By Gabriela Silva Ponte
The Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU) announced in the spring of this year that it would hold a byelection for its Board of Directors (BoD) in the fall.
This came after the student union’s initial spring 2023 election in March was deemed invalid according to the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC) and was rescheduled for a new in-person, physical ballot election in April.
After several infractions of the Elections Procedures Code, the rescheduled April election was also cancelled, calling for a byelection in the fall according to an ERC statement released in April.
The TMSU has not yet made an announcement on the exact dates or times of this byelection.
According to section 4.17.1 of the TMSU’s bylaws, a byelection will be initiated in the month of September “provided that a vacancy occurs during the months of May, June or July.” Until the vacancy is filled, “the Executive Committee may designate an interim Director to fill the vacant office subject to Board approval.”
The current interim summer BoD has held office since May 1 and will continue to do so until Nov. 3, as previously reported by The Eyeopener.
But why was the initial spring election deemed irrevocably “compromised,” only to lead to the cancellation of a second, now in-person, physical ballot election and an interim summer BoD appointment? Read the quick recap below to find out more about the election.
Slates to note
There were a range of slates in the spring election. Here are some to take note of as we mention them later on in the recap.
Team Revolt was composed of vice president operations candidate Mahira Shoaib, vice president equity candidate Trevohn Baker, vice president education candidate Abeeha Ahmad and vice president student life candidate Kareena Bhatia.
Team Ignite was made up of The Creative School director candidates Aditi Roy and Yanika Saluja.
The Dream slate included vice president operations candidate Nathan Sugunalan and vice president student life Shahram Farhadi.
Ayub and Brandon was a slate made up by Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) director candidates Ayub Mohammed and Brandon Lee Pack. Team Revive was fighting for the same position and included TRSM director candidates Vitaliy Yushvaev and Winston Ly.
Lastly, Team Empire was created by Faculty of Science director candidates Aneesh Katyara and Muhammad Muaz.
A candidate forum for those running in the TMSU’s 2023 election was held on March 20. As previously reported by The Eye, candidates running for executive positions on the BoD discussed the past year’s financial mismanagement, privacy concerns for students after the previous vice president equity downloaded potentially vulnerable information and how to make campus more engaging for commuter students.
The Elections Procedures Code states executive candidates can receive up to 35 demerit points and director candidates can receive up to 20 demerit points before being disqualified from the election.
On March 22, an election ruling was posted, stating Team Revolt accessed a TMSU member’s voting portal on their behalf by touching the student’s device, guiding them through the voting process, showing them who to vote for and how to confirm their vote.
As previously reported by The Eye, the individual then gave the student a card for two complimentary tickets to Backroom Comedy Club—a speakeasy comedy club located at 814 Bloor St. W. in Toronto—and asked for their names.
These three infractions accrued 25 demerit points for violating sections 22.214.171.124, 8.1.26 and 126.96.36.199 of the TMSU’s Elections Procedures Code.
Vice president equity Aya Bakir accrued 15 demerit points on March 24 for endorsing four candidates on the same webpage, according to an election ruling.
This violated section 188.8.131.52 of the TMSU’s Elections Procedures Code, which states that “unauthorized Cross-Campaigning within TMSU elections” can result in up to 25 demerit points, as previously reported by The Eye.
That same day, Team Ignite accrued eight demerit points for posting a video to its Instagram page—which has since been taken down due to the end of the campaigning period—without the #TMSUVotes hashtag.
Section 184.108.40.206 of the Elections Procedures Code also states that “Wherever possible, all postings to all online platforms will tag the TMSU [Chief Returning Officer (CRO)] account in the post, and will use the hashtag #TMSUvotes,” as previously reported by The Eye.
Team Ignite denied these allegations, alleging it did use the hashtag and that it would be filing an appeal.
Student group endorsement and opposition
On March 22, the Faculty of Community Services Society (FCSS) at TMU released a statement to its Instagram page urging its members not to vote for Team Revolt, Team Ignite and Team Revive in the TMSU’s election. The statement can no longer be accessed.
As previously reported by The Eye, FCSS alleged these slates had potential relationships to nine previous students’ union slates that ran between 2016 and 2022, including Impact, Spark, Unify, Candor, Rise, Adapt, Forward, Revolution and Levitate. The Eye could not and still cannot confirm nor deny these allegations.
At least one member from each slate denied the allegations.
“[Team Revive is] not associated with the TMSU’s past or present or the future. I don’t really like to involve myself too much with student politics like that, and I really am not that aware of what’s been happening with TMSU before,” Yushvaev said.
“[Team Ignite is] in no way affiliated with Team Revolt or any other past teams that ran in the election in the previous years,” said Saluja. “We both are completely new to the union with new ideas and [a] fresh mindset to bring an actual change that [has] not been properly made in the past.”
