UPDATED: Carleton University Student Association threatens bloggers, Rabble.ca with legal action

According to an article published yesterday in The Leveller, bloggers Mathieu Murphy-Perron and Jarrah Hodge as well as Rabble.ca were served with a cease and desist order from the Carleton University Student Association (“CUSA on behalf of Alexander Golovko and the members of the CUSA administration”).

Studentunion.ca has obtained a copy of the cease and desist order, dated September 11, 2014, signed by Katie Black of CazaSaikaley LLP

The letter refers to a blog post, published on September 7th on Murphy-Perron’s blog, entitled “Safer(r) Spaces & CUSA’s shortcomings” which refers to the “F*uck Safe Spaces” shirts that were worn by students who The Charlatan has identified as Carleton University “orientation week leaders”. Images1 of these shirts circulated across various social media platforms but many seem to have since been deleted. 

The blog post was later published by Rabble.ca under a different title: Carleton ‘F*uck Safe Space’ scandal legacy of conservative student union takeover. The order further claims that Ms. Hodge published Murphy-Perron’s blog post on her website, Gender Focus, on September 9th. While at the time of publication, the blog post was still accessible on both Murphy-Perron’s blog and rabble.ca, I was unable to find any mention of the blog post on Ms. Hodge’s website.

Mathieu-Murphy-Peron-tweet1

According to a series of tweets from Mathieu Murphy-Perron (above), he seriously considered taking down the blog post but decided against it. He also tweeted that “[i]t’s an uneasy feeling to be bullied into retracting criticism. No fun at all.” He also said that he stands by what he wrote as his blog post was well-sourced and was “fair criticism of CUSA’s elected reps.”

UPDATED: September 26, 2014

The CUSA executive released a statement via its website. In it, the executive clarifies that “CUSA is not in a legal dispute with the of the aforementioned parties [rabble.ca and Mathieu Murphy-Perron]” and that its legal counsel sent the parties a cease and desist order because “CUSA was and remains concerned that a significant portion of the editorial did not accurately represent the work and reputation of this student association.” Following the publication of the cease and desist order in question by studentunion.caThe Leveller updated its article by also reproducing it. The update further included quotes from Wednesday’s CUSA Council meeting. 

1. Image originally posted to Twitter by Leslie Robertson (@GalldinRoberts).

CUSA Election Results

A Better Carleton - January 2014

The Carleton University Student Association (CUSA) election results (unofficial) were released and, for a third year in a row, A Better Carleton (ABC) came out on top taking all 5 executive positions. This election saw a total of three slates facing off: A Better Carleton, Collective Carleton (CC) and Prestige CampusWide.

Unofficial results for CUSA councillors

Consult the complete list of candidates here

Elections never seem to be complete without satiric Twitter accounts. In this case, @abettercarleton was a critique from the left, clearly supportive of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). This account’s website, Know your ABCs harshly critiques the current embodiment of A Better Carleton.

Election Update at Carleton and UBC

Carleton University Students’ Association

Elections take place January 29 – 30, with the “campaign period” lasting just one week: January 22 – 28. The right-leaning “A Better Carleton” slate has governed CUSA for the last two years, causing a great deal of controversy. An anonymous attack website, “Know Your ABCs,” is live with criticism of the incumbent slate, accusing A Better Carleton of supporting tuition fee increases, mismanaging student funds, favoritism, “pre-campaigning” with official students’ union funds, and other crimes.

Alma Mater Society of UBC – Vancouver

Elections take place January 27 – 31. The campaign period is from January 14 – 31. Slates are banned under AMS regulations, so all candidates are independents.

The Ubyssey has a full description of the candidates running in the election.

Please contact us if you have any more details regarding student elections!

Rick Ross concert cancelled

Rick Ross Promotional Material

CUSA Promotional Material for Rick Ross Performance

According to an article in the Ottawa Citizen, rapper Rick Ross will no longer be performing next Tuesday as a part of Pandamonium, an event traditionally organized conjointly by the student associations at the Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. This controversy surrounds the lyrics in a Rocko song, rapped by Ricky Ross, that have been interpreted as an endorsement of rape. As a result, Rick Ross has recently come out and apologized for he describes as a misinterpretation.

