SCSYou candidates prevail in election recount

Rayyan Alibux to be VP Operations, Tebat Kadhem to be VP Equity

SCSYou candidates prevail in election recount

Roughly a week after the initial Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) election results were released, a recount involving two executive races has ended, and in both cases, SCSYou candidates won.

Rayyan Alibux, SCSYou’s candidate for Vice-President Operations, won over Shine Bright UTSC’s Kevin Turingan 711671, with 107 spoiled ballots. Alibux was an independent presidential candidate in last year’s election and came in second behind Nicole Brayiannis.

Tebat Kadhem, the SCSYou candidate for Vice-President Equity, won by a slim margin over Shine Bright UTSC’s Leon Tsai, the current Director of Historical and Cultural Studies on the SCSU board, 708–696, with 90 spoiled ballots.

When initial results were announced on Saturday, recounts were initiated for these two races due to a narrow margin of votes. According to the SCSU Elections Procedure Code, any race with a difference of less than five per cent between each candidate triggers an automatic recount.

With these results comes an end to a weeks-long campaign at UTSC, with next year’s executive to be split among the two slates.

Shine Bright UTSC’s Chemi Lhamo and Sarah Mohamed were elected President and Vice-President Campus Life, respectively.

SCSYou’s Carly Sahagian and Chaman Bukhari were elected Vice-President Academics & University Affairs and Vice-President External, respectively.

A recap of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union elections

Table throwing allegations, “disgusting, transphobic” comments

A recap of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union elections

The attention on this year’s Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) elections has been largely focused on non-policy related matters, namely the allegation of an SCSYou candidate being hit by a table, harassment of now-president-elect Chemi Lhamo of Shine Bright UTSC for her personal activism, and an anti-LGBTQ+ comment from disqualified SCSYou presidential candidate Anup Atwal.

As the election comes to a close, The Varsity looks back at the major events of the campaign period.

The table incident

Atwal was disqualified on February 5 after receiving too many demerit points. A large number of these were in response to an “unapproved” social media post, which was ruled by the SCSU’s Elections and Referenda Committee on January 25 to have contained “an unreported incident which contained broad accusations.”

In this post, Atwal wrote that candidates were “shoving, yelling, hitting each other with tables (literally), throwing things at each others posters so they can fall and you can put up yours.”

In the following days, Atwal claimed that Lhamo hit SCSYou’s Vice-President Academic & University Affairs candidate Carly Sahagian with a table, a claim that Lhamo said is categorically false.

Video clips later posted show Lhamo asking Sahagian and bystanders about the incident if she had hit her, to which Sahagian answered yes and bystanders — including Lhamo’s running-mate Raymond Dang — answered no.

Chief Returning Officer Philip Scibor handed Atwal 20 demerit points for a “Gross Misrepresentation of Facts,” and posting unapproved campaign material on social media on January 25 for these claims.

“Days after that, I keep hearing from first years when I’m going and campaigning, ‘Oh, I heard you’re the one that hit someone,’” Lhamo explained. “It sucks to have to win someone’s vote by trying to bust myths first… That is creating such a big disadvantage for any candidate because you’re having to defend yourself before you can say, ‘Hi, my name is Chemi.’”

Online harassment of Lhamo for Tibetan activism

In the run-up to the release of the election results, Lhamo’s social media was attacked with comments that mostly concerned her outspoken stance on the Tibetan independence movement.

On her Lunar New Year post on Instagram, Lhamo received about 10,000 comments in the span of a day. Other recent posts have also been affected. Many of the comments included Chinese flag emojis, personal attacks, racist slurs, and vulgar words in English and Chinese.

“It’s been blowing up since the day after the elections,” Lhamo wrote to The Varsity. “It is concerning, not so much about my safety but rather the safety of our Canadian rights.”

“This is just an example of China’s long arms, how they still think and inherently believe that they can intimidate me into not running for Presidency,” said Lhamo.

According to Lhamo, the heads of security at UTSC and the U of T President’s office are both aware of the situation.

Lhamo said, “To all the students, I’m standing tall and strong, so stand with me. I’m not afraid because I know I stand on side of the truth and justice.”

