Wednesday, January 28, 2004

New YFS council takes office

Written by Aliza Libman - Assistant News Editor
Excalibur - Wednesday, 28 January 2004

The winners of the November York Federation of Students (YFS) elections finally took office last Friday and are wasting no time in making changes to how the YFS operates.

Last week saw YFS president Paul Cooper and members of the Progress Not Politics (PNP) slate meet with Constituency Committee (CC) members for mediation, along with representatives of Student Affairs.

Both sides signed an agreement, which was put to the outgoing council for ratification last Thursday.

Under pressure from the York administration, the outgoing council had handed trusteeship over to the CC, giving them the responsibility of reaching an amicable conclusion. The CC consists of college and faculty council presidents.

The agreement made between the two parties states that the winners of the elections be ratified, that a committee be set up to review and recommend amendments of the YFS bylaws, and that Student Affairs administer the next elections.

The agreement also states that the new council must abide by the current bylaws, which call for an election in March 2004. However, those bylaws might be changed.

Late Monday night, notice was given to amend the YFS bylaws at a meeting to be held February 10. In separate e-mails sent by Cooper and vice-president academic and university affairs Stefan Santamaria to the YFS listserv, it was proposed to amend the bylaws to require an election “any time within one year from the ratification of a CRO report”.

Cooper wouldn’t comment on whether or not March 2004 elections will be held, however he did say that they would be postponed if the council felt that the elections would not run properly.

“Our number-one concern is to ensure elections are [run] properly,” says Cooper, who doesn’t want a repeat of the last election. “If the council is not confident that the appropriate changes can be made to ensure a fair and orderly election, we won’t have elections in March.”
President of Bethune College Council and CC member Ryan Gonsalves notes that bylaw changes must go through a general meeting, which includes all the members of CC.

“There would have to be agreement around the table,” says Gonsalves. “It would come down to a vote.”

As for the agreement between CC and the PNP slate, Gonsalves says that, overall, CC found it “quite amicable”.

“It was the best possible [agreement] under the circumstances,” he says.

But not all individuals are happy with the events that have transpired.
“I’m satisfied in the sense that YFS services and clubs will continue to get funding and continue to function,” says former vice-president of equality and services Sandra Pierre. “I’m not satisfied that the administration got involved.”

Pierre feels that it was inappropriate and it has “tainted” the new executive. “It makes them look like they just got in because of the administration.” She also believes that ratification would have gone forward without the university stepping in.

Though the first meeting of the new council was called for last night, it had to be postponed to tonight as a result of the snowfall.

Cooper says that the students can expect the new government to work for them and implement campaign promises immediately.

“We’re putting forward that motion [immediately] to reduce executive salaries,” says Cooper, adding that the motion will only take effect two weeks from now, as the bylaws require two weeks’ notice.

Other motions on tomorrow’s agenda include a motion to seek a method to de-federate from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

Cooper explains that this motion is being brought forward because the YFS believes that the CFS represents “extremist politics students [on this campus] voted to get out of”, adding that there are other national student unions to which York could belong.

Though the CFS’ Ontario branch is widely applauded for their lobbying efforts in getting the provincial government to implement a tuition freeze, Cooper says that the CFS’ efforts were inadequate.

“We don’t believe they’re an effective lobbying group,” he says, speculating that once the two-year time period on the freeze is up, tuition will skyrocket. Cooper also notes that the freeze applies to domestic students, while international students are facing massive increases.

“They froze tuition at the expense of international students,” he says.
The York student fees include $0.24 per credit for CFS and its Ontario branch, which totals $28.80 over an average student’s four-year academic career.

Tomorrow’s agenda also includes a proposal to sign a contract with Clegg Campus Marketing to bring the National Post to campus.

– With files from Angie Oliveira

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Election debacle goes to mediation

Written by Aliza Libman - Assistant News Editor
Wednesday, 21 January 2004

The ongoing York Federation of Students (YFS) elections controversy has now gone to mediation in hopes of a quick resolution.

Student Affairs’ acting assistant vice-president, Debra Glass, and assistant director Amelia Golden will be overseeing mediation proceedings between elected members of the Progress Not Politics slate and the Constituency Committee (CC) of the YFS, who are currently trustees of the YFS.

The CC, which consists of college and faculty council presidents, was granted trusteeship during a January 15 YFS council meeting. CC was felt to be a more impartial body than the outgoing YFS council since many council members had run in the November election.

“It’s a trusteeship,” explains Bethune College Council president Ryan Gonsalves, who is a CC member. “We’re handling the essential operations.”

Gonsalves notes that the CC members don’t have a personal interest in the outcome of the dispute.

“We’re doing this for the students and not for ourselves,” he says.

On January 14, the York administration released a statement recognizing the results of the November election.

“The decision we made last week to recognize the votes of the students … was based on the principle that students’ votes need to have meaning,” says Bonnie Neuman, vice-president of students.

Neuman explains that since the outgoing council was elected in March 2002, the administration was concerned that it was undemocratic for them to continuously extend their term.

“Those people who voted aren’t getting what they wanted,” adds president-elect Paul Cooper.

Cooper hopes the arbitration will be speedy, in order to ensure that student wishes are carried out immediately.
“We want to work this out so that democracy is upheld,” he says.
The CC has retained Brian Shell of Shell Lawyers as legal counsel to assist in resolving the controversy.

“What [CC is] seeking is amicable resolution,” says Shell, adding that he believes a resolution should be quick now that mediation has begun.
Neuman’s concerns are similar. She explains that the administration needs student representatives with whom to work on issues like provincial government lobbying and OSAP reform.

