The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) elections took place between March 8 and March 10; the report of the chief returning officer (CRO), Rajesh Sankat, was presented during the union’s general council meeting on March 29.
According to Sankat’s report, OISE student Caitlin Campisi, who was standing for re-election as the sole candidate for the position, was disqualified after receiving 15 demerit points for “unsanctioned use of union resources,” 30 points for two instances of “abuse of position or status,” and 35 for “failure to comply with the spirit and purpose of the election,” after the CRO received concerns over the candidate’s behavior.
After Campisi appealed the CRO’s decisions to the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC), the 35 demerit points for “failure to comply with the spirit and purpose of the election” were overturned. Nevertheless, Campisi had a total of 45 demerit points, putting her well over the 35 point limit before disqualification, as stipulated in the Elections and Referenda Code.
“I believe the amount of demerit points issued are disproportionate to the alleged infraction and should not have resulted in disqualification,” Campisi told The Varsity.
The report did not divulge the details of the alleged infractions or the investigative process, and Sankat declined to comment further.
“Unfortunately I can’t really share details regarding the demerit points/behaviour that lead to the disqualification. These details are confidential amongst the parties involved and it would therefore be inappropriate — not to mention cause undue harm on the candidate’s reputation – if they were divulged publicly. Hope you can understand,” Sankat said in an email to The Varsity.
During the presentation of the report at the general council meeting, Campisi also raised concerns over Sankat’s involvement in the appeals process.
“You just mentioned that you were not involved in the appeals process,” Campisi told Sankat. “When I went to meet with the appeals committee, you were there and you did speak, and it was only at my insistence that you left.”
Sankat responded that he was simply present to “open the meeting” and left upon Campisi’s request. “I was not in the room at all in the discussion for the ERC. Any sort of bearing that I head would have been previous consultation with me. I think that’s pretty transparent here,” said Sankat.
A council member moved a motion to establish a board of appeals, which would give candidates a second chance to appeal their demerit points. After much debate on policy and procedure, the council voted to refer this motion to the Policy and Operations Committee.
Campisi spoke in favour of a second appeals stage and told the council that she wants a chance to appeal the ERC’s decision. “I am asking you, I am saying clearly for the record, I would like to appeal this ruling,” she asserted. “I do not believe it has been democratic, open, or accessible to all members, and I am asking you to simply give me the chance to do that.
A board of appeals was proposed in previous council meetings. A motion for a board of appeals by-law was set and discussed at the April 2014 meeting but was ultimately removed. The matter was also brought up at the June 2014 meeting, but the quorum was lost before it could be discussed. It was further tabled in September, as the union discussed the possibility of incorporation under the Ontario Not-for-profit Corporations Act.
“No good policy that is developed should be applied retroactively — this applies a new standard to past actions and sets incredibly poor precedent. Instead, policy should be forward looking and developed with care and research (much like the original Board of Appeals Policy was),” said Brad Evoy, a former executive with the UTGSU.
After the council amended the motion, all the results were ratified with the exception of the internal commissioner results, giving Campisi a chance to potentially file appeals.