“Disgusting, transphobic” comments

Following Atwal’s disqualification from receiving too many demerit points, a screenshot of a group chat in which Atwal made a transphobic comment about Shine Bright UTSC’s Vice President Equity candidate Leon Tsai was leaked to UTSC’s student newspaper The Underground.

Tsai is a transgender woman who ran on an LGBTQ+-friendly platform. The vote count for Vice-President Equity was within a five per cent margin and has been sent to an automatic recount as of press time.

Armaan Sahgal, who ran for Director of Critical Development Studies with SCSYou, was revealed to be the one who leaked the chat.

“Someone close to me sent [The Underground] the first screenshot to see if they would publish it, then put me in contact with them and I DMed them the rest on Messenger,” Sahgal wrote to The Varsity.

“[Atwal’s] comments about Leon Tsai were disgusting, transphobic, and hateful,” wrote Sahgal. “Voters have a right to know about his views especially considering Anup’s expressed intent to appeal his disqualification and call for a re-vote.”

According to Sahgal, after The Underground’s article went live, Anup messaged the group chat, “threatening” to sue both Sahgal and The Underground.

Sahgal provided a screenshot of Atwal writing to the group chat that it’s “going to now become a legal suit against Underground AND @Armaan.”

However, Sahgal wrote to The Varsity, “I stand by my platform, I stand by the platforms of our great exec candidates such as Tebat Kadhem and others, and I stand by the electoral reform agenda we at SCSYou have put forth to the public… I stand by the electorate’s right to be informed.”

Kadhem is SCSYou’s Vice-President Equity candidate.

When The Varsity asked Atwal about the leak, he said that he did not want to make any particular comments, but that “context is super important.”

In screenshots he sent to The Varsity to provide such context, Atwal is shown further criticizing Tsai for posting about what she saw as SCSYou candidates’ mishandling of LGBTQ+ issues.

A day after Atwal’s messages were leaked, The Underground received an anonymous screenshot showing a Facebook chat with SCSYou’s Vice-President External candidate Chaman Bukhari.

In the screenshot, an anonymous person is shown asking Bukhari, “How was it,” to which Bukhari replied in Urdu, “Fuzool” and “Wohi LGBTQ [bakwas].”

The Varsity translated Bukhari’s text to “useless” and “the same LGBTQ bullshit.”

However, Bukhari defended his comment as being “grossly misinterpreted” and “utterly lacking context,” and added that it was almost two years old.

Although Bukhari knows the identity of the woman who leaked the screenshot, Bukhari told The Varsity in an email, “I refuse to stoop to tactics beneath me and I do not find it appropriate to reveal her name.”

“It is amusing how offense from two years ago can be realized when someone begins to run for office. Ultimately, it’s an inevitable part of politics and I welcome a healthy environment of criticism.”

Bukhari said that he does not hold anything against The Underground. “If I truly stand for freedom of expression, I stand for it whether the news favours me or not,” said Bukhari. “I personally loved the article… The popcorn at home has run out.”

Tsai has not responded to The Varsity’s requests for comment.

— With files from Josie Kao

Editor’s Note (February 11, 3:30 pm): An earlier version of this article suggested that in video clips of the table incident, Sahagian denied that Lhamo hit her. In fact, Sahagian continued to allege that Lhamo did.

The curious case of Anup Atwal

The drama-ridden 2019 SCSU elections can be understood backward and its lessons must be lived forward

The curious case of Anup Atwal

Student union elections provide student politicians and voters the opportunity to discuss the possibilities of change and improvement to livelihood on campus. The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) spring election was supposed to be no different.

Debate

In an exciting start, UTSC student newspaper The Underground hosted a debate on February 1. Shine Bright UTSC, SCSYou, and independent executive candidates took to the stage to present their platforms, answer questions, and display their smack-talk ability. Of note was the rivalry between Shine Bright UTSC’s presidential candidate, Chemi Lhamo, and SCSYou’s presidential candidate, Anup Atwal.

