High spoiled ballot count in SCSU elections due to scrutineer error, paper ballots

CRO report criticizes efforts to disqualify other candidates through demerit points

High spoiled ballot count in SCSU elections due to scrutineer error, paper ballots

The results of the 2020 Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) elections, in which executive positions were almost all claimed by the VISION UTSC slate, saw the amount of spoiled ballots in executive elections more than double from last year. The Chief Returning Officer (CRO) report found that the number of spoiled ballots was “artificially [inflated]” by ballots that were submitted last-minute and had errors, resulting in them being spoiled. In this situation, voters were given new ballots, and the number of votes did not change.

The elections also saw automatic recounts triggered for three executive positions due to close margins between candidates.

Spoiled ballots

The SCSU elections are done on paper, leaving room for human error and spoiled ballots. The ballots are counted by two scrutineers who are responsible for determining which ballots are spoiled.

The number of spoiled ballots was greater than or equal to the winning margins in 10 out of 21 elections. There were more spoiled ballots than the winning margin in five out of six executive elections — all positions except president.

The quantity of spoiled ballots was much higher in the 2020 elections than that of 2019. The average amount of spoiled ballots for executive positions in 2020 was 203. In 2019, that number was 96.

Current SCSU Vice-President Operations Rayyan Alibux said that a ballot could be spoiled if a check mark strayed into the box of another candidate. If there was any doubt about who was being voted for, the ballot would be thrown out. In addition, Alibux said he is looking into the possibility that one of the scrutineers this year forgot to sign some ballots, which require signatures from both scrutineers, resulting in more ballots being thrown out. The Varsity was not able to confirm either claim.

When asked if he thought there were too many spoiled ballots, Alibux said, “Always — it’s ridiculous.”

Alibux alleged that when he ran, one of the scrutineers left early, resulting in many spoiled ballots.

He expressed frustration with the system and said that he will be moving motions at the next Annual General Meeting to move all voting to online, both for elections and for policy changes. Alibux had previously tried to pass online voting in the election at the 2019 general meeting, but was unsuccessful.

He noted that the SCSU did work on outreach to get a higher voter turnout, and added, “I think the voting period could be longer.” This year, the voting period ran from February 11–13.

Demerit points

A number of general issues were raised by the CRO about the atmosphere of the elections, mostly stemming from the past use of demerit points in the elections. Six candidates, in addition to the entire WENITED slate, received demerit points during the election.

Each WENITED candidate received four demerit points for “unregistered campaigner, improper distribution of campaign material, [and] campaigning with opponent on the ballot.”

The winner of the presidential election, Sarah Mohamed from the VISION UTSC slate, had three demerit points for a poster that was placed in a way that prevented the other team from postering.

The CRO found that “by far the most substantial and glaring issue was the consistently staggering volume of allegations of violations that I received from candidates.” Because demerit points could only be given with clear evidence, “Some candidates and volunteers subjected others to virtually constant video surveillance.” The report identified this as creating an unhealthy and uncomfortable environment.

“The way in which demerit points were allocated and distributed in the past has produced an environment in which candidates are incentivized to attempt to win elections by directing their energy towards getting their opponents disqualified rather than focusing on on-the-ground campaigning and turning out the vote.”

He also wrote that the vagueness of the Elections Procedure Code led to candidates “making outrageous claims, exaggerating minor incidents, and attempting to bend rules as far as possible in their direction.”

Op-ed: Food is a right, not a privilege

Growth in store for the SCSU Food Centre

Op-ed: Food is a right, not a privilege

Room 210B of the Student Centre at UTSC is a room most students are unaware of. No classes or tutorials are held there, and clubs cannot book the room for their events. But that isn’t what makes the room important. This room is the home of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s (SCSU) one and only food bank. Open from Tuesday to Thursday between 12:00–6:00 pm, it has over 400 active members.

The SCSU offers this service that allows students to get canned goods under the watch of a volunteer. Unfortunately, the old room it was operated out of, 210A, was small and cramped, sharing its space with the SCSU Book Free Network. This led to students remarking that the experience was like walking into a closet and being watched while they got food for themselves.

This changed in an effort to provide students with a more humanizing experience. The food bank is no longer structured in a way where students are in a small space, but is instead set up like a grocery store. This shift involved moving the centre next door to 210B in a space with shelving and the addition of two fridges, allowing for a more open experience. Students fill up their grocery bags, and have points deducted from their cards. Student reception has generally been positive for this new set-up.

The SCSU Food Centre has been a cornerstone for many students and members within the community who depend on its services. According to Rajean Hoilett, Campaigns & Advocacy Coordinator of the SCSU, approximately 40 per cent of those who use the space are international students. The centre has proven very helpful with providing meals to many who have struggled with paying high international fees.

