In a confidential session Thursday, SSMU Council voted to publicly reprimand their own electoral body – Elections McGill – for their poor performance during the 2008/2009 academic year.
The complaint, issued in a resolution, based its call for immediate action on Elections McGill’s failure to meet SSMU standards on bilingualism, insufficient promotional activities and campaign oversight, inaccuracies in print materials, and inaccessibility to election candidates and referendum committee members. The censure came the night before advance polls opened for the present SSMU election.
Kay Turner, President of SSMU, believed that a public censure was necessary to avert disaster before the election.
“The best way to rectify these problems is to call them on it publicly so that it is incredibly clear what we want from them. We wanted to actively insert ourselves into the situation rather than do a post-mortem,” she said, explaining that Elections McGill still had time to fix their malpractices before the current election period ended.
But Nicole Gileadi, Chief Executive Officer of Elections McGill and U2 Political Science student, stated in a bilingual press release sent to The McGill Daily and Le Délit that the resolution was completely unprecedented and unprofessional.
“Instead of speaking to us on an individual level – the way that it is normally done between Elections McGill and SSMU Council – they chose to pass this motion in a confidential session, which means that we don’t have access to the minutes, we weren’t invited to be there, we didn’t have an opportunity to respond to their allegations,” said Gileadi later in an interview with The Daily. “We learned about this at 3:30 in the morning, after the fact, after it had been made public.”
She described the charges as baseless and could not understand how SSMU could justify a public shaming.
“The claims they made are unfounded. [The censure] makes an implication that, as an office, Elections McGill refuses to do its job and refuses to improve, which has never been the case. A public censure should be reserved for situations in which all other avenues have been exhausted. We were given no notice before this resolution passed.”
Controversy erupted earlier this year when Elections McGill was accused of not providing proper French editions of emails and other documents. Gileadi said she has been working to be inclusive to francophone McGill students who have been ignored in the past, citing the introduction of bilingual posters, emails, and ads, which Elections McGill did not distribute in the past. Their web site and all other documentation are scheduled to be translated by the end of the academic year.
“Based on our track record, Elections McGill has given no precedent for Council to believe that we would not rectify any concerns brought directly to our attention,” said Gileadi.
Elections McGill an independent and impartial agency of SSMU, meaning that SSMU’s resolution cannot forcibly instruct the service on what action should be taken. Turner acknowledged Gileadi’s endeavours, but said that more could be done to improve upon current conduct.
“Elections McGill has actually already rectified most of the bilingual issues, but the other issues refer to Elections McGill not having a great response time to phone calls and emails from the candidates, and that’s something which can be easily rectified, for example.”
Turner maintained that her primary concern was a formally-run election, and denied that SSMU wholly objected to Elections McGill’s present work.
“Council takes issue with some of the decisions and actions of Elections McGill, but this doesn’t indicate a complete or partial lack of confidence in our electoral body.”
Gileadi was adamant that the censure is unwarranted and is going to remain focused on the election.
“We’re going to table this and focus on our job, because we think that it is an unfortunate distraction from having the election.”