Candidates in the recent UTM Campus Council elections and student representatives of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) are jointly calling for an investigation into the recent Campus Council elections due to alleged misconduct on the part of the university’s secretariat.
In a press release by the UTMSU, the union alleges that “student representatives were requested by staff working for the University’s secretariat to assist preferred candidates secure nominations for UTM campus council.”
When the students did not respond to this request, they were reportedly asked again by university secretariat staff to ensure that certain candidates “received preferential treatment during the nomination process.”
Some UTM students say that these requests constitute evidence of collusion between the campus administration and candidates who would support their policies.
According to Walied Khogali, executive director of the UTMSU, these requests constituted a major interference in the elections process by an office that should maintain neutrality. “There’s collusion happening with certain candidates,” Khogali says.
The Campus Council is the leading governing body at UTM. It consists of 28 members — 17 from within the campus community — who govern matters specific to the Mississauga campus.
The election results for the teaching and administrative seats on Campus Council were announced February 24, while results for the student seats are slated to be released on April 9.
Bryan Chelvanaigum, UTMSU vice president, internal and services, asserts that the alleged event is a sign that the UTM Campus Council elections are not fully fair and accessible. “I believe that most Canadians will be alarmed if Elections Canada was seeking nominations for MP’s. We are alarmed that the staff working with chief returning officer of the Campus Council elections was assisting preferred candidates,” Chelvanaigum says.
Some of the other candidates for the UTMSU elections are equally concerned. “Administration should not be able to ask candidates or refer candidates if you are on the secretariat because you are the one controlling the restrictions on the election, the demerit points, the disqualifications. So if you bring in your own candidate it’s rigging the race,” says Emerson Calcada, a second-year student and candidate in the Campus Council elections.
Concerned about governance
Hassan Havili, president of the UTMSU, expressed concerns about the election in a letter addressed to the president of the university, Meric Gertler, and the secretary of Governing Council, Louis Charpentier.
Havili requests in the letter that the Campus Council election results be suspended until an investigation has taken place, that “reforms” be instituted to prevent staff from intervening in the elections, and that the governance structure of the Campus Council be revisited. The letter is dated March 23, 2015.
“What is deeply concerning is the possibility of collusion between staff of the secretariat and ‘preferred candidates’ who have been chosen to receive support by those involved during the nomination process,” the letter says.
Havili expands on this point, saying that the Campus Council’s structure is not adequate and does not represent the diversity of the UTM campus.
Calcada agrees with Havili, saying that there are not enough student seats on the Campus Council in the first place.
Calcada says that he hopes to make UTM students aware of his concerns, and to put pressure on the administration to institute election reforms.
According to Jane Stirling, director, marketing and communications at UTM, the chair and secretary of the Governing Council are aware of the UTMSU’s concerns and take them seriously. “They are following up to obtain factual details of the alleged activity, and will take appropriate action when the facts have been provided,” Stirling told The Varsity.