Atwal’s answers to debate questions reflected his solemnity and passion as a presidential candidate. Students responded positively when he addressed student issues like financial security and academics.

Atwal also took the opportunity to criticize current Director of Political Science and Vice-President Academics & University Affairs candidate Raymond Dang for proposing a motion to limit media at SCSU meetings in December. Dang later expressed some regret, claiming that he “absolutely never intended to make that policy about controlling media.”

Atwal’s criticism was well-founded. Dang’s motion was a self-caused controversy. Hopefully, his participation in the Underground-hosted debate has pushed him to better recognize the value of the campus press. Indeed, for student media to host student politicians not only better informs student voters, but also creates a positive image of student engagement and campus democracy.

Drama

However, the debate was soon followed by the issuance of demerit points. By February 5, Lhamo had received 25, while Atwal was handed enough points to be officially disqualified from elections for multiple violations, including criticisms of Dang, described in the notice as a “direct and misleading comment towards another candidate.”

But Atwal’s disqualification was not justified given the accuracy of his comments. He was right to subsequently criticize the SCSU for undermining free speech. Furthermore, given his resonance with students, especially as the Scarborough Campus Union Reform Club president, the demerit point system detracted from what could have been an exciting contest.

It more or less guaranteed the presidency to Lhamo, an establishment politician. Although independent candidate John John received 519 votes, only Atwal had presented a serious challenge to Lhamo. This likely lessened student motivation to vote and therefore the chances of other SCSYou candidates to be voted in. But the drama did not stop there.

Atwal was shrouded with even more controversy when fellow slate member Armaan Sahgal leaked a chat to The Underground. It exposed Atwal for transphobic remarks directed toward Leon Tsai, Shine Bright UTSC’s Vice-President Equity candidate. There is no doubt that this was a turning point in the election in terms of Atwal’s reputation.

Even as a candidate advocating for change in the SCSU, Atwal failed to perceive his own actions as requiring remorse and reform — for example, he has been called out for his transphobic remarks, but refuses to apologize and stands by his words. He ultimately drew much attention to the election for the wrong reasons, and his initial association with action and policy has been replaced by drama. Public opinion has justifiably turned against him.

Running for an important position of power means being responsible and accountable for one’s actions, both in public and private spheres — the ability of a student politician to conduct themselves with dignity and command the respect of voters is as important as matters of policy debate. Atwal has disregarded these responsibilities as SCSYou’s leader, and thus he has seriously compromised the quality of the election at UTSC.

Democracy

But students have voted in a new SCSU executive. Although a split ticket, I hope that the executive learn to work together and overcome the election’s negativity to effectively develop policy and address student needs. Interestingly, Dang was outvoted by SCSYou candidate Carly Sahagian, whom he had called “utterly unqualified” during the debate, another comment unappreciated by students. In this sense, the election was a success: students cast informed votes based on candidates’ questionable behaviour.

But beyond policy, the SCSU must find a way to improve its own quality and legitimacy as an institution. From Atwal’s rise as a reformist candidate, to his controversial disqualification, and finally to his disgraced fall, it is clear that there is much work to be done when it comes to electoral processes and decorum.

One positive spillover is that the election was subject to intense media coverage by The Underground and The Varsity. The importance of the press for ensuring student awareness and engagement in campus politics should not be taken lightly. This sort of precedent should inspire students to better exercise their rights to vote or run for office and effect change in the future. Student participation is essential to democracy on campus.

This year’s SCSU elections have unfortunately been more dramatic than democratic. But the dissatisfying experience gives students all the more reason to care about what their politicians are doing. Hopefully, students come to understand the power of their voice, and that the SCSU is ultimately what they, the students, make of it.

Michael Phoon is a second-year Journalism student at UTSC. He is The Varsity’s UTSC Affairs Columnist.

Scarborough student union election results in split executive

Shine Bright UTSC’s Chemi Lhamo wins presidency

Scarborough student union election results in split executive

After two weeks of campaigning, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) election results have been released, and next year’s executive will be split between the two major slates.

