The Stronger Together slate swept the exec positions in the UTSU election, according to unofficial results released on Saturday. Official results will be announced once the new board of directors formally adopts the results on April 30.
“This is by far the highest turnout I can remember and it reflects a message that both teams shared—to promote an engaged campus community,” wrote president-elect Adam Awad in an email to The Varsity. As current VP university affairs, he was one of two incumbent execs running on the Stronger Together slate. Their opponents, the Change slate, was composed of leaders from college student councils. This is the second year that Change has lost to the incumbent slate.
Awad received 4,152 votes, while Change presidential candidate Steve Masse pulled in 2,977.
“It’s like a college basketball team going up against the Lakers,” said Mike Maher, the Change candidate for VP internal, who said he found out on Friday night that he had lost. “We’re a bunch of students that have come together with a common purpose, wanting to change things, still being full-time students, but we got pitted against a cabal of paid student union staff and their friends who all don’t go to this university.”
In the email, Awad said both teams relied on non-U of T students in the campaign and that his campaign adhered to elections procedures to the best of their ability. “If you walk around campus on any given day, you’ll encounter lots of people who interact with U of T who aren’t students,” he wrote. “…[M]ost students will tell you that our campus is integrated into Toronto and it’s impossible to shut ourselves off from outsides.”
Student union execs from Ryerson and York have been photographed campaigning for Stronger Together at St. George. Asked to confirm reports that Krisna Saravanamuttu, president of YFS, had been campaigning for him at UTM, Awad wrote that he was friends with Saravanamuttu and that the latter had offered to help after a meeting ended at UTM. Saravanamuttu did not respond to requests from The Varsity.
Masse told The Varsity in an earlier interview that all Change volunteers are U of T students.
“[The Stronger Together] campaign has done nothing but libel and slander my name to the point where candidates on my slate are concerned about passing federal government security checks because they’ve been labelled as the promoters of […] date-rape, homophobes, Islamophobes,” said Maher. “The way they conducted their campaign was deplorable. I’m not impressed at all.”
Maher also criticized the Election Procedures Code for what he said were excessive controls on free speech. “A normal election would operate under the premise that I would be punished for things I did wrong, not [that] I need to be cleared for everything that I do,” he said.
Non-U of T scrutineers
CRO Dave Blocker informed candidates on Thursday, the last day of voting, that he decided scrutineeres do not have to be current UTSU members. Scrutineers observe the ballot count. A UTSU member is any full-time student registered in a program leading to a degree, diploma, or certificate who has paid membership fees.
“Because of rule c, that candidates may not scrutineer, the ERC made a change to one of the rules provided at the All-Candidates Meeting: d) Scrutineers do not have to be current members of UTSU,” wrote Blocker shortly after 12:30 a.m. on March 18.
Blocker did not respond to phone calls from The Varsity.
Blocker has handed out four rulings after last Wednesday, two of which involved Sumaya Ahmed, a student who Blocker deemed a non-arms length third party campaigner for Stronger Together. The first ruling followed from a complaint that Ahmed wrote derogatory comments about the Change slate and Steve Masse in particular. The CRO wrote that one sentence of Ahmed’s comments could be considered a violation of election rules and cautioned all candidates but did not issue demerit points.
The second ruling involving Ahmed stemmed from a complaint that she had misrepresented Change’s position on Israeli Apartheid Week and that she had falsely alleged that Change was funded by Hillel. The CRO noted that Change did not state its official position on IAW and that there was no evidence to support the contention that Change was funded by Hillel. He assessed Adam Awad five demerit points.
A Stronger Together supporter and Donna Graves, chair of the Transitional Year Program, were accused of harassing a Change supporter and slandering Antonin Mongeau and Alyssa James, the Change VP equity candidate. Blocker issued three demerits to Danielle Sandhu, Stronger Together’s VP equity candidate. He ruled that Graves made comments that were “derogatory” and “overtly hostile” but blamed Mongeau, the EFUT alumni chair and outspoken UTSU critic, for what he called Mongeau’s “ongoing attempts to sabotage the Stronger Together campaign.”
In his final ruling, the CRO took direct aim at Mongeau and ruled that his YouTube videos constituted a breach of fair play and existing policy. Blocker ordered Change candidates to immediately cease using tactics aimed at what he called sabotage “particularly through underhanded efforts to posture Change campaigners as journalists who effort to undermine the spirit of a fair and democratic election.”
Some Change supporters have alleged that the CRO betrayed a bias for Stronger Together in the wording of his rulings. Maher said he thought Blocker was a lot better than last year’s CRO, Lydia Treadwell, but stopped short of saying that Blocker abused his authority. (A change to the Election Procedure Code this year now deems “any attempt to undermine the authority of the CRO and/or the [Elections and Referenda] Committee” an offence.)
“There were a few questionable calls that he made, let’s put it that way,” Maher said. “We’d send him clear evidence of the other side basically race-baiting our supporters and saying that they’re being traitors to their culture for supporting Change,” said Maher. “That’s when I started getting upset [but] once [we] sent it to the CRO it really just fell on deaf ears for him.”
Awad declined to comment on whether he had complied with a CRO ruling instructing him to publicly disassociate himself from Ahmed. “The CRO was very fair and consistent in my opinion. Of course we didn’t think we should have gotten some of the infraction points we were awarded, but that’s part of running in an election.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly reported an altercation between Donna Graves, Alyssa James, and Antonin Mongeau. In fact, the altercation took place between Graves and a Change supporter, where Graves was accused of slandering James and Mongeau. The Varsity regrets the error.