“None of our team members were a part of the university when most of these scandals took place,” said Shoaib, from Team Revolt. “Just because we share the same skin colour as the folks on the slates they’ve mentioned does not make us related.”
That same week, both The Eye and CRO Adrian Aziz were sent screenshots from Team Revolt in which the TMU’s Indian Students’ Association (ISA) endorsed candidates in the election.
The group endorsed Gerges, Mohammed, vice president operations candidate Angie Awadallah, international student director candidate Olivia Okoro, vice president education candidate Shirin Kalavi, Bakir, vice president student life candidate Ozi Molokwu and The Creative School faculty director candidate Gus Cousins.
The ISA told The Eye it was not aware of the rule, that it wished election information was more readily available and that when it found out this was against the rules, it removed the posts.
Aziz reminded student groups that they could face monetary fines for endorsing candidates.
More election infractions
Six rulings were posted by the ERC to the TMSU website on March 27, after the election had already ended.
Multiple non-slate candidates accrued two demerit points after having their profiles shared by the ISA’s Instagram account.
Those individuals included Gerges, Bakir, Awadallah, Kalavi, Cousins and Mohammed.
Molokwu and Okoro each received one demerit point for benefitting from the ISA’s endorsement.
“Two candidates proactively contacted the Elections Team to distance themselves from the post,” the ruling read.
Section 8.1.31 of the Elections Procedures Code states “Endorsement(s) of Candidates from Campus Groups is prohibited.”
Gerges, Kalavi and Bakir also received 12 demerit points each after “a student submitted video evidence of a person accessing a students device” to vote for them.
Section 220.127.116.11 of the Elections Procedures Code prohibits campaigning to an individual in the process of voting, accessing student voting portals and cross-campaigning.
Presidential candidate Gerges also received four demerit points for “cross-campaigning with student societies” and the “misrepresentation of facts” in correlation with the FCSS ordeal.
On March 27, 20 demerit points were handed out to Sugunalan for “failure to comply with the spirit and purpose of the Code.”
Sugunalan had submitted a video of a person trying to engage him to vote, as previously reported by The Eye.
In the ruling, which is no longer accessible, the ERC said, “While this is a breach itself, the ERC has acknowledged that the Candidate Nathan Sugunalan was also trying to entrap the person by asking specific questions that would lead to the person breaking the [Elections Procedures Code] and TMSU By-Laws.”
Lastly, Cousins received 17 demerit points for pre-campaigning and for the use of animals while campaigning on March 27, according to a ruling that is no longer available.
Section 18.104.22.168 and 8.1.28 of the Elections Procedures Code outline these infractions.
On March 24, unofficial election results were released. Gerges was not re-elected for presidency, as previously reported by The Eye.
According to section 9.2.2 of the TMSU’s Elections Procedures Code, an uncontested executive candidate “shall face a Yes or No vote.” Gerges needed over 50 per cent or greater number of the votes cast as “yes” to be elected.
Team Revolt took all the executive seats. Other slates, such as Team Empire, Team Ignite and Team Revive were also elected.
Team Revolt’s disqualification
In-person physical ballot election
The ERC released a special decision on March 30 for a new election to be held from April 11 to 13, following the disqualification of all Team Revolt elects.
The new election would allow all candidates who ran in the previous election to re-run. It would also follow an in-person physical ballot voting system, as previously reported by The Eye.
That same day, the TMSU’s BoD carried a motion to deem disqualified candidates from the initial election ineligible to run in the upcoming in-person physical ballot election.
The motion was carried but not passed due to its contingency of consultation with the students’ union’s legal counsel on whether the board has the power to make the decision, as previously reported by The Eye.
In-person election cancelled
The ERC cancelled the in-person, physical ballot election planned for April 11 to 13, according to a statement released that can no longer be accessed.
As previously reported by The Eye, the ERC noted in its statement that new evidence raised “significant concerns about the integrity of the entire election process, not just the voting process.”
The ERC’s statement said the TMSU was to hold a byelection in the fall, in accordance with the TMSU’s bylaws.
The TMSU’s interim BoD was revealed at the April BoD meeting. The motion to ratify the interim Board was passed. The current Board has been serving since May 1 and will continue to do so until Nov. 3, as previously reported by The Eye.
The ERC took applications for the interim roles until April 16 and interviews took place between April 20 to the 28.
This is your current BoD:
VP Student Life
Faculty of Arts (Two seats)
Maria Eula Faye Beltran
The Creative School (Two seats)
Faculty of Community Services (Two seats)
Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science (Two seats)
Faculty of Science (Two seats)
Ted Rogers School of Management (Two seats)
Lincoln Alexander School of Law (Two seats)
International (One Seat)