Current SCSU Vice-President Equity Chemi Lhamo of Shine Bright UTSC will be the next president, winning 837 votes to defeat independent John John. SCSYou’s presidential candidate Anup Atwal was disqualified from the race at midnight before the voting period began on February 5. There were 124 spoiled ballots in the presidential race.

SCSYou’s Carly Sahagian was elected Vice-President Academics & University Affairs over Shine Bright UTSC candidate Raymond Dang, who currently sits on the student union’s board as Director of Political Science. The count was 837–594, with 82 spoiled ballots.

SCSYou candidate Chaman Bukhari, co-president of the Pakistani Students’ Association, will be the next Vice-President External. He won against Shine Bright UTSC’s Kalkidan Alemayehu. The count was 790–602, with 61 spoiled ballots.

Sarah Mohamed of Shine Bright UTSC won the election for Vice-President Campus Life over independent Shehtabbanu Shaikh. Rival slate SCSYou did not put up a candidate for the position. The count was 950–407, with 111 spoiled ballots.

For Vice-President Operations and Vice-President Equity, there was a difference of less than five per cent between each candidate.

According to the SCSU Elections Procedure Code, this means an automatic recount will take place.

The Vice-President Operations race was between SCSYou candidate Rayyan Alibux and Shine Bright UTSC candidate Kevin Turingan. The Vice-President Equity race was between SCSYou candidate Tebat Kadhem and Shine Bright UTSC candidate Leon Tsai.

The Academics & University Affairs race had the highest voter turnout at 1,513 votes. According to SCSU’s website, its membership numbers at around 14,000 students, meaning that, at most, the voter turnout was a little more than 10 per cent.

Out of the 16 seats available on the Board of Directors, Shine Bright UTSC won seven, SCSYou won four, an independent candidate won one, and the remaining four had less than a five per cent difference and will be sent to a recount.

 

Scarborough Campus Students’ Union election results yet to be released

Voting period ended over 24 hours ago

Scarborough Campus Students’ Union election results yet to be released

More than 24 hours after the voting period ended for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) 2019 elections, the results have still not been released and there is no word on when they will become available.

The voting period ended on February 7 at 8:00 pm after it was extended due to a campus closure.

According to SCSU Executive Director Francis Pineda, the delay is because “the [Elections and Referenda Committee is] still currently discussing the results.”

In recent years, the results have been released within 24 hours of the voting period ending. The SCSU conducts its elections through paper ballots, meaning that they must be physically counted.

Chief Returning Officer Philip Scibor has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Varsity. The Varsity has also reached out to presidential candidates Chemi Lhamo and John John for comment.

SCSYou presidential candidate Anup Atwal disqualified from SCSU executive elections

Atwal handed demerit points for “misrepresentation of facts,” “malicious” comments

SCSYou presidential candidate Anup Atwal disqualified from SCSU executive elections

SCSYou presidential candidate Anup Atwal has been officially disqualified from the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) executive elections on February 5 for accumulating too many demerit points. Atwal’s campaign was suspended on the first day of voting and his appeal has been turned down by members of the union’s board of directors.  

According to the Elections Appeals Committee, Atwal has been disqualified for three separate violations of the Election Procedures Code of the Scarborough Students’ Campus Union (SCSU) on two different occasions.

Atwal first received 25 points on January 25 for a “Gross Misrepresentation of Facts” after posting “Unapproved Material” on social media. According to the notice, the social media post “contained an unreported incident which contained broad accusations.” After the candidate appealed, five demerit points were removed as the post was not targeted at any one person.

On February 1, Atwal received a total of 25 demerit points for “Malicious or Intentional Violation of this Code” when he made another unapproved social media post and a “direct and misleading” comment toward another candidate during The Underground’s executive candidates debate.

Although 20 demerit points issued in the second instance were withdrawn after an appeals process, the committee decided to uphold the 25 demerit points as Atwal allegedly uploaded more unapproved and misleading material on social media.

According to the Election Procedures Code, an executive candidate with more than 35 demerit points is automatically disqualified. Since Atwal had accumulated 45 demerits, he was disqualified as of February 5.

