A presidential candidate for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) elections, Eesha Chaudhry, has been disqualified after allegations that she sent an email to the election’s chief returning officer (CRO) that contained personal information of the other candidate, Sarah Abdillahi, in order to question her election eligibility. However, Chaudry denies the allegations.
The disqualification was confirmed on Sunday, February 28, two days before the voting period was scheduled to begin on March 2. Currently, Chaudhry is the SCSU’s vice-president external, and Abdillahi is the current president.
On February 23, the CRO received an anonymous email alleging that Abdillahi was ineligible to run. The email included her personal academic transcript, which was accessed without her knowledge or consent.
Abdillahi’s legal counsel has since defended her eligibility to run for the SCSU elections to the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC).
In a statement released on Instagram, Abdillahi wrote that the releasing of her information had “filled [her] with so much anxiety and dread as [she] felt absolutely helpless these past couple of days.” She added that she had found a login to her U of T email from an IP address she was unfamiliar with, at which point she was advised by the ERC to inform UTSC that her information was accessed.
Abdillahi then contacted UTSC’s Campus Police, Registrar’s Office, Academic Advising and Career Centre, and Admissions Office to make them aware of the situation.
After being informed about the situation by the CRO, the ERC voted to launch an investigation into the email. They hired two independent IT professionals, who submitted reports on the situation after several days.
According to the ERC’s public statement, the two information technology (IT) experts reached “virtually identical conclusions” on who had accessed Abdillahi’s information, though the statement does not explicitly say who they concluded had done it.
Chaudhry met with the appeals committee and presented evidence on February 28 before the committee confirmed the ERC’s decision to disqualify her by giving her 35 demerit points.
Chaudhry wrote on her Instagram story that she was falsely accused of being the “mastermind” behind it. She further claimed that the IP address that was traced was not hers.
“Despite an appeals meeting with alibis and proof that this was all hearsay and false allegations, I was still disqualified,” she wrote.
In a follow-up statement posted on March 2, the ERC noted that it has not made the reports from the IT professionals public because Chaudhry has refused to provide permission.
Petition and challenges to appeals ruling
Following Chaudhry’s disqualification, an executive candidate from the Connect UTSC slate started a petition to reinstate Chaudhry as a presidential candidate. On March 1, the CRO sent all SCSU candidates an email saying that, if the petition was not removed, its creator would also be disqualified from the election. The CRO also wrote that all candidates sharing or engaging with the petition would receive demerit points from their campaigns.
With regard to the petition being ordered down, Chaudhry wrote: “First I wasn’t allowed to question the reports when accused [and] now apparently I can’t abide by Section II of the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms],” which includes the right to participate in peaceful demonstrations and protests.
The voting period for the SCSU elections is March 2–4.
Editor’s note (March 2): This article has been updated to report on a follow-up statement from the ERC.