place poll booths in one of the required areas – the art building – and the addition of extra polling stations without board approval.

“I don’t have a problem with the decision that was made,” Ansari responded. “I just don’t like the way we went about doing it. As a Board of Directors, I think we need to be more open and transparent.”

The Directors were clearly swayed by Ansari’s interjection, as they decided to release some of the in camera discussion he mentioned to the public. They entrusted Vaillant with the task of sorting through the recording of the private discussion in order to ensure that no sensitive information – such as personnel issues – is released.

However, they clearly did not feel a need to rethink their decision on the election, voting unanimously to reject the results once again without any debate. They were simply concerned that students had not understood the reasons behind their original decision.

Revote up in the air

LUSU’s next step is a revote, which is tentatively slotted to take place on March 22nd and 23rd. However, Vaillant – overseeing the elections with President Mike Snoddon in conflict as a candidate – did not mince words as to the difficulty of organizing an election this late in the year.

“It’s quite possible that we could run out of time,” he admitted. “I think if the election committee feels uncomfortable with the timeframe, the recommendation may come to this board that we hold a by-election in the fall.”

Concern was also expressed that education students will be gone, while nursing students are also on placement.

Despite these reservations, a revamped Elections Committee has been preparing for a revote. An update is expected at this Friday’s meeting.

Article photo by Erin Collins (News Editor)