“Correction: a previous version of this article cited Amir Singh as a candidate for president for the SHIFT SFU slate. We have changed this name to Amar Singh.”
Despite the campaign period for the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Board of Directors elections officially beginning on March 5, 2018, not all candidates for this year’s elections have submitted their platforms to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). In addition, bullying allegations were made on social media by a now dropped-out candidate, stating that he was “illegally cut” from his own slate at the very last minute.
Miscommunication regarding platform submissions
Earlier this February, notice for the 2018–19 SFSS Board of Directors elections was made available to Simon Fraser University students, faculty, and staff. The nomination period took place from February 19 to March 4, 2018, with the campaign period currently taking place, and ending on March 19.
This year, there are two slates running against each other, Inspire SFU and SHIFT SFU, according to an email sent to The Peak by Samer Rihani, a candidate for this year’s vice-president of student services. Inspire SFU and SHIFT SFU are headed by Jaskarn Randhawa and Amar Singh, respectively. In total, 35 candidates were nominated and approved for this year’s Board of Directors elections, with two candidates’ statuses still pending for approval, according to a file provided to The Peak by the IEC.
The Peak reached out to the IEC — the committee responsible for administering the student society elections — to inquire about when candidates’ platforms would be released to the general public. Dee Gorn, chief commissioner of the IEC, stated that the hard deadline for when platforms are to be submitted is this Friday, March 9, at noon.
“I did not have a hard deadline on platform[s] because if you’re campaigning for something . . . generally you want to have something prepared ahead of time and once you are given the go-ahead you do it. So the go-ahead in this case would be being approved, being considered eligible. But I find that this cohort of campaigners are procrastinating a lot,” stated Gorn. “I’ve had to full-on install a hard deadline, which apparently from what I’ve heard has never happened before.”
Gorn later clarified with The Peak that for previous SFSS elections, hard deadlines have been imposed for platform submissions. However, this method is rarely used. “We just are having a particularly slow-running campaign cohort this year, apparently. Timely submitting of documents has been a challenge. This is to their own detriment,” said Gorn.
Currently, there is no regulation within the SFSS bylaws as to when candidates should have their platforms submitted by, according to Gorn. However, Gorn stated that regardless of whether there was a hard deadline for platform submissions or not, this is like a job interview — there should be a level of professionalism, and candidates should have had their platforms ready ahead of time.
“I’m really not happy with [this] at all . . . Everyone has been procrastinating from their end. I’ve asked them repeatedly ‘please hand in your platforms, please hand in whatever you need to hand in’ and everyone is doing [it] at the last moment,” said Gorn. “I just got campaign literature given to me this morning to approve. So that means they only have a week and a half to campaign.”
The Peak asked Gorn if there should be a regulation installed for future SFSS Board of Directors elections, to which she said that she would add it to her list of recommendations once the 2018–19 elections end.
“I would probably put that down in my recommendations but keep in mind that we as the IEC, we have to work with the rules and regulations so it’s really up to the Board to pass those regulations,” noted Gorn.
Moreover, The Peak interviewed Rihani, and he disagreed with the statements Gorn has made about this year’s candidates regarding their inability to submit their platforms in a timely manner. However, The Peak was unable to find another source confirming this information by publication deadline.
“For myself, this election has been a true test of an individual’s patience and understanding. In terms of the IEC, we were only recently informed about the due dates of the platforms a mere few days ago, prior to this being told we could submit our platforms anytime before the 19th of March,” stated Rihani. “This sudden change has forced us to move much faster in terms of writing our platforms, while also leading us to take our time to ensure we do not write something we are not proud of.”
Rihani noted that for this year’s elections, the finalization of the slates was done last minute, which caused a great amount of stress on the candidates as a whole.
“For such short notice timelines and a large portion of individuals who were involved with Senate elections now being involved with SFSS, I would not state this as procrastination on anyone’s part, but rather adaptation to keeping up with terms of SFSS that we have been adamant in understanding clearly,” he said.
In addition, Rihani claimed that during candidate orientation, which is a mandatory session that all candidates have to attend in order for the IEC to approve their eligibility to campaign, numerous individuals asked the IEC questions regarding the budget they had for printing posters, videography, and funds for sponsorship. However, the IEC was unable to answer their queries and told them that their questions will be answered as soon as possible via email, according to Rihani.
“We did not want to make any further changes or movements to our slates UNTIL [sic] we received finalized information on behalf of the IEC, to ensure no one was penalized,” stated Rihani. “The individuals running for SFSS this year have been fast at work, working efficiently and at a rate that I must say impresses me immensely. Whether someone is on our slate, the opposing slate, or running as an individual, I’m honored [sic] to be running with all of these individuals and must commend everyone for their efforts,” he explained.
On the evening of March 5, 2018, Parsa Kiani, an ex-member of SHIFT SFU, posted on social media stating that he was “illegally cut” from his slate.
Jimmy Dhesa, vice-president of student services, notified The Peak later that evening that a potential bullying incident might have occurred during this year’s elections. The post has since been deleted from Facebook. Kiani and Taha Sharifi, the other victim in this alleged bullying incident declined to comment on the matter when asked by The Peak.
The Peak reached out to Gorn about the incident and Gorn stated that she hasn’t received any complaints whatsoever, or even heard about the incident.
“When you mentioned this was going on, it was completely out of the blue. Nobody has addressed any of these issues toward me which is very frustrating. And even on the [potential bullying allegations] that you [shared with] me about illegally kicking people out of slates, I looked through the SFSS’s regulation and policy on referendum and election . . . and I can’t find anything that explicitly gives me [the] power to do anything unless somebody actually explicitly complains. Like actually [submits] a complaint form,” expressed Gorn.
In addition, Gorn emphasized that there is nothing she can do at the moment to resolve the matter.
“I feel like I have my hands tied [at the moment] but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. I will continue to look into this. I think that if this harassment and what not is continuing to happen, I’m sure that at some point, they will definitely step over the line and I will be there,” stated Gorn.
The Peak also reached out to Amar Singh, the leader of SHIFT SFU and the slate that Kiani and Sharifi were supposed to be in. Singh is currently discussing with his team as to whether or not he should comment on this matter with The Peak.
Important dates to know
This coming Monday, March 12, 2018, the SFSS candidate debate will be held at SFU Surrey in the Mezzanine at 11 a.m. On Thursday, March 15, 2018, the debate will be held at SFU Burnaby in Convocation Mall at 11:30 a.m, according to Gorn. At this time, it is unknown if a debate has been scheduled for SFU’s Vancouver campus.
Results for the 2018–19 SFSS Board of Directors elections will be announced on March 23, 2018 at noon.