Following his disqualification, Atwal released a statement accusing the SCSU of “outright attacking” students’ rights to freedom of speech. 

“I have been removed for making a factual remark at a debate that SCSU’s current Director for Political Science [Raymond Dang], who is now running for VP Academics, has actively sought to silence student journalists with his motion,” Atwal wrote.

Dang moved a motion at the union’s board of directors meeting in December 2018 that would allow the SCSU to move toward controlling student media accreditation and access to meetings.

“If truth is considered a ‘malicious attack,’ then send me to jail, for the history of this month gives me a moral basis to challenge the irrational, to resist the oppressive, and dismantle the house of corruption one fact at a time,” Atwal’s statement reads.

UTSC students in favour of Atwal have started an online petition calling on the SCSU to let Atwal continue running in the election. As of press time, the petition had 150 supporters.

The Varsity has reached out to Raymond Dang and the Chief Returning Officer for comment.

The Underground hosts Scarborough Campus Students’ Union executive candidates debate

Disagreements over qualifications, “Free Palestine” sign

<i>The Underground</i> hosts Scarborough Campus Students’ Union executive candidates debate

UTSC’s student newspaper The Underground hosted a debate on February 1 for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) executive candidates. The presidential candidates discussed their platforms and students’ needs, and the debate grew heated over accusations of a lack of qualifications, and debate over a “Free Palestine” sign at the Student Centre.

“Come up with your own ideas for once in your life”

The presidential candidates answered questions about what they thought of the opposition, the most pressing needs of UTSC students, and what oppositional platform point they would like to incorporate into their own.

Independent candidate John John said that the opposition promises a lot of things but “they’re not going to do anything for you.”

John said that he does not have a platform and that he does not want to know what the students’ problems are. “I’m really here because I want to start a movement on campus… Come up with your own ideas for once in your life.”

SCSYou’s Anup Atwal said that the student union needs “fresh faces and fresh ideas.”

Atwal also commented that John was outlining the main problem with the SCSU, but “it seems that John doesn’t actually want to do things. It’s more [to] just make the noise.”

Atwal believes that financial security and academics are the most pressing needs of UTSC students. “If you don’t have financial security, you don’t eat, you don’t socialize as much… that affects your mental health and ability to perform… in the classroom.”

For Shine Bright UTSC’s Chemi Lhamo, UTSC students need diverse representation the most. She provided the example of courses in which the teachers do not represent the community being taught.

When asked about an oppositional platform point that she wants to incorporate into her own, Lhamo said, “I can spill you a little bit of tea. There is a lot of alignment in between [Shine Bright UTSC’s and SCSYou’s] campaign points. Perhaps because some of our campaign points were leaked prior to us knowing, because of certain implantations?”

The audience both booed and clapped in response to her statement.

“My opponent is utterly unqualified for the position”

The candidates for Vice-President Academics & University Affairs were asked about what would be their biggest worry if their opponent wins.

Shine Bright UTSC’s Raymond Dang said that his biggest worry was that if SCSYou’s Carly Sahagian wins, “no action will happen.”

Dang said, “Number one, my opponent is utterly unqualified for the position,” to which the audience interrupted Dang with murmurs and grumbles.

Dang continued, “It is my political opinion, that it is utterly unqualified —”

The audience started to boo and grumble louder. Somebody in the audience said, “Don’t be rude!”

Dang, referring to Sahagian’s two years of registrarial experience, said that the registrar’s office is still the same. “And additionally, we have known that [having] no DSA [Departmental Students’ Association] experience within Academics & University Affairs is actually harmful for the position.”

Sahagian was given a chance to respond, during which she said that her Student Recruitment Assistant position at the registrar’s office did not give her any power over student services. She mentioned her other qualifications, including being a secretary for the Women’s and Gender Studies Association and serving the Campus Affairs Committee.

“I’m representing every department, not only Political Science,” said Sahagian.

Dang is currently the SCSU’s Director of Political Science. He has also worked with the Political Science Students’ Association at UTSC.

“Free Palestine” signage

The Vice-President Equity candidates were asked whether the “Free Palestine” sign at UTSC’s Student Centre creates a hostile environment for Jewish students.

