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SCSU board refuses to ratify incoming executive, directly contravenes union bylaws

Vice-President Operations-elect Rayyan Alibux not ratified, leaving position apparently vacant
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Abdillahi and Chaudhry are both current SCSU execs. MICHAEL PHOON/THE VARSITY
Abdillahi and Chaudhry are both current SCSU execs. MICHAEL PHOON/THE VARSITY

Tensions were high at the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) Board of Directors meeting on February 26 as members voted against ratifying recently-elected Vice-President Operations Rayyan Alibux in direct contravention of the SCSU’s bylaws. The move was also a possible breach of the Ontario Corporations Act (OCA), under which the union is incorporated.

The board also narrowly voted to ratify recently-elected Vice-President External Chaman Bukhari, discussed student society fee adjustments, and ratified the remaining incoming SCSU Board of Directors.

Ratification complications

Director of Sociology Theresa Louise Lagman motioned that each executive be ratified separately to allow for individual discussions.

All executives and directors were ratified except for Alibux, following concerns raised about his comments during the election. Alibux is planning on taking action against the union in response to the board rejecting his ratification.

Director of Physical & 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 transphobic comments.

“I have had students come up and tell me [after the article was published]… they [had] already voted them [in, but] they would change it if they could go back to it,” said Taj.

A vote by secret ballot resulted in five directors against Alibux’s ratification, two in favour, and two abstentions, meaning that the motion to ratify Alibux failed.

According to the union’s Elections Procedure Code, “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, meaning that there was nothing to appeal, he contends that the board had “no backing” in refusing to ratify him, since there was no way for it to have received a recommendation from the EAC. He added that he did not receive word about any violations or appeals to the EAC regarding himself.

Therefore, the SCSU would be in contravention of its own bylaws if the board acted without the recommendation of the EAC. Following that, the union could have also breached the OCA with this move, as the act states that directors and officers of a corporation must act in accordance with their bylaws as well as in good faith.

“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 an email to The Varsity, SCSU President Nicole 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.

Brayiannis told The Varsity that the SCSU “is taking the current matter very seriously and is investigating next steps.”

There were also tensions surrounding the ratification of Bukhari, though his ratification eventually passed by a narrow margin.

Taj challenged the motion to ratify Bukhari, citing an article from The Underground that reported that Bukhari had made anti-LGBTQ+ comments. The comments were later revealed by The Varsity to have been from almost two years ago.

“I am just questioning whether enough members of the SCSU had the opportunity to make an informed decision,” said Taj. “[The article] came out very last second, so you can’t go back and change your votes.”

The article on Bukhari was published on February 7, which was also the last day of voting.

Discussions between The Underground’s Editor-in-Chief Eilia Yazdanian and students centred on whether context had been left out of the article due to an alleged lack of Bukhari’s side to the story and Bukhari’s apparent refusal to give comment to The Underground.

Bukhari entered the room in the middle of the discussions.

“Because we do not know the outcome of the people voting, because such and such post was not brought into light before voting period… would the same apply if let’s say someone gets ratified, and then later some [inappropriate] post of theirs came about?” said Bukhari. “Would they then cease to have that politician? I don’t believe that ratification would exist later on. This is an inconsistent line of argument.”

The vote on Bukhari’s ratification resulted in two directors in favour, one against, and seven abstentions. After some confusion of whether this motion failed or not due to the number of abstentions, Chair Caitlin Campisi ruled that the motion passed. Campisi is a former Internal Commissioner who was disqualified when she ran for re-election in 2016. She is the current Executive Director of U of T’s Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students.

Some board members have called for a re-vote because of confusion concerning abstentions. Lagman said that she was in the washroom, and so she was not able to vote.

Campisi said that according to Robert’s Rules of Order, only those who voted in favour of the vote could motion for a re-vote. In the end, the motion still carried.

“This report was written to the best of my ability and time,” says CRO

The Chief Returning Officer’s (CRO) report was prepared and presented by CRO Philip Scibor. However, long discussions and debates arose due to the fact that the report only included an overview of the elections process.

Scibor noted in his report that he will later submit another report on the problems faced with the current Elections Procedure Code (EPC). In the second report, he “hopes that the incoming Board of Directors will take these concerns into consideration and strive to update the SCSU EPC in a way that will allow for a smoother election process.”

“How can the board ratify a report where [it lacks] main details, which are the challenges in the elections, which will determine whether the election was democratic, or if there should be a re-election?” said Yazdanian.

Yazdanian also pointed out that he thinks that a lot of the report is just summarization. “It kind of misses your view as a CRO and your analysis of the election,” said Yazdanian.

Scibor replied that he did not have enough time for the second report. He then offered some suggestions, including making the demerits system clearer.

“This report was written to the best of my ability and time,” said Scibor.

Campisi clarified Scibor’s intentions with the second report. “In addition to the report which is before you today… [Scibor] would like to make the recommendations… That would be a secondary document that is not required by your bylaws or EPC… [but] on a voluntary basis,” said Campisi.

A student at the meeting said that people are asking the same questions and that the CRO report is “good enough to pass.”

Campisi further clarified that the motion being voted upon is just on the CRO report presented. She urged the room to vote, and the motion carried with seven in support and three abstentions.

Adjustments to student society fees

A motion to increase certain student fees to be adjusted for the University of Toronto Inflation Index (UTI) at the beginning of the fall session passed.

Due to the UTI increase, the SCSU membership fee for full-time students will increase by $0.62 to become $27.00 per session. Part-time students will pay $0.04 more per session, totaling $1.70.

For the same reason, a request was made to increase the Student Centre fee by $0.92 per session for full-time students, and $0.27 per session for part-time students. The total costs will be $40.82 and $12.22 respectively.

Lagman asked whether this matter can be discussed at the SCSU’s Winter General Meeting so that “it’s open to discussion with the rest of the student body.”

“This is decided on the board level,” said SCSU President Nicole Brayiannis. “It’s just simple inflation.”

Full-time students will also pay $0.16 more per session for the Canadian Federation of Students and Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario membership fee. This increase is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase.

The Dental Plan and Accidental & Prescription Drug Insurance Plan fees for full-time students were also raised by 10 per cent based on the CPI increase. Full-time students are expected to pay an increase of $9.46 per session in the Dental Plan fee, and an increased fee of $7.48 per session in the Accidental & Prescription Drug Insurance Plan fee. This will bring the totals up to $104.03 and $85.88 respectively.

According to Brayiannis, Green Shield Canada, the benefits provider that the SCSU uses, initially proposed a 12.2 per cent increase to the Dental Plan and Accidental & Prescription Drug Insurance Plan fees.

“We managed to talk them down to 11.2 per cent increase,” said Brayiannis. The SCSU will be paying the additional 1.2 per cent increase to pull the fee increase down to 10 per cent.

Green Shield Canada attracted attention in 2015 when the University of Toronto Students’ Union discovered that the union had lost $1.6 million through its plans, and it subsequently switched providers.

Along with the SCSU fee increases, the motion asked for the Student Refugee Program fee to be continued.