On March 20, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) announced that, according to the unofficial results, Thrive UTM swept the 2023–24 executive position elections. Since the announcement, other slates and Transparent UTMSU have raised concerns about the demerit points system. They also alleged that ties between Thrive UTM’s campaign managers and the UTMSU’s Elections and Referenda Committee (EARC) — which handles candidate appeals — indicate a conflict of interest.
The Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Elias Ancer and current UTMSU executives disputed these claims.
The Elections Procedure Code allows the CRO to issue demerit points to candidates who have violated it. Executive candidates who receive at least 40 demerit points are automatically disqualified.
According to the Demerit Points Tracker — UTMSU’s public display of candidate demerit points — all members of Thrive UTM received 25 demerit points on March 14 for “Failure to comply with the spirit of elections.” The CRO indicated that he assigned these demerit points because the slate sent the CRO a non-consensual recording of Niguel Walker — It’s Time UTM’s candidate for vice-president external. Thrive UTM appealed the decision, and the EARC reduced the penalty to 10 demerit points on March 15.
The following day, the CRO gave all Thrive UTM members 15 demerit points for harassment, which the slate also appealed. The EARC reduced the number of demerit points from 15 to 10.
The Demerit Points Tracker indicates that Kiki Ayoola — Thrive UTM’s candidate for vice-president external and unofficial winner of the election — later received 15 more demerit points for “making false allegations,” bringing her total to 40 points. The CRO did not provide a public explanation for this penalty. After Thrive UTM appealed, the EARC lowered Ayoola’s points for “false allegations” to 10, bringing Ayoola’s total to 30 demerit points. When The Varsity asked Reagan Roopnarine — UTMSU vice-president equity and a member of the EARC — about this decision, she did not provide a reason.
CRO Ancer has not maintained accurate demerit point updates on the Demerit Point Tracker where students can stay updated on the appeals process. In an interview with The Varsity on March 23, Ancer said that instead of updating the public Wall of Transparency, he shifted to using a spreadsheet only available to specific individuals. He wanted to prevent confusion because the appeals process leads to fluctuations in demerit points. Ancer also explained that he was more focused on updating the unofficial results.
UTMSU executives Roopnarine and Wenhan (Berry) Lou, and Alistair Kirk — vice-presidents internal, and external, respectively — make up the EARC, along with a few Board of Directors (BOD) members.
In an interview with The Varsity, Sam Aboul Hosn, the presidential candidate for It’s Time UTM, said that he and his slate do not trust the EARC. He noted that EARC members personally know Thrive UTM candidates but don’t know members of It’s Time UTM.
UTMSU President Maëlis Barre and Vice-President University Affairs Suraqa Noor took a leave of absence from their roles at the union to act as Thrive UTM’s campaign managers. Roopnarine, Lou, and Kir ran in the Inspire UTM slate with Barre and Noor during the 2022 election.
Discussing the executives on the EARC, Aboul Hosn said, “At the end of the day, they’ve been coworkers for the past year. So there’s always going to be bias toward [Barre’s] team.”
In an interview with The Varsity, Roopnarine explained that she sits on the EARC and many other committees. She said that, to prevent bias within the EARC, BOD members and the CRO also attend EARC meetings. Each person on the committee has one vote and all meetings follow Robert’s Rules of Order, which permits individuals to ask questions and follow up.
Roopnarine said that EARC meeting minutes should be posted on the UTMSU’s website. The Varsity confirmed that these meeting minutes are not available on the UTMSU’s website at the time of publication.
Transparent UTSMU allegations
Transparent UTMSU is an anonymous Instagram account that aims to encourage accountability and transparency at the union. On March 23, Transparent UTMSU admins published a post condemning the actions of the CRO, Thrive UTM, and UTMSU executives, calling the election not “legitimate.”
The post explicitly called out Barre’s decision to send the recording of Walker to the CRO. It’s Time, along with two other slates, United UTM and Elevate UTM, published a statement condemning the use of the recording to award demerit points to Walker. Transparent UTMSU claimed that the CRO “suppressed the voices of other parties” by having the slates take down their statement.
Transparent UTMSU also alleged that Barre demonstrated a lack of concern for students’ privacy by sending the recording of Walker to the CRO. In response, Barre said that she could have posted the recording on social media. Instead, she forwarded the recording to the CRO because she was concerned that another candidate made a student feel uncomfortable to the point where the student decided to record the conversation.
“It’s not immoral. It’s just giving the CRO every possible information he needs to make sure that the election remains a fair one,” Barre said of her decision.
Transparent UTMSU argued that the CRO should hold all candidates accountable and disqualify any candidate who received 40 demerit points, as per the EPC. They also highlighted that Barre and Lou hired the CRO.
In an interview with The Varsity, Barre confirmed that she, current UTMSU Executive Director Felipe Nagata, and Lou hired Ancer as the 2023 CRO. The three UTMSU members sit on the Human Resources (HR) Committee, which hires individuals to work for the UTMSU. “That is just how things work in a normal organization. That is mandated by our Constitution, bylaws and policies,” Barre said. She highlighted that she only spoke with Thrive UTM’s presidential candidate, Gulfy Bekbolatova, about working with the Thrive UTM slate after the HR Committee had hired the CRO.
Barre confirmed that the UTMSU published the CRO job position on their website at least two weeks before the application deadline, as per the UTMSU’s constitution. Ancer was the only applicant for the CRO position. In an interview with The Varsity, Ancer explained that one of his and Nagata’s mutual friends brought the job posting to his attention.
Ancer believes that Barre’s involvement with the hiring process for the CRO does not qualify as a conflict of interest. He explained that Nagata and Lou supervise him because Barre stepped down as president for the election period.
In an interview, Barre told The Varsity that Transparent UTMSU’s post is “misinformation with the aim to slander a team that won an election fair and square because some people are not ready to accept the outcome.”
The UTMSU BOD will vote on ratifying the election results at its March 31 meeting.