Shine Bright UTSC’s Leon Tsai said that she does not think that the sign is antisemitic or anti-Jewish. She mentioned that the union supported Palestine and also Holocaust Education Week “to make sure that it’s not one or the other.”

“We need to have all these discussions… to make sure everyone is heard,” she said.

SCSYou’s Tebat Khadhem said that the problem with the banners is that they are “single-sided on one political issue… [so] the other side will feel marginalized.”

“Our slate will make the option of putting up a poster equitable for all student clubs… as long as they are within the limits of the Charter of Rights,” Khadhem said.

Voting for the SCSU 2019 Spring Elections will take place February 5–7 at the Bladen Wing Tim Hortons, Instructional Centre Atrium, and Student Centre.

Recapping the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union executive candidates forum

Students ask about leadership experience, funding, bursaries

Recapping the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union executive candidates forum

Executive candidates running in the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) 2019 Spring Elections faced student questions about their experience and platforms at a forum hosted on January 29. There are two slates in this race, Shine Bright UTSC and SCSYou. Voting will take place from February 5–7 at three locations on campus.

To the presidential candidates, UTSC student Ghaith Hanbali asked what experience the candidates have that makes them fit for this leadership position.

Shine Bright UTSC’s presidential candidate Chemi Lhamo answered that she is a Director of Marketing for social media for the UTSC Chemistry Society. Lhamo is also the current SCSU Vice-President Equity.

“I thought that organic [chemistry] was the best thing since sliced bread,” said Lhamo. “Hence, why I wanted to help students with their lab coats, lab notebooks… I made sure I was there for them… [and] that people knew about Chemistry Society events.”

SCSYou’s presidential candidate Anup Atwal was the co-president of the Scarborough Campus Punjabi Association and is the founder and President of the Scarborough Campus’ Union Reform Club.

Atwal has also helped students at the Math and Statistics Learning Centre. “Student leadership… is not just being the person who’s always at the front… I do believe that part of being a leader is educating people around you.”

UTSC student Sarkis Kidanian said to the Vice-President Operations candidates that they have “lots of promises… that require money” and asked them where that would come from.

SCSYou’s Vice-President Operations candidate Ray Alibux replied that giving students the option to vote in and out of different levies would free up a lot of money.

He said that students are paying for levies that not all students may want to pay for. “An example is the Blue Sky Solar Racing… this [money] could be going toward something like the Food Centre.”

It is unclear how the union would gain money for other projects if students were allowed to opt out.

Shine Bright UTSC’s Vice-President Operations candidate Kevin Turingan said that since people are going to be able to opt out of the union next year, “he can’t give… an exact answer for that.”

If elected, Turingan plans to look at the funding and figure out how much money the union has before providing an answer. He said that he “would prioritize what students want.”

Among Alibux’s campaign promises are lobbying for more charging stations, longer food vendor hours, an on-campus free food kitchen similar to Good Shepherd Ministries, and a recreation room.

Turingan wants to introduce more food trucks, a food justice campaign, and a Presto card machine on campus. He also wants to give the SCSU Food Centre its own room, and open it at least three times a week, instead of two.

In light of Premier Doug Ford’s government announcement of changes to postsecondary education, which includes a 10 per cent cut to domestic tuition, a student asked the candidates for Vice-President Academics & University Affairs about how they might introduce new bursaries.

Shine Bright UTSC’s Raymond Dang emphasized that “as soon as [he is] in office” in May, he will introduce scholarships and bursaries. He also has plans concerning petition costs and green leadership.

“A vote for Raymond is a vote for a break with the past,” said Dang. “A vote for Shine Bright UTSC is a vote for transparency, ambition, accountability, and positivity.”

SCSYou’s Carly Sahagian said, “As someone who works with admissions, we offer a lot of scholarships for students.”

She said, “[Student services] fees should be able to cover some of the extra services that we pay. For example, the deferred exam fee.” Sahagian wants to remove UTSC fees such as the $70 exam deferral fee and the $36 exam re-read fee.