SCSU Chief Returning Officer resigns, cites fear for personal safety

ERC urgently seeking applicants to fill role

SCSU Chief Returning Officer resigns, cites fear for personal safety

Mahir Zuber, the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) spring elections, resigned yesterday. “I do not wish to continue as CRO, due to fear for my own safety” Zuber wrote to the Elections and and Referenda Committee (ERC) on January 24.

Protests and scuffles broke out at the SCSU election’s all-candidates meeting on January 22 over damning allegations made toward SCSU executives and staff regarding the upcoming election period. The uproar left Zuber injured and SCSU Internal Coordinator Arthi Velupillai seeking medical attention for an arm injury.

In line with a petition currently circulating online, the protesters are calling for a freeze on the election until five concerns are resolved.

Zuber’s resignation marks the second setback to the union’s executive and board of directors elections. The campaign period was meant to start on January 23 — the elections traditionally begin after the all-candidates meeting — but has since been delayed. The ERC must convene and schedule another all-candidates meeting before the campaign period can begin.

Despite the two setbacks, the ERC maintains that the elections are still scheduled to take place February 6-8.

The job posting for a new CRO has been put up on the official SCSU website. Calling the absence of the CRO “an urgent matter,” the ERC is encouraging people to apply as soon as possible.

 

“During the All Candidates Meeting,” Zuber’s statement of resignation reads, “I was grabbed by students, thrown onto a table, and punched in the face.”

Avee Gandhi, a UTSC student, is simultaneously alleging that Zuber physically stopped Gandhi from entering the room.

“So basically I was outside. Trying to get inside and the CRO blocked me,” Gandhi wrote to The Varsity. “So I start arguing with him to let me in and he is like I’m not going to let [you] in. Then after this thing went on for a while I was like [are you] a security guard…preventing me from entering, and he is like actually I am a security guard I have a license, and then I was like just [because you] have a license [you] don’t have the right to stop me [because you are] not a U of T hired guard.”

“And,” Gandhi said, recounting the events of January 22, “if we are talking about licenses, I have a license too, and I too am a security guard.”

“I tell him to let me in, he is like no, the only way [you] can go in is [by] pushing me out of this door and I was like I’m not putting hands on [you],” Gandhi claimed. “To which he replies ‘touch me and watch what happens’ and I was like ‘is that a threat you are giving me?’ To which he replies it’s not a threat it’s a promise.”

“And then as he went to go talk to the cops I [snuck] in.”

Deena Hassan and Ray Alibux, UTSC students seemingly at the helm of the January 22 disruption, are two of three candidates disqualified from running in the coming elections.

Hassan, the current VP Operations at the SCSU, had planned to run for president of the union. She was disqualified after amassing more demerit points than is allowed for executive candidates.

Alibux was disqualified after he failed to collect the requisite number of nominee signatures from UTSC undergraduates.

The Varsity reached out to Zuber at his CRO email account but did not receive a response by press time. The Varsity is looking for other means of contacting Zuber for comment.

Complex agreement means concrete improvement for U of T students

Re: "New Strategic Mandate Agreement looks to bridge gap between old and new provincial funding models"

Complex agreement means concrete improvement for U of T students

Collaborating with the provincial government, U of T recently signed a new Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) to outline its goals and priorities for the next three years. Surprisingly, considering it was devised by university administrators and provincial public servants, the SMA lays out a plan to substantially improve the student experience at U of T.

While UTM and UTSC will see their undergraduate populations remain constant, UTSG will house almost 2,000 fewer undergrads by 2020. For those undergraduate students remaining, U of T plans to offer improved financial aid, specifically aiming to spend more on student aid per recipient and land in the top quartile of scholarship and bursary expenditure per recipient among Ontario universities.

Under the new provincial funding framework, metrics like these — and others, such as number of published papers — will determine a portion of the university’s funding. The SMA thereby creates a direct financial incentive for U of T to support its students — a surefire way to catch the attention of university administrators and an unambiguously positive development.

The SMA will also shift focus toward research and innovation. While this has a more direct impact on graduate students, undergraduates will benefit as well. More professors conducting more cutting-edge research will not only build the reputation of our school and our degrees, but it will open more doors to undergraduate research and encourage innovative industries to plant themselves within our ecosystem. Implementing the SMA will ultimately result in better opportunities for students in both academia and industry.

While it’s easy to dismiss densely worded documents as meaningless in the real world, the changes outlined in the SMA will have real, concrete, and positive impacts on students for years to come. U of T is doubling down on its strengths, and we will be the ones to benefit.

 

Andrew Kidd is a fourth-year student studying Engineering Physics.