In an unexpected move, the Board of Directors of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) voted against ratifying newly-elected 2019–2020 Vice-President Operations Rayyan Alibux on Tuesday, based on concerns over private comments made during the election.
Following the recent SCSU elections, which concluded on February 7, the SCSU board was supposed to ratify all of the incoming Board of Directors in one motion. However, Director of Sociology Theresa Louise Lagman motioned to separate votes on the executives to allow for individual discussions.
Director of Physical and Environmental Sciences Zakia Fahmida Taj challenged the motion to ratify Alibux, citing an article from The Underground, in which Alibux is identified as writing, “I hope this chat is never leaked,” in a group chat in response to apparent “transphobic comments.”
“I have had students come up and tell me [after the article was published]… they [had] already voted them, [but] they would change it if they could go back to it,” said Taj.
Alibux told The Varsity that since he lives 25 minutes away from UTSC, he was unable to show up to the meeting in person or in time to present his case.
Newly-elected Vice-President Equity and Alibux’s slate-mate Tebat Kadhem was present at the meeting and asked the chair, Caitlin Campisi, whether Alibux could speak for himself over the phone.
“I’m going to say no,” said Campisi. “We’re not going to allow folks who are not board members to phone in to a meeting they’re not formally a part of.”
In a later email to The Varsity, Alibux wrote that the SCSU never gave him notice about the ratification in advance, though, according to Alibux, the SCSU claimed that it had but would not provide evidence to him.
At the end of the discussion, Lagman proposed that the board vote on Alibux’s ratification by secret ballot.
Campisi confirmed that this was allowed since there has apparently been precedent for it.
The results of the secret ballot were five against Alibux’s ratification, two in favour, and two abstentions, meaning that the motion to ratify Alibux failed.
In an email to The Varsity, SCSU President Nicole Brayiannis wrote, “When there is a contentious debate, it falls within SCSU’s bylaws and processes to call for a secret ballot.” Brayiannis referred to Robert’s Rules of Order, which governs how board meetings are held and allows for secret ballots.
She added that it was not about “withholding insight” from the public, but rather a recognition of the sensitivity of the topic.
“Therefore, to be considerate of personal circumstances, I called for a secret ballot to ensure that folks would be able to cast their vote in a safe and comfortable manner.”
A student present at the meeting asked, “Why [are] the current Board of Directors… voting to… ratify the individuals elected by the student body?”
Campisi replied that, according to the Elections Procedures Code, candidates cannot be deemed elected until they have been ratified by the board.
The code states that “the Board, at its discretion, may refuse to ratify any singular Director or Executive office election, upon the recommendation of the Elections Appeals Committee [EAC].”
The EAC’s job is to review “appeals made by candidates regarding the decisions of the Elections and Referenda Committee,” which would be on subjects such as demerit points.
However, since there were no violations posted against Alibux to be appealed, he contends that the board had “no backing” in refusing to ratify him since there was no way for it to have a received a recommendation from the EAC. He added that he did not receive word about any violations or appeals to the EAC regarding himself.
At the board meeting, another student asked what happens when a candidate does not get ratified.
According to Campisi, Alibux’s position, Vice-President Operations, will be considered vacant and an interim executive will be designated to the position until the vacancy is filled.
“Given that they ratified the [Chief Returning Officer (CRO’s)] report and I had a clear majority that was not due to vote-tampering of any sort, they have no legal grounds for refusing to ratify me, in both their own bylaws and the Not for Profit Corporations Act,” wrote Alibux to The Varsity.
The CRO Philip Scibor’s report had been earlier carried as it was presented, though there were concerns from students present about its thoroughness. The report confirms that Alibux did not receive any demerit points.
“Aside from the fact that they cannot legally refuse to ratify me when the students have voted me in, they are clearly trying to obscure the voting process,” wrote Alibux.
In her email to The Varsity, Brayiannis noted that the SCSU “is taking the current matter very seriously and is investigating next steps.”
Editor’s Note (February 27, 1:15 pm): This article has been updated with details from the CRO report after The Varsity received it from Brayiannis.
Editor’s Note (February 28, 11:30 am): This article has been updated with comment from Brayiannis.