Rick Ross tweet

Rick Ross tweets to apologize – Source: Twitter

The Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) released an initial statement in which the organization distances itself from the rapper and the controversial lyrics in U.O.E.N.O. (You Ain’t Even Know It) by Rocko (featuring Future & Rick Ross):

We would like to re-affirm our stance that we consider the lyrics in question to be repulsive and uncharacteristic of the views and beliefs of CUSA as an organization and its members. That being said, we are now in the process of looking into selling off the remainder of the tickets back to the organizers.

A couple days later, the CUSA announced that it had “completely pulled its support from the show and will be reimbursing all of the students who have purchased their tickets from the association starting as early as Monday, April 8th. No more tickets will be sold through the association here on.”

Urban Jamz Entertainment, the concert promoter, posted the following statement on its Facebook page:

Due to unforeseen circumstances Rick Ross concert scheduled April 9, 2013 is canceled. Anyone who purchased tickets will receive full refund. We apologize for any inconvenience.

However, The Charlatan is reporting that Urban Jamz Entertainment’s Twitter account (@UrbanJamzEnt) said: “Due to the protest surrounding Rick Ross latest song “U.O.E.N.O.” the concert on Apr 09, is canceled because of security concerns.” This post has since been taken down from the account.

Dillon Black, who recently resigned from the CUSA Council over the Rick Ross concert, is quoted in the Ottawa Citizen article as saying: “I am less than pleased about no mention of concerned community members and rape culture but rather ‘security concerns’.” Black also spoke with Xtra!: “Despite CUSA not mentioning the fact that is was cancelled due to concerned community members and rape culture, we are pleased that the concert has finally been cancelled. This proves an amazing community and campus effort challenging rape culture.”

Paterson Hall, a 6-member band formed by students from Carleton University, was expected to be the opening act for Rick Ross. In a statement posted on the band’s Facebook page states:

We unfortunately now find ourselves in a precarious situation. We feel strongly that the phenomenon of “rape culture”, as it has been loosely defined by activist organisations at Carleton, is wrong. However, we do not believe that the annulment of the Pandemonium concert is a viable or effective way of dealing with the problem that has presented itself. […] As for our continued involvement with the event: We have committed to the concert and therefore, as a group that prides itself on our reliability and obligation to perform at an event of which we are a part, we will be performing as scheduled, barring unforeseen complications between now and the show.

The Charlatan is also reporting that Obed Okyere, CUSA’s 2011-2012 president, is the registered director of Urban Jamz Enterprise (this information can be found here via Corporations Canada).

Two perspectives on the Canadian Federation of Students

Late last week, Maclean’s On Campus published two opinion pieces which debate the merits of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). It just so happens that I authored one of those opinion pieces in which I argue that the Carleton University Student Association (CUSA), whose members recently announced that a petition seeking a referendum on continued membership in the CFS, should ditch the national lobby organization.

On the other side of the debate is Adam Caroll, a first year journalism student at Carleton University. Arguing in favour of continued membership, Caroll writes that “[t]he CFS isn’t perfect, but it more than deserves the membership fees our Carleton University Students’ Association currently provides.”

As always, your comments are always welcome.

Now is the time to take SFUO electoral reform seriously

This opinion piece was originally published on The Fulcrum’s website on February 20, 2013 under the title Clim’s Commentary: Now is the time to take SFUO electoral reform seriously.

NOW THAT THE Student Federation of the University of Ottawa’s (SFUO) elections are over, I think it’s important to highlight the major flaws in the electoral process and to provide concrete suggestions on how to fix them.

Let me start by congratulating all the individuals who stood as candidates in the recent SFUO elections. It takes courage, commitment, and organization to run in any type of election campaign. Furthermore, a message to those whose bids were successful: Make sure you do what you said you would do in your respective electoral platforms. Too many times have grandiose promises been made by candidates who, once elected, failed to deliver. Believe it or not, having a well-oiled campaign machine and sleek sloganeering is the easy part.

In the near future, when people inevitably begin to criticize you and the work you do, don’t hide away in your offices, ignore phone calls and emails, and refuse to give interviews to those tasked with keeping the student population informed. Face the criticism, accept that you may have made a mistake, and, most importantly, take the necessary steps to fix, improve, or alleviate the issue.

