Time heals all wounds.
That’s the position the Humber Students’ Federation is taking with respect to this year’s executive election.
As many students will remember, last year’s election ended with presidential incumbent Tim Brilhante being disqualified from the race less than 24 hours before results were announced.
Brilhante had been leading the race, with more than 2,400 students voting for him.
Five days later, at an emotional Board of Directors meeting, Brilhante brought up his disqualification and asked for the chance to appeal the decision. He argued because his removal from the race meant he was no longer considered a candidate, he was not afforded the right to appeal.
Brilhante’s request to appeal was ultimately denied.
His disqualification raised many questions about the rights of candidates and the protection of students’ votes once a candidate is ousted from the race.
As such, the Humber Students’ Federation faced the issue of how to avoid repeating such controversial events in the future. The Governance Review Committee, a sub-committee of HSF’s Board of Directors, was tasked with finding a solution to that particular dilemma.
Current Board of Directors chair Eric Collings was one of four voting members that met throughout the summer to evaluate the organization’s governance documents.
“We look at everything, not just the Elections and Appeals policy. Every year, every policy gets reviewed,” said Collings.
The committee consulted with a lawyer on several changes and reworded certain policies to be more in line with the Federation’s constitution.
The biggest changes came down to wording in the Elections and Appeals policy.
“What you’ll notice if you were to compare the specific elections and appeals policy from last year to this year is that we took out ambiguity, we tried to make it far more clear in terms of what was in and out of scope with respect to the activities of a candidate,” said HSF Executive Director Ercole Perrone.
North VP of Student Affairs Odin von Doom said the HSF “looked into the grey areas” of the election policy.“ He said the committee aimed to put together more definitive rules to strike a balance between being too strict and too lenient.
One of the key changes to the policy was a direct response to last year’s Annual General Meeting.
The contentious and abrupt end to Brilhante’s campaign meant that runner-up Shawn Manahan was proclaimed the president-elect of Humber’s student government.
At the HSF AGM, students voted 90-89 against the motion to accept the results from the presidential race, leaving both Manahan and the Federation in the lurch.
The GRC responded directly to this by tightening up the language around that procedure, also known as ratification of election.
“Technically speaking, if you look at any big corporation or organization, the AGM is there to say, do you recognize the results or not,” said Collings. “(The person elected) got the job regardless.”
He said that, in government, you don’t have a “re-do” of an election just because they don’t like who was voted in.
“That has been adjusted and now the board will report the results of the election to the members,” he said.
Ultimately, the goal was to act in the best interests of all those involved.
“We wanted to make sure that the rights of voters and candidates were being protected,” said von Doom, who sat on the committee as a non-voting member.
Perrone stands by the way HSF moved forward from the controversy.
“Certainly, it wasn’t anything that we were happy about or proud of, but at the same time we didn’t want to make any knee-jerk reactions because of a single incident that transpired in the past eight years,” he said.
Perrone said the HSF did the right thing by stepping back and reviewing the election process.
For returning students, the key to moving forward is learning lessons. Presidential candidate Ahmed Tahir said last year’s election taught him two things.
“First, it helped our organization in terms of redoing our policy,” he said. “But, it also taught me that when there’s something worthy of their time to come out, apathy doesn’t exist.”
“Students are more than willing to come out and stand for something,” he said..
For new students, the updated policies are the only evidence of last year’s controversy.
“I didn’t even know about it until you brought it to my attention,” said first-year student Josh Welsh, who is running for VP Student Life for Lakeshore.
On the whole, Welsh agreed with the committee’s concern to protect students’ votes.
“(These executives) are elected from the students by the students. Having anyone else to interfere with that is not really fair,” said Welsh.
At the Humber Students’ Federation All-Candidates forum held at the North campus student centre on Tuesday — a traditional stop on the campaign trail — the debate was lively, civil and courteous.
By all accounts, it seems that the Humber Students’ Federation is content to forgive and forget.