Yet Another Lawsuit Against the UVSS
In an earlier post
, StudentUnion.ca commented on the ongoing saga that is the 2006 elections of the University of Victoria Students' Society
(UVSS). For those who don't have the time to read my earlier post: two slates warred against each other for dominance in the annual UVSS elections, the left-leaning "Students for Progressive Change" (SfPC) slate and the right-leaning "Students for Students" (SfS) slate. As the dust settled, it appeared that Students for Students won a majority of seats, including the position of Chairperson. However, matters were clouded when the Chief Returning Officer disqualified both slates' candidates for Chairperson, Penny Beames (SfPC) and Mike Waters (SfS). Both disqualifications were reversed on appeal to the Elections Committee, a decision which was sustained by the UVSS Board of Directors when Beames appealed the reversal of Waters' disqualification.
Now, the matter is before the courts; sources have informed me that Penny Beames has filed a lawsuit before the Supreme Court of British Columbia, demanding that the disqualification of Mike Waters (for allegedly receiving, contrary to the rules, an endorsement by the "Access UVic" student group) not be overturned. I am unaware as to when this court case will be heard.
After several weeks of inaction, the UVSS has released "Preliminary Election Results"
(PDF) of the 2006 election on its website. A quick summary of the results:
- Results for position of Chairperson have not yet been released
- Jamie Strachan (SfPC) will be the new Director of Finance
- Incumbent Mark Chandler will continue as Director of Services. Chandler was opposed by SfS, but faced no opposition from SfPC.
- Jeremy David Peters (SfS) will be the new Director of Academics. Peters beat SfPC candidate Jonny Morris, despite the fact that Peters had no experience on the Board in contrast to Morris' two years' experience as a Director At-Large.
- Nine candidates from Students for Students were elected as Directors At-Large: Andrew Bateman, Rakhi Bhatnagar, Allisan Chan, Alex Chang, Trenton Crawford, Conrad Field, Kienan Hamm, Sara Postle, and Janet Shivas.
- Two candidates from Students for Progressive Change were elected as Directors At-Large: Maggi Gyuricska and Erin Sikora. Sikora is a current BC Young NDP co-chair, may have been a candidate in the 2000 federal election, and has previous students' union experience on the Council of the Langara Students' Union.
- Chadi Akouri (Independent) and Penny Beames (SfPC) were elected to the Board of Governors. Note that students elected to the Board of Governors do not automatically sit on the UVSS Board of Directors.
The full list of candidates, with their pictures and biographies, was removed from the UVSS homepage shortly after the end of the election, but the webmaster helpfully failed to remove this page from the UVSS website.
UVSS watchers should note that there is a further "unknown factor" in these elections: the five constituency representatives, representing the five constitutional UVSS advocacy groups: Access UVic, Native Students' Union, Pride Collective, Students of Colour Collective, and the Women's Centre. All in all, this makes for a twenty-member Board of Directors (four executives, eleven directors at-large, and five constituency reps). The Students for Students slate have clearly won ten positions; if the court battle gives their man Mike Waters the nod to lead the UVSS as Chairperson, that slate would control an absolute majority for the coming year.
All of this must be old hat to Timothy McGuire. In 1996, McGuire ran for the position of Director of Finance of the UVSS, but was disqualified by the Elections Committee for sending out a mass email to all Commerce students the day before the election containing an endorsement from the Commerce Students' Society. (UVSS rules prohibit endorsements by means other than posters and letters to the editor; they prohibit endorsements being published within one week of the election; and they require that all campaign material not be visible to candidates on the day of the start of the elections.) The matter ended up before the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which ruled that the UVSS had not erred in disqualifying him.
Thus, if past precedent is any guide, it would appear that the courts are reluctant to interfere in the internal processes of a private organization. Whether Mr. Waters will benefit from this tradition remains to be seen....
Incidentally, those who believe in poetic justice might chuckle at an October 2003 blistering letter to the editor by Richard Warnica, entitled "Electoral Reform starts at home." Warnica (who, since leaving the University of Victoria, has lent his services to The Tyee and the Thunderbird UBC Online Journalism Review) stated that "the voting system used by the UVSS produces a one party board precisely because it was never designed to accommodate parties at all." He went on to say: "By running a full slate of 10 candidates and by relying on team campaigning–in which the PSF logo is given prominence over the name of the candidate and party objectives are trumpeted on each platform, the PSF conditions students to vote overwhelmingly for the party as opposed to the individual." A quick survey of the 2006 results reveals that Students for Progressive Change At-Large candidates grabbed 42% of the vote, but only 18% of the At-Large seats, whereas Students for Students At-Large candidates grabbed 54% of the vote, and 82% of the At-Large seats. ("Putting Students First" transformed into "Students for Progressive Change" in time for the 2006 general election.)