“We need to move forward to have people we recognize as the executive of the undergrad students,” she says. “It’s very important that we have student leaders working with us on those issues.”

Gonsalves stresses that the CC will not be holding a new trial or resolving outstanding complaints, since the situation is deadlocked. He says the mediation will provide “a resolution that is best for the York student”.

“That’s the only thing to do now,” he says.

Although some think the mediation should be finished by the end of the week, they still feel the controversy may continue.

Neuman calls the mediation “a step in a process that’s not over yet”, feeling that March may be too soon to call a new election.

“Before there can be another election, there obviously needs to be significant reform of the student election process … To get that in place, I think the timeline is too short for March,” she says.
“It is not appropriate and democratic for a group to get into their positions only to call a new election,” Neuman continues, “without the opportunity to build their credibility as a student group or not [build credibility].”

While Cooper would like to get back to a “normal rotation” of annual elections, he says that it may also be necessary to work with Student Affairs and the CC to fix the YFS by-laws first, “so that this can’t happen again.”

“There should be a mechanism … There’s definitely a conflict of interest [when] the old council can choose, based on reasons [they deem necessary], to approve or not to approve the new council,” he says.

At present, though York students are still paying levies, neither the outgoing council nor the incoming one is receiving levy monies from the university.

“No executive members are being paid on either side,” Neuman says.

Neuman also hopes to have office space for the new council by the end of the week so that they can be available to students – a move welcomed by Cooper.

“If students have concerns, I’d like them to raise them with me,” Cooper says.

What do you think of the current YFS saga? Log on to and join our discussion forums and participate in a poll on the subject.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Acquittal of PNP overturned

Written by Angie Oliveira and Aliza Libman - News Department
Excalibur - Wednesday, 7 January 2004

The newly elected council is not getting any closer to beginning its term, with current York Federation of Students (YFS) council voting not to ratify the CRO’s report.

At 12:30am this morning the council decided to overturn the elections committee’s ruling that acquitted 19 elected Progress Not Politics (PNP) candidates of any elections by-law violations.

The election saga that began last March when elections were postponed ended with shouting, accusations and even the forced removal of the president. The pressure has been intensified by a letter from vice-president students and alumni Bonnie Neuman urging council to ratify the elected council before she steps in as Provost and freezes the council’s funding for failure to uphold their democratic principles.
Speaker Grant Wagman completely negated the legitimacy of the letter, stating, “nobody except the board of governors itself, pursuant to the board’s own rules, can disband a student government.” “I dismiss it altogether,” he added.

Out of the 26 seats won by the PNP slate, seven whose elections did not depend on the decision of the tribunal were appointed to their positions. The other 19 stood trial last month over alleged overspending but were found innocent by the elections committee.

Last month the decision of the elections committee was contested after elections committee member Heather Mountford left the proceedings because she felt she was being intimidated.

Wagman ruled that sufficient evidence existed to bring the allegations of intimidation forward for deliberation at the next council meeting, but that they did not affect the decision of the council.

Debate was heated, with the divided council alleging that due process had not been followed.

YFS president Michael Novak urged council members to pass the CRO report, calling them a “lame duck council” due to difficulties in reaching quorum.

“This will not be tolerated and should not be tolerated … We are holding up legitimate people that were selected by the students at York. If this goes on more than another few days I will not be able to continue as YFS president,” Novak told council.

Pablo Vivanco, vice-president external affairs, was out of town during the council meeting but prepared a statement that was read by Kathryn Waters, who held his proxy.

In his statement, Vivanco wrote that because of the severity of the aforementioned irregularities, he would not vote in favour of ratification of the CRO’s report.

“There are many reasons to indicate that the elections committee was flawed and biased in its process, making these elections unfair in my mind,” wrote Vivanco.

Susan Gapka, McLaughlin College councillor, agreed with Vivanco.
“The allegation of intimidation throws into question all the decisions made by the elections committee,” says Gapka.

As hours went by, Gapka later reversed her position, stating that the CRO’s report needed to be ratified.

A number of other councillors expressed concern that the YFS council was further delaying ratification.

“This will be the second time we do this in a row,” said Stong College councillor Merve Bayinder, who alluded to last March’s election cancellations.

The returning officers were also opposed to the decision being overturned.

“I would not be bringing this to the council if I didn’t think that the people were elected properly to the position,” said CRO Ryan Jarvis.
PNP campaign manager Yaakov Roth, who was holding the proxy of Winters councillor Alan Kan, also opposed overturning the elections committee’s decision.

“I don’t see how a council that was not there during 10 hours of evidence being presented can overturn it just because they feel like it,” said Roth.

Hillel director Talia Klein, who was holding the proxy for Glendon council member Hussein Samian, agreed.

“I think it’s unconscionable that you’re trying to decide the merits of their case when none of the members are here to defend themselves.”
A secret ballot vote ended with the motion being passed and the acquittal being overturned, with 18 votes in favour, seven opposed and one abstention.

At the announcement of the results, Novak, who was a member of the original tribunal and thus ineligible to vote, addressed the council.
“This whole organization is undemocratic,” he said. Novak continued before being ordered by the speaker and council to cease speaking out of turn.

Novak was found to be in contempt of council but initially refused to leave. He was ultimately ordered to step out, at which point Wagman stated that “the speaker will be launching procedures against Mr. Novak”.

As a result of overturning the vote, the YFS was forced to schedule a retrial for the 19 candidates, which council must officiate itself as a result of its decision.

Council scheduled the retrial for Monday at 10am. Wagman noted that the trial could take 10 hours to deliberate, adding that all voting members must be present for the entire trial in order to be able to vote.

“You’re between a rock and a hard place,” he told them, “ and you did it democratically.”