Shocking Brilhante disqualification magnifies HSF transparency issue

The bitterly controversial disqualification of current Humber Students’ Federation President Tim Brilhante, and vice presidential candidate Karnseh Barbaria from the recent HSF elections, should be a major concern for students at Humber College. A massive number of votes was nullified as a result of these disqualifications, and nothing is being done to justify or even clarify this decision by HSF, whose chief returning officer meted out the disqualifications without explanation or recourse to appeal.

A reelection is a must.

Over 2,400 people voted for Tim Brilhante, and to completely disregard these people’s opinion is democratically unjust. The massive contrast in the number of votes between president-elect Shawn Manahan and Brilhante – Manahan garnered less than a third as many votes — is a blatant indication that students are being inaccurately represented as a result of the controversial disqualification. HSF should also provide us with another concise explanation of Karnesh Barbaria’s disqualification from the VP presidential election, which closely resembles Brilhante’s situation.

If Brilhante and Karnesh are unable to appeal, the reelection should still be held in order to give those 2,400voters a chance to select a new president, and a new vice president, from the remaining candidates. This shouldn’t be a matter of money or time, it’s about fairness and accuracy. It’s about providing the student body with choices, and ensuring them that their best interests are at heart with a student government that handles nearly $10-million of their tuition money. Because what’s a student federation, if the students they represent are kept in the dark and ignored?

Many people on campus might simply provide a shoulder shrug to the controversial disqualification of Brilhante, and this is evident in the voter turnout, which was the lowest it’s ever been. Only 18 per cent of the total student population cast a ballot, — but this could well be a direct result of the lack of transparency HSF has with its students and the press. Why should students vote if they ultimately don’t feel they’re being affected at all by the federation that’s ostensibly representing them?

Yes, we see the posters about events and special guests around the school, but these are only a relatively modest portion of HSF’s responsibilities; moreover, there are many students out there who care very little such program, which often draw small numbers of participants. What those students may care about however, is how exactly HSF is handling their money, the aforementioned colossal $10 million budget. After health and dental insurance, is all of it going towards game rooms, guest speakers and special performances? How does that $10-million benefit students who don’t necessarily care about any of those things?

This is not to say that we want a static school environment. The events HSF provide us with are often tremendous and really help bring people together. But we still need to know how they support the student who doesn’t participate yet is required to pay thousands of dollars to attend college.

Maybe one day, that student decides to vote in an HSF election for the first time, because he or she feels one of the candidates deserve their vote, and he or she wants to take that first step in getting more involved with the school system. Maybe the candidate that gets this student’s vote is Tim Brilhante. The polls are coming to a close, but then Brilhante is disqualified. Now that student’s vote counts for nothing. No clear explanation, no appeal for Brilhante, and that student’s vote, and opinion, is rendered meaningless.

Knowing this is the scenario several students likely faced during the recent election period is disheartening.  It’s even more unfortunate knowing only 1,500 votes were needed to help fill the position of HSF president–a tiny fraction of the overall full-time student population, which consists of some 27,000 students.

HSF can be seen as a training ground for those looking to becoming leaders in their community outside of Humber College. Understandably, mistakes are sometimes made. In other institutions, people are held accountable for mistakes in order to prevent them from happening again.

In this case, however, the mistake of failing to provide adequate transparency with those outside of HSF has been an ongoing issue for some time now, and it should be rectified now.

It should start with a clear explanation of Brilhante’s disqualification, and answers to some basic questions.

Why is so much power devoted to one person — the chief returning officer Natalia Toussaint — who seemingly has the power to single-handedly nullify the results of a popular vote without ANY public accountability?

Why is there no discussion of a reelection between the three remaining candidates – Shawn Manahan, Mary Anne Savoie, and Kay Tracey?

How exactly is the $100,000 dollar budget for HSF elections utilized?

Let’s just step back for a second, forget about the election controversy for a few moments, and ask ourselves: What exactly do we know about the Humber Students’ Federation?

Aside from the thin Humber Life paper, which gives us a brief look at the happenings on campus, information surrounding the ins and outs of the student government is quite minimal.

As for press coverage, in our Humber newsroom any story assigned to a reporter regarding HSF has long been met with a frown, due to the grinding process involved with simply getting hold of someone in student government to talk to. It often takes nearly a week to confirm a meeting with someone within HSF, which is hardly a viable solution for reporters who need to meet deadlines on the same day stories are assigned. When a student federation, which stresses the importance of its relationship with the rest of the student population, makes the simple task of relaying information to campus news media a chore, it slowly becomes obvious there’s no interest in informing us about occurrences taking place behind their closed doors. does provide an outline of HSF’s mission statement, board members, and a brief consolidated operating and capital budget summary for the previous three years. Despite the amounts listed, details are still lacking. How is the $304,000 operating budget for “Student Communications” utilized? What are individual speakers and performers paid and how many audience members do they generate? Why is there not a line item budget made public?

The issue of transparency between the Humber Students’ Federation and the rest of the student body at Humber has, for quite a while now, been problematic, but the situation has never been more acute and dismaying than now. The students of Humber College should have the student government they deserve. With the unanswered questions surrounding the utterly muddy election still lingering in the air, it’s clear we deserve better.