Outside of food supplies, the food bank has held numerous free food-related programming. In the past year, free cooking classes were held for students. In addition, we have also held monthly community breakfasts, having served over 800 meals in between the two community breakfasts we held in October and November alone, according to Hoilett.

The centre itself is not just run by the SCSU, but is a community-driven effort. Within this year, there were over 80 volunteers registered to meet the weekly commitment, with two full-time food centre staff, Lola Wazir and Quiana Cao, aiding in scheduling, training, and marketing the centre to students. In addition to this, their team, headed by Hoilett, has been keeping a record of food withdrawn from the bank to dynamically adjust the types of foods ordered to meet the needs of students in real time.

New initiatives and opportunities have come to benefit the students here at UTSC as a result of the efforts of these hard working individuals, with the centre’s team aiming to improve and expand the gardens on the Graduate Students’ Association at Scarborough’s balcony, and rooftop of the Instructional Centre building.

All in all, the plan to treat food as a human right has been bountiful and strived to bring that right to students. With more funding and food making its way to the food bank, hopes are high on initiatives this funding will bring, going forward. Students are happy that their welfare is being prioritized, and the SCSU is happy we are rising to the occasion to meet their needs.

Rayyan Alibux is a fourth-year Political Science and Business Economics student at UTSC. Alibux serves as Vice-President Operations on the SCSU.

SCSU election recount ends with VISION UTSC victory

WENITED wins one executive race, VISION UTSC sweeps remaining executive seats

SCSU election recount ends with VISION UTSC victory

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) has released the final results for its 2020 elections, following a delay in results for a number of positions due to an automatic vote recount that was triggered following small victory margins. VISION UTSC, one of the two slates in the running, swept the executive positions, with its candidates elected in the contested and recounted Vice-President Equity and Vice-President Operations races — won by Kanitha Uthayakumar and Bruce Chan, respectively. WENITED, the opposing slate, won one executive position with its Vice-President Campus Life candidate TJ Ho.

The vote recount was triggered automatically in races within a five per cent victory margin. Uthayakumar won by 867 votes, 18 more than her opponent, and Chan won by a slightly larger margin of 37 votes, with 898 in favour.

Ho won the race for Vice-President Campus Life with 882 votes, which was 45 more than his VISION UTSC opponent.

Two positions were uncontested in the election for directors, both of whom were on the WENITED slate: Aimen Kashif representing anthropology and Angelesha Nandini Mendis for English. The recounted director positions went largely to VISION UTSC candidates, including the directors representing health studies, biological sciences, and human geography. WENITED claimed the French & linguistics directorship in the recount.

President-elect Sarah Mohamed’s slate, VISION UTSC, had already claimed victories with Lulu Gemma elected as Vice-President Academics & University Affairs and Eesha Chaudhry as Vice-President External.

Editor’s Note (February 23, 11:49 am): This article has been changed to correct the margin by which Chan won.

VISION UTSC slate wins three executive positions in SCSU election

Vote recount triggered for half of executive positions due to small margins

VISION UTSC slate wins three executive positions in SCSU election

In a victory for her slate, Sarah Mohamed, current Vice-President Campus Life, will be the next president of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) after a three day election from February 11–13. Mohamed’s slate, VISION UTSC, also claimed victories with Lulu Gemma elected as Vice-President Academics & University Affairs, and Eesha Chaudhry as Vice-President External.

The three remaining positions of Vice-President Equity, Operations, and Campus Life are still unfilled since there was a less than five per cent margin between the candidates for each position. This has triggered a recount in accordance with the SCSU’s Elections and Procedures Code.

The results, which need to be ratified by the SCSU Board of Directors, show that Mohamed won with 944 votes in her favour; 693 votes for her opposition, WENITED slate candidate Carly Sahagian; 145 votes for independent candidate Claire Caluag, and 160 spoiled ballots. Sahagian is the SCSU’s current Vice-President Academics & University Affairs.

Gemma took the Vice-President Academics & University Affairs position with the narrowest margin of 148 votes, up against WENITED Yathu Uthayan. Uthayan had the highest number of votes for a candidate on his slate. The race also had 205 spoiled ballots.

Chaudhry, the Vice-President External elect, won by 154 votes over WENITED candidate Annie Sahagian, who had 697 votes in favour, with 224 spoiled ballots and 156 votes in favour of independent candidate Jordan Mirembe.

For director elections, WENITED candidates won a majority of the positions not currently in a recount, including directors for arts, culture & media, critical development studies, historical and cultural studies, philosophy, political science, and psychology.

VISION UTSC candidates were elected into director positions for computer & math sciences, physical & environmental science, international students, and management studies. An independent candidate, Anto Resurreccion, was elected to the director position for sociology.

