SMU student union elections postponed

Student association’s elections officer resigns, calls process “corrupt” and “illegitimate”

Adrian Lake resigned from the Saint Mary's Student Association's election appeals board on Jan. 29.

The elections to name the leaders of next year's Saint Mary's Student Association (SMUSA) have been pushed back a week after the student in charge of the elections resigned days before campaigning was set to begin. 

"I will no longer be a part of a corrupt process that is being tampered with by the board [of Directors]," then-chief returning officer Adrian Lake told an emergency meeting of the SMUSA election appeals board on Jan. 29. "This body, I feel, is illegitimate."

The ordeal began when one of the candidates running for a position on the association’s board of directors filed a number of complaints, alleging violations of SMUSA's elections policies by other candidates as well as improper decisions by Lake. Instead of taking the complaint to the CRO, as spelled out to by the SMUSA policy, Ali Hamed brought his issue directly to the appeals board, which was designed to meet only after the CRO had made an initial ruling. Hamed says he was aware of the correct process, but took his complaint directly to the board for good reason.

"There was the time constraint...the campaign started Monday...and I felt that there were conflict of interest issues," he said later in an interview, referring to the friendship between Lake and Jeff Mitchell, a candidate for SMUSA president. 

The appeals board decided to hear the complaints directly, although another hurdle stood in the way: no appeals board existed. The organizaton's guidelines said the appeals body had to be created from a mix of students, faculty and board of directors members. But Alwyn Gomez, chair of the board, said that despite "every reasonable effort" to create the appeals board, they couldn't find enough volunteers, so the board of directors took over the appeals process.

Lake says that it's "completely ridiculous" that the board of directors can also handle election appeals, and cites the need for a "objective third party" to take over that duty. Lake says his worry is that the current make-up of the appeals committee means that board of director members will be hearing appeals concerning candidates seeking re-eection. He's not sure that they'll be able to be unbiased when dealing with people they've already served with.

Lake also disagrees that Hamad had any reason to worry about a conflict of interest in the CRO's office.

"My decisions are subject to appeal and are accountable to the appeals committee. So if any of my decisions unfairly favour another candidate, they will be looked at," Lake said. He added that he had received a copy of the complaints against him shortly before the meeting began, and wasn't given enough time to mount a proper defence. 

After the resignation of the CRO, the appeals board also dealt with another issue brought forward by Hamad, concerning a number of board of directors candidates running under the banner of "Students First," Mitchell being among them. The board ruled that although there was no current rule against candidates running as a connected group, it ran afoul of the idea of an "independent, free-thinking" board of directors and a new policy was put in place to prevent it.

Faced with the need to hire a new CRO, as well as keep allow candidates to change campaign materials that bear the "Students First" slogan, the appeals board opted to push the start of campaigning back to Feb. 8. The final voting for the SMUSA elections will take place from Feb. 17-18.

 

 

 

Updates

Feb 4: To clarify, Ali Hamad expressed concern not only with the conduct of the CRO, but also with the process spelled out in the election policy itself. Speaking before the appeals board, he said he found the process illegitimate before his contact with Adrian Lake.

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