The elections committee

During one of their first meetings, members of the SFUO board of administration (BOA) elect three of their peers to sit on the elections committee. This committee is tasked with, among other things, the nomination of the SFUO chief electoral officer (CEO). In November 2012, the SFUO held by-elections to fill vacant seats on the BOA. However, the elections committee had already failed to meet its constitutional obligation to nominate a CEO by no later than August. Therefore, with no CEO in place, current SFUO vp university affairs Elizabeth Kessler and Faculty of Social Sciences board representative Mark Donoghue were entrusted with the administration of the by-elections.

First of all, the elections committee should never be allowed to be the sole administrator of elections. As we now know, Brad Lafortune, the SFUO Pride Centre coordinator (an employee of the SFUO) ran and was elected to one of the vacant faculty director seats. How on earth Kessler (as an SFUO executive, the employer of Lafortune) was allowed to administer that by-election is beyond me. Talk about the appearance of a conflict of interest.

This leads me to my second point: the elections committee should not be filled by members of the BOA or by members of the SFUO executive. The administration of any election should be entrusted to arms-length, independent, and impartial individuals. Once again, Kessler sits on a committee that was tasked with reviewing decisions rendered by the CEO regarding election-related complaints while Anne-Marie Roy—her friend, colleague, and affiliate during the 2012 SFUO elections—was leading the Student Action team during this year’s election. Below, you can see that Kessler and Roy appeared side-by-side in a 2012 SFUO election campaign handbill.

The appearance of a conflict of interest is clear, and it’s why the new members of the BOA should immediately form a sub-committee on electoral reform in order to address such problematic issues. This committee should be sure to consult Election off the shelf: Model for Student Elections, an excellent resource published by Elections Canada and Canada’s former chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley. A call for submissions should be made to the university community and experts’ opinions should be actively sought.

Transparency of the complaints system

On another topic, throughout the election campaign, CEO Osama Berrada received a number of election-related complaints. When I asked him in an email if he would be making complaints and his rulings public, Berrada categorically refused, citing past practices. This is unacceptable.

Not surprisingly, many election officials from other student associations release election-related complaints. The Carleton University Student Association’s (CUSA) chief electoral officer Sunny Cohen was diligent in publishing complaints and updating the CUSA’s membership on which candidates violated electoral rules. In furthering the transparency of the elections complaints process, the electoral board published the appeals it heard, along with its rulings.

Students have a right to know why, for example, the website of the Together Ensemble affiliation was taken offline for a number of days at the beginning of the campaign. Berrada owes it to the student population to ensure that the reasons for the imposition of penalties on candidates and affiliations are made public upon being communicated to those affected. These reports should reproduce the entirety of the complaint received (without necessarily identifying the individual who submitted the complaint), the section(s) of the election regulations that was infringed upon, and the penalty imposed. If that decision is subsequently appealed, the rulings of the elections committee (including similar content, as outlined in the CUSA’s chief electoral officer reports) should also be made public upon the completion of its investigation, rather than remaining secretive.

The hiring of election officers

Adding to the long list of constitutional infractions during the SFUO election is the fact that at least one outgoing faculty director was spotted working as a poll clerk. Marc Donoghue, outgoing Faculty of Social Sciences representative, was photographed working at a polling station in Montpetit Hall.

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This contradicts Section 4.10.2 of the SFUO constitution, which states that “an outgoing faculty director cannot be hired as an election officer.” Not only is Donoghue an outgoing faculty director, he is also a member of the elections committee. Why he himself would see it fit to work as a poll clerk is beyond me.

Affiliations

In order to preface what I am about to say about affiliations, I should make it clear that I have always opposed the adoption of what I’ll describe as a party system within the context of campus elections.

When this proposal was brought before the BOA for the first reading during a July 17, 2011 meeting, no real debate occurred. Nobody bothered to look into the possible ramifications of such a major change to the election rules. Furthermore, not one faculty director thought to look at how affiliations have affected elections at other schools. Instead, six directors spoke in favour, including Amy Hammett and Nicole Desnoyers, who at that time argued that it would take away the intimidation factor.

With very little historical data to work with, it’s hard to say what effects affiliations have had on the electoral process. However, if you ask the few independent candidates from this past election, they were almost unanimous in condemning the system.

Criticism of the electoral process is nothing new when it comes to the SFUO. To be sure, in his campaign platform from last year, outgoing president Ethan Plato promised to “introduce a permanent Student Arbitration Committee as a permanent oversight election’s body.” Sadly, Plato has brought forward no such proposal to date. But the time has now come for newly elected faculty directors to take electoral reform seriously.