News | Controversy surrounds graduate student executive elections

Conflicting bylaws, timetable source of disputes

The basement of Thomson House erupted in a shouting match last night between several graduate students and their society’s Chief Returning Officer (CRO), Brock Rutter, during what was originally scheduled to be a debate between candidates in PGSS’ upcoming executive elections.

“You people are ridiculous. You aren’t fit for this university, you aren’t fit for society,” Rutter said as he walked out of the meeting amid chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho. The CRO has got to go!”

Rutter was hired by the Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) to oversee their elections of next year’s executive and a vote to accredit the PGSS as the representative of graduate students to the provincial government in a March referendum.

At the time of the debate, the society’s Appeals Board was convened in an emergency meeting to consider whether or not to postpone the executive elections, and the possibility of Rutter’s termination as CRO.

The Appeals Board released a report late that same night stating that the CRO had “acted correctly and without error,” but that “in the light of conflicting and confusing language” in the bylaws, the election nomination period would be extended to February 28 and the elections postponed accordingly.

The Board meeting was called following a series of emails between Rutter and PGSS Equity Commissioner Gretchen King, in which King requested that Rutter extend the election nomination period.

According to the Society’s Activities Manual, the PGSS electorate will be notified of “an extension of the nomination period for one week for any position attracting one candidate or less.” Because all five candidates – including three incumbents – were running unopposed, King argued that an extended nomination period was required.

However, the report released by the Appeals Board notes that this section “does not purposively refer to actual extension of the nomination period, rather it refers to the communication of such an extension should it take place.”

The manual reads elsewhere that the nomination period will be extended “in the event of no nominees for the candidacy of any elected position.”

Rutter told King that there were “conflicting” bylaws, and while he welcomed any nominations she knew about which were underway, he “could not spend any more time on this right now,” and the election schedule would remain unchanged.

When King insisted that the process be re-opened and advised Rutter that she would be recommending his termination to the Appeals Board, Rutter sent an email to King which read, “Please check your email security settings. I am afraid you might have been hacked as it seems some asshole is sending emails from your accounts.”

The PGSS Board of Directors will meet next week – if not earlier, according to PGSS Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney – to decide whether or not Rutter’s email would merit termination.

Rutter told The Daily he had decided not to reschedule the elections both because of the cost and inconvenience, but also because he was under the impression that it was imperative for the society to hold its referendum by March 15 – the final date set by the provincial government for accreditation votes.

The timetable for the elections has been changed once already, and moved forward a week – after a different date was publicized to the electorate – when the Society’s executive realized that the schedule would put them behind the government’s deadline. A new election schedule was then publicized.

According to Mooney, the executive had originally decided not to split the accreditation vote and the executive elections into different referenda to encourage voter turnout, though the Appeals Board decision will mean that they have no choice in the matter.

“You want to minimize the number of times you ask people to vote,” Mooney told The Daily. “With the exec elections, there’s sort of a baseline [turnout] that you already have to build on.”

In order to be recognized by the government, accreditation requires that 25 per cent of the electorate votes “yes” to accreditation. PGSS traditionally gets about half that much – if not less – in terms of turnout.


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