It is a bit ironic when a constant critic of “the man” gets to occupy the very seat of power he critiques.

Yet that is exactly what happened at the first meeting of the new council of the Faculty of Arts and Science on Tuesday, when Noaman Ali, president of the Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU), was elected to be acting chair of the body for that meeting.

The kicker was that Ali, who successfully ran for a spot on the faculty council, was about to criticize how the electoral process that had propelled him to that seat was run. For its first meeting, at least. Since 13 of the 29 faculty representatives on the council had not yet been elected, it was decided at the start that the inaugural meeting would be run by an acting chair.

The Faculty of Arts and Science council considers and vets various policies pertinent to the faculty. It was set up in 1971, but until this year it wasn’t a very lively body. That was because all 800 faculty members were eligible to vote, and even though there was some student representation, critics charged that faculty members would simply round up their colleagues to help pass the decisions that mattered.

“The faculty council was a body that didn’t work. And the student involvement was pretty modest,” said arts and science dean Pekka Sinervo, who took part in the committee that reworked its constitution.

The new constitution, which was approved in June, trimmed down the size of the council to only 69 voting members, 20 of them students. This was a far cry, however, from what ASSU had lobbied for. They wanted to see an equal number of student and faculty representatives.

“The administration will tell you that it’s unprecedented,” said the ASSU’s Ali. “However, you’ve got college councils, where they in fact have parity.”

At the council’s first meeting on Tuesday, however, Ali’s main concern was the way last week’s elections to the council were run. In a statement sent to The Varsity last week, Ali outlined three main concerns.

He said that first of all, that the whole electoral process was extremely compressed, taking place in the first three weeks of school. Secondly, students were only told at the last minute the web address of the site where they could vote online. And lastly, there seemed to be no rules on campaigning.

“If a student organization, like SAC or ASSU, were to run elections that were so poorly organized, defined and executed, the university would step in, annul the results, and probably take control of our finances,” said Ali’s statement.

But just as he was about to voice these concerns, Ali was stunned to be nominated to be acting chair of the meeting.

“It was pretty spontaneous,” he said. “I was pretty surprised … no one else put up their hand to nominate anybody else.”

So Ali, sporting a pink ASSU T-shirt, was soon sitting between Sinervo and faculty secretary Glenn Loney, at the head of the council chamber’s table in Simcoe Hall. And despite needing constant prompts and reminders about how motions are moved and approved, Ali kept the meeting on track. He even livened up the proceedings with off-the-cuff remarks between agenda items.

“It’s all good,” he reassured a council member at one point. “It’s all good in the hood.”

“It loosens things up,” Ali said later. “I think these meetings are unnecessarily formal.” It comes naturally, he asserted. “It isn’t planned, usually.”

And his management style was not lost on the non-student members present. “The last [meeting] has been livelier than I can remember,” said Mike Lorimer, associate chair of the department of mathematics.

Ali did draw some criticism, though, for proceeding to criticize council elections while chairing its meeting. At a reception after the meeting, Sinervo reminded him that the chair ought to be apolitical.

“I really don’t think that the position of the chair is an unbiased position to begin with,” Ali retorted.

That said, Ali said he would not run for chair at the council’s next meeting, in November, when a full complement of faculty representatives is expected. “I don’t want to break with what I believe in,” he said.

And he saw no irony in having sat in the chair’s chair.

“I don’t think I was the man, I was fighting the man,” he said. “You have to note that I did break with the status quo at least twice.”