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5 Thoughts to “Shocking Brilhante disqualification magnifies HSF transparency issue”

  1. dj

    Our ‘kid’ is in first year at Humber. We’ve seen how badly HSF events are organized. ie. Ticket holders for the Sean Kingston concert denied entry because capacity had been reached. SO who sold more tix than capacity then? ie. Halloween party at North. By the time Lakeshore students were bussed to North, stood in line 2 hrs, and then told the same. We personally emailed HSF and never got a response. As parents who attended other academic institutions we clearly recognized the joke HSF has been and continues to be. This latest election issue just reinforces the amateur hour at HSF. Movie night location screwups, frosh misinformed for bus pickup locations to North etc, This is NOT the image conveyed to prospective new students and parents during orientation etc and knowing what we know now, we would have encouraged our kid to go to another institution.

  2. MH

    I really hope that you did not choose the post secondary institution that your child went to based on the social events that the school has, but rather you chose the school on their academic standards. While I attended Humber I worked at HSF and it was run to the utmost highest standards and was envied by rival schools as being the best student government in the GTA. We need to recognize that nobody, other than the HSF staff and the students involved in this situation, knows the real story of what has happened and we should all have an open mind. While I cannot comment on the way HSF has run it’s events this year, I do understand the frustration in paying for an event only to find out that it is over capacity and you are not able to attend, and that is a situation that should be rectified. I was a proud HSF staff member when I went to Humber, and it saddens me to hear that HSF has not been an effective student government this year, however I do not think that the student body should start turning their backs on HSF as HSF does provide many services vital to students’ success, that stretch far beyond the social events they host.

    1. dj

      MH, To clarify, no, the school was not chosen based on the social events. In this increasingly competitive environment, if you have two (or more institutions) that provide similar educational programs, but one also offers well organized social events, while the other is REPEATEDLY disorganized (not a one-off) and UNRESPONSIVE when concerns are identified, brought forward, and not corrected (based on the repeated issues) it does make the choice easier. I think many students look back and it isn’t the program itself that helped to form who they are, but those ‘extra-curricular’ activities.

      I am pleased to hear that, based on your comments, HSF hasn’t always been this way, however any institution that ignores these kind of legitimate concerns, does so at its own peril. While I recognize HSF is independent from the College itself, perhaps the liaison that Mr Whitaker mentioned in his video comments regarding the election situation, might provide some resources or guidance to what was clearly a floundering HSF organization. It isn’t like 10 million dollars isn’t enough for a Student Federation of 27000 to do a job well.

      What is the first thing new students experience during frosh week, the excitement of the events.

  3. Tim is the one who signed that he agreed to those rules, if he had a problem with them he shouldn’t have signed, it’s simple. Others were disqualified or lost etc. They aren’t complaining and causing an uproar, boycotting their student government like Tim is. He isn’t asking for a democracy, he’s asking for a Timocracy, creating a following of minions similar #KONY2012, when an uninformed group jumped on the bandwagon for a cause that was found to be false. As the current executives and elections candidates explained, Tim was in fact given the chance to sit down with the CRO and the BOD – an impartial third party – to appeal and they denied his claims. He filed the paper work, he sat down and talked with them, they denied him. How can you not identify Tim’s selfishness in the pursuit of power, and not question his motives? Is there proof that Tim didn’t get an appeal, no! Did current executives and elections candidates explain that Tim did get the chance to appeal, yes! So why are you only telling Tim’s side of the story in this article? This story is an extremely biased piece of journalism, which is very unethical. I can’t even believe it was even allowed to be printed. There are multiple sources who say Tim got his appeal, so why are you only covering his one sided, one person side of the story? It makes no logical sense when you have multiple other people saying he got his appeal.

    As for the budget and accountability, it’s not just ten million dollars that HSF gets, do your research, you want to be a reporter don’t you? Have you even looked at the break down? Humber Athletics receives 4.5 million of that 10 million, why don’t you hold them accountable for all the free athletic gear their superstar athletes get? Each athlete receives $500 in free Adidas athletic gear, including a free winter jacket, free track suit, free sweater, free gym back etc. What does Humber Athletics do with the millions of dollars they receive each year? Why aren’t you holding them accountable?

    As you can find online from the “AGM motion for change” Humberlife article from last year, the budget breakdown is as follows. HSF services are where roughly 60 per cent of the revenue goes, which includes athletics fees, the health and dental plan and bursaries. Then HSF administration accounts for 14 per cent, which includes full-time and part-time staffing and development. HSF governance makes up just over 12 per cent, which includes elections, advocacy and executives. Then HSF programming is where 8.6 per cent of the revenue goes, which includes clubs, promotions and events. HSF communications accounts for 6.5 per cent of the budget, which includes the Humberlife paper and marketing.

    I would be really worried if I was your editor, did you not look into other sources? Like the current executives and election candidates who said it was handled in a fair and democratic way? Your story is biased on so many levels and you’re just fuelling the fire without knowing any other information that what you’ve received from Tim. You are being very unethical, good luck with your journalism career, maybe studying public relations would be better for your, since you obviously have an underlying agenda and are spinning the story.

  4. Not to mention it isn’t the executives jobs to be waiting by the phone for your call. Each executive is busy with their duties and busy being a students too. At the Humberlife paper the writers don’t wait around to make meetings with executives, they show up at their office and interviews them, they call them for answers, they email them for answers. As a journalist you need to be proactive not just sit back and wait for the busiest students in the school to reply. If executives are from Lakeshore campus call them and interview them over the phone, if you need executives from North campus show up at the office, their office times are available to every student. They have no problem with you showing up, if they can’t do the interview at that moment they will book a time when they can. It’s really not that difficult to comprehend. This is what you signed up for being a journalist! Stop complaining and do your job, do you think every source is going to come running to you? In the real world you will have to track sources down all the time. Executives have their own responsibilities, not just waiting around for the journalism students to interview them LOL.

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