After an election that sparked controversy due to allegations of misconduct, the U of M graduate students’ association (UMGSA) council has issued an apology and announced a runoff election for one position.
At a special meeting held May 8, the UMGSA council decided to issue an apology to a number of people via an email sent to the graduate student body and to hold a runoff election for the vice-president services and support (VPSS) position.
The next day, an email was sent out to the greater graduate student body with a formal apology “to all parties involved” and explanation of what had occurred during the election period earlier in the year, and another email announcing the runoff election details, which took place May 15-16 after a two-day campaign period starting May 13.
“So far, the only public accounts of this election have been emails containing complaint and appeal reports by the former elections committee, which were erroneously sent to the graduate student body, and two articles published in the Manitoban,” the email, which was signed by UMGSA elections and referendum committee chair Kasey Morgan, said.
“These sources held conflicting information about a very complex matter — namely, the many complaints and appeals filed during and after the UMGSA Election and the behaviours of several of the parties involved.”
After votes for the VPSS position ended in a dead tie between candidates Okechukwu Efobi and Eric Gagnon in March, Efobi was disqualified after an appeal filed by UMGSA president Carl Neumann concerning CRO Ademola Adesola’s failure to penalize Efobi for an expense overrun of $0.39 was approved.
Efobi later publicly accused Neumann of “spying” and called for his resignation in an email sent to UMGSA council. Neumann said he had heard the CRO speak openly about the overrun. Adesola maintains he did not speak publicly about the election.
Adesola was removed from the CRO position after confronting Neumann outside of a meeting in a manner which the elections committee voted had breached the association’s code of conduct rules.
The elections committee then released an appeal report and a complaint report to the graduate student body. The complaint report included an email Adesola had sent that referred to Neumann, which the complaint report called “slandering and accusatory.”
In the email sent out to grad students, the UMGSA apologized to Neumann, Efobi and Adesola, saying that the council regretted sending out Adesola’s email correspondence to the wider student body and calling it a “breach of our code of conduct and a violation of privacy.”
Vice-president external Skye Kushner pushed back against the apology, noting what the UMGSA had shared was being shared willingly at the time by several parties involved.
“Council should probably not vote to apologize for anything, there was nothing in the email that was not already shared to the Manitoban by the candidate, or by the CRO, to the Manitoban himself,” he said.
The apology also mentions all parties named in any election committee correspondence to the student body and any articles published in the Manitoban.
Concerns “wrongfully dismissed”
While not mentioned in the original complaint or appeal reports, the email also noted that the health sciences graduate students’ association (HSGSA) had filed a complaint on Feb. 28, and it had been “wrongfully dismissed” by the UMGSA elections committee.
The complaint concerned issues of communication concerning the election against both the CRO and the UMGSA council.
The email acknowledges the dismissal of the appeal called into question “the legitimacy of the ensuing election.”
Former HSGSA president Carmine Slipski — who was president when the appeal was filed — spoke at the May 8 meeting.
“I think the bottom line is that the elections committee never followed protocol properly,” he said.
“They never met, they never followed up on any of us to tell our side of the story, it was a unilateral decision made by the chair of that committee that bypassed anything the CRO had to say, and they never even met. It was done by one person.”
Ultimately it was decided that the elections committee would be dissolved entirely, and the results of the election would not be ratified.
A new committee appointed
A new committee was formed — consisting of chairperson Kasey Morgan and four other councillors — which evaluated the election process and came up with ideas to move forward.
Morgan spoke about the committee’s priorities at the meeting.
“We decided that our priorities would be to review whether or not the election was legal in the first place, and to ultimately put the power of this election back in council’s hands,” she said.
“We determined that there was enough evidence […] that we could render the entire election completely illegal and run it all over again.”
Morgan presented three possible courses of action to the council recommended by the committee at the meeting, the first being possibly holding an entirely new election, which Morgan said she had some concerns with.
“A lot of things have been said about a lot of people and about the organization in general, that we think opening it up to a whole new election has the potential to make that worse,” she said.
The second would have resulted in a new election for the VPSS position and a by-election for the position of UMGSA president, currently held by Neumann, who ran unopposed.
The council ultimately settled on the committee’s third presented course — to hold another election for the VPSS position only.
UMGSA faculty of architecture representative Jessica Piper has been named CRO. No DRO will be appointed.