Average turnout across the three executive positions was 1,940 votes, which translates to a 13.85 per cent voter turnout of the 14,000 members in the SCSU, according to its website.

SCSU candidate profiles: Vice President Campus Life

TJ Ho (WENITED), Kevin Turingan (VISION UTSC)

SCSU candidate profiles: Vice President Campus Life

Kevin Turingan (VISION UTSC)

Kevin Turingan is a fourth-year student doing a major in sociology and minors in economics and statistics, who is running for vice-president student life on the VISION UTSC slate. In an interview with The Varsity, Turingan said his reason for running was “to give back and make sure the campus is lit.”

Turingan cited his experience as being the street team coordinator for campus life and vice-president events operations for Students of Sociology.

Turingan ran for vice-president operations on the Shine Bright UTSC slate last year and lost.

If elected, Turingan would endeavour to reduce the stress associated with being a student by implementing more programs and events, with the goal of creating a vibrant campus community.

Turingan would provide on campus groups with discounted services, such as catering, by working with local businesses. In addition, Turingan plans to open up an arcade room in the UTSC Student Centre as a multipurpose space for students, so that “people could have fun playing games but also relax and rest up.”

As well, he would commence monthly themed pub and karaoke nights at the Scarborough campus’ student pub, Rex’s Den.

Turingan would also move to implement an online booking system for campus groups to organize room rentals.

TJ Ho (WENITED)

TJ Ho is a third-year student majoring in psychology running for the position of vice-president campus life under the WENITED slate for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union. An avid goer of campus events, Ho believes UTSC’s event planning could benefit from an outsider without a “fixed mindset” when it comes to event structure.

“Essentially it’s a leader… showing students how a person on campus can be engaged,” Ho said of the position.

Ho is an international student from mainland China and believes Chinese students are underrepresented when it comes to campus politics. In his first year, Ho did not attend many campus events, besides those geared toward international students, because he felt they were not meant for students like him.

Should Ho be elected, he plans to “deconstruct” events so as to increase the number held throughout the year. Ho cited his perception that a common event currently would have both food and a dance floor as an example. Ho would instead organize events that feature a single component, such as only a dance floor or only food, so that more events could be held.

Ho said that he considers himself to be a creative person, as in his spare time he designs board games and writes. Ho said that he would bring that creativity into the role of vice-president student life by designing “super fresh” events for students.

—With files from Andy Takagi and Hannah Carty

SCSU candidate profiles: Vice President Operations

Bruce Chan (VISION UTSC), Niroban Jayakumar (WENITED)

SCSU candidate profiles: Vice President Operations

Bruce Chan (VISION UTSC)

Bruce Chan is a fourth-year student majoring in human biology and minoring in psychology and applied statistics, who is running for the position of vice-president operations on the VISION UTSC slate. Chan did not respond to The Varsity’s request for an interview at publication time, however Chan’s campaign points were listed on the VISION UTSC slate website.

If elected, Chan plans to implement new discount services at the Members Services Desk, including tickets to Canada’s Wonderland and movie passes. Chan would also look into getting more food options for UTSC, particularly focusing on halal, kosher, vegetarian, and vegan options, as well as starting a community garden to help promote food security.

In addition, Chan would improve mental health at UTSC by creating a “decompression space” at the UTSC Student Centre and working toward better mental health coverage on the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) health and dental plan.

Niroban Jayakumar (WENITED)

Niroban Jayakumar is a third-year student double-majoring in neuroscience and molecular biology, running for the position of vice-president operations on the WENITED slate. Jayakumar would like to promote transparency, should he be elected.

“I want students to hold SCSU accountable for the money that they use, essentially because all the students are paying,” Jayakumar told The Varsity. He would see that the SCSU budget is updated monthly online so that students can follow along with the SCSU’s financial endeavours.

In addition, Jayakumar would lobby for expanded health and dental services, including mental health, and increasing affordable food options on campus.

In the face of an appeal by the province to overturn the Divisional Court of Ontario’s decision to quash the Student Choice Initiative, which allowed postsecondary students to opt out of certain incidental fees deemed “non-essential,” Jayakumar said that he would focus on seeking external sponsorships and investments to achieve “returns for future years.”

As far as prior experience goes, Jayakumar has been involved in a variety of campus clubs and associations in a finance and budgeting capacity, including managing an $80,000 budget as the president for the Scarborough College Athletic Association.

—With files from Andy Takagi

SCSU candidate profiles: Vice President External

Eesha Chaudhry (VISION UTSC), Annie Sahagian (WENITED)

SCSU candidate profiles: Vice President External

Eesha Chaudhry (VISION UTSC)

Eesha Chaudhry is a third-year student majoring in international development and health studies, running to be vice-president external of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) under the VISION UTSC slate. She currently serves on the SCSU as the Director for Critical Development Studies.

