Concerns have arisen regarding the current state of the Residence Hall Association (RHA) electoral process and the upcoming bi-elections this fall.
Following the RHA elections last spring, only one candidate was ratified to the RHA board of directors: Brett Payne, Townhouses representative. The remaining nine seats, including that of the president, remain vacant.
According to Payne, both presidential candidates were disqualified after violating RHA bylaws. The only other candidate, who ran unopposed, did not receive the percentage of ‘yes’ votes — 70 per cent — necessary to be elected.
The RHA is a body of students who represent residents living in campus housing. It is responsible for social programming in residences and serves as a link between students and university administration. The board of directors is elected every March by residents, with elected board members holding their positions from May 1 to April 30 of the following year.
Nicholas Page, a student from McTaggart-Cowan Hall, expressed his concerns about the spring election results to The Peak. According to Page, Residence and Housing refused to disclose the results from the last elections; he alleges that they first claimed that these results were private, and later that they did not exist.
When he contacted Zoe Woods, associate director, residence life at SFU, Page said, “She wouldn’t release any of the details on the infractions, saying that candidates had a right to privacy and it would emotionally hurt them, which I think is completely ridiculous. When you run for public office, that’s what you trade off.”
“I’m not asking for what’s in their fridge, I just want to know if they cheated,” Page continued. “The public has a right to know so that they can make the right decisions.”
Woods declined to comment on the issue, but suggested that students with concerns email ResLife.
Page brought his worries to the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) in hopes that the society would aid in conducting the RHA’s next election; in particular, he recommended that the chief electoral officer oversee RHA bi-election proceedings. The board tasked education representative and RHA liaison Katie Bell to speak with the association about the potential for collaboration.
Although the SFSS has no formal ties to the RHA, VP finance Adam Potvin expressed that this is still a student society issue: “I feel like it’s our duty as the SFSS to make sure that no matter where on the school grounds, that elections are being done properly and fairly.”
In his initial email to The Peak, Potvin said, “From what Mr. Page has told me, it seems as if SFU’s tentacles may be engulfing democracy.”
Payne, the sole sitting RHA board member, explained that Bell put him in contact with a previous SFSS electoral officer, whom he hopes will work with the RHA’s new elections coordinator this fall to ensure that all candidates abide by the election bylaws.
“We’re trying to make sure that the election is going be fair and that people won’t be skeptical about how it’s done or who has been helping in it,” said Payne.
With the appointment of an elections coordinator, Payne expects to open the nomination period for the bi-elections sometime during the next few weeks.