HSF Controversy: Student governments across GTA chime in

Nick Jean
A&E Reporter

A series of tense meetings and a storm of angry tweets from Humber College students erupted when incumbent Humber Students’ Federation president Tim Brilhante was disqualified from the 2014-2015 campaign on March 14.

It outraged them when neither a reason for his banishment nor a chance to appeal was given. While Brilhante garnered more than twice as many votes as his next nearest competitor, Shawn Manahan, he was eliminated from competition for unspecified campaign infractions with virtually no public explanation.

All Humber Students’ Federation chief returning officer (CRO) Natalia Toussaint would say in explanation was the strikes against and barring of Brilhante and VP Student Life – Lakeshore candidate Karnesh Babaria were “up to my discretion.”

Mathieu Yuill, Centennial College Student Association CSAI communications manager, said transparency is fundamental to sound student government.

“In our student association, transparency is key,” he said. “When there are grievances filed and there’s a result that changes (the election,) there is a full explanation of what happened and why it happened.”

Yuill said a three-member committee considers all non-frivolous grievances and invites statements and witnesses from all parties involved.

The committee then votes on the validity of the complaints and any potential penalties, he said. All of this takes place before any election results are released to the public.

However, like Humber, a number of other Ontario colleges also do not make public the reasons for a disqualification.

“We don’t disclose to students the reason for disqualifying (a) candidate because we don’t want to slander or negatively affect the personal credit or image of that candidate,” said SSUI Sheridan Student Union chief returning officer Sawssan Matar.

Similarly, at Seneca College, in the case of a disqualification, the reasons for the decision would not be released for confidentiality reasons, Student Federation member services and communications manager Roel Isufllari said.

Assigning strikes for candidates, however, is not at the sole discretion of the chief returning officer.

“We prefer to have committees, more than one person making the decisions (about campaign violations) rather than just one person,” Isufllari said.

Campaign rule violation procedures at George Brown College and Mohawk College are similar to Humber’s in that the chief returning officer has sole discretion in ruling on any complaints. Where they differ is in their transparency policies, as well as George Brown’s different penalty system.

In case of a violation, a varying number of demerit points are assigned depending on the severity of the offense. Any and all rulings are posted in a designated, publicly accessible location in the Student Association office.

“If anyone wants to know, they can simply come ask us,” Mohawk Student Association VP finance Maxwell Brown said.

“We have no problem disclosing anything that happens,” he said.

At Sheridan, any violation that the CRO deems worthy of demerit points may be appealed by the candidate. Those appeals are heard by an Appeals Committee “within a reasonable time” as set out in Union policy.

Results of the chief returning officer’s and appeals committee’s decisions are made public but their reasoning is not.

In the 17-page HSF Elections & Appeals policy document, the chief returning officer is awarded the right to levy penalties to rules violators seven times.

There is no policy requirement that the CRO to publicise his or her reasoning.