Chaudhry’s motivation for running is to “serve as a liaison, a voice of reason to help students get what they truly deserve.” In her various leadership roles throughout U of T, Chaudhry said she realized “how much the smallest efforts I do really do give back to other people.”

Her top priorities if elected would be to address the topics of mental health, student housing and transportation, and cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

Chaudhry feels it is especially important to improve mental health resources for students given recent discontent about student mental health services. “It’s clear and evident that university, although it’s a huge milestone in our lives, it’s also one of the most stressful points of our lives.” She hopes to increase mental health support and resources, inform and educate students, and improve campus mental health resources like the Health & Wellness Centre.

She would also work with Scarborough housing activists and the university “to ensure that students are not only getting adequate and decent housing that is within their budget, but that they also know their housing rights, that they’re protected, that they’re safe.”

As a commuter herself, Chaudhry would prioritize lobbying efforts to see the Eglinton East Light Rail Transit system comes to fruition. She also wants to ensure that buses arrive as scheduled. “Transit is such a critical factor in whether or not I even come to school.”

She also emphasized the importance of OSAP. “Education is a right, it’s something this country owes us.”

Annie Sahagian (WENITED)

Annie Sahagian is a fourth-year student in human biology and media studies, journalism, and digital culture running for vice-president external under the WENITED slate.

When asked why she is running, Sahagian answered: “To give back to the UTSC community, to really utilize my connections on- and off-campus with the university administration, specifically for the betterment of the student body.” She also noted that the experience she has gained through the SCSU “literally made me the person who I am today.”

Sahagian cited being a student representative on the UTSC Campus Council, and being the volunteer network program coordinator for SCSU, which involved working with off-campus organizations, as relevant experience.

Among her campaign points, Sahagian wants to institute a political and financial literacy workshop and consolidate information on health resources to make it easier for students to understand. She also wants to install cameras in UTSC libraries and parking lots, in order to help students who have things stolen from them at those locations.

Addressing the fact that presidential candidate for her slate is her sister, Sahagian responded: “I am very proud to be running with such a dedicated leader on campus.”

For Sahagian, the responsibility of vice-president external is “to strengthen our relationships and collaboration… not only off, but even on campus.”

SCSU candidate profiles: Vice President Academics and University Affairs

Lulu Gemma (VISION UTSC), Yathu Uthayan (WENITED)

SCSU candidate profiles: Vice President Academics and University Affairs

Lulu Gemma (VISION UTSC)

Lulu Gemma is a fourth-year student who studies psychology and health studies. She is running to be the next vice-president, academic & university affairs of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) under the VISION UTSC slate.

Gemma’s motivation for running stems from the personal struggles she has faced while navigating the academic system at UTSC. Thus far, not only has her time been characterized by a heavy dependence on the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), but she has also experienced a program change and has had to rely on her professors and student union for additional support. In an interview with The Varsity, Gemma expressed that she wants “to be able to give students a platform where those issues are easier to mitigate.”

Her key priorities include moving forward on OSAP reform, providing students with more accessible academic tools — which could be done by paying professors a lump sum to post their textbooks and other required resources online — and increasing the number of credit/no credit courses that a student can enrol in.

“I also want to advocate to make permanent 24-hour study spaces,” Gemma noted. Because of a lack of these dedicated spaces, “Many students don’t get to stay on campus and participate in events and stick around for other academic review sessions.”

Yathu Uthayan (WENITED)

Yathu Uthayan, a fifth-year student studying human biology and psychology, is running for the vice-president, academic & university affairs position on the SCSU under the WENITED slate.

In an interview with The Varsity, Uthayan spoke about his experience, citing his creation of the UTSC Tamil Networking Association, which, according to him, saw significant growth and attracted many people to its events. This is something he hopes to replicate with SCSU.

“I want to actually make sure that all the events, everything that we do on SCSU is being continued and delivering its purpose,” stressed Uthayan.

Uthayan also expressed that his diversity of experience was relevant for the role, which includes prior experience with SCSU, the Scarborough Harry Potter Alliance, and the Tamil Students’ Association.

Uthayan explained that he has delivered specific campaign promises with timelines so that students can hold him accountable. One of his plans is to lobby the administration to ensure that marks are posted at least 10 days before the start of the next semester, and another is to allow students to credit/no credit courses until the last day of the semester.

“You can see all my points are kind of shaped toward making sure that students are making more informed choices,” said Uthayan.

When asked how he will approach the role, Uthayan said that his responsibility would be “to make sure the students at UTSC are effective, efficient, and successful.”

—With files from Andy Takagi