The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board (J-Board) has recently accepted a petition filed by U3 Arts student Alexei Simakov against the SSMU executive, the SSMU Board of Directors, and Elections SSMU.
Simakov’s petition claims that the decision to rehire Ben Fung, who was Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) last year and was rehired this year for the same position, was made without the participation of the Nominating Committee and without a ratification by SSMU Council, as is required by article 2.4 of SSMU’s bylaws. It extends this reasoning to the hiring of all members of the Elections SSMU staff for the 2014-15 year who were also not selected by the Nominating Committee.
The petition therefore requests that all elections carried out under the supervision of Fung, such as the First Year Council (FYC) elections and the Fall 2014 referendum on the University Centre Building Fee question, be declared invalid.
According to Simakov, he filed the petition on September 22, the first day of the Fall 2014 referendum campaign period, and requested an interim order for the Fall 2014 referendum to be postponed. Simakov said that he received no response from the J-Board until after the referendum period had passed.
Simakov noted that himself and U3 Arts student McKenzie Kibler, to whom Simakov referred as his “advisor,” were not seeking personal gain from the petition.
“The petition is not for us. We have nothing to gain, we have no stakes in this,” Simakov told The Daily. “We’re doing this on behalf of the entire student body who have been frustrated, and because of SSMU have become apathetic.”
The petition relies on “all the record of Council documents uploaded on SSMU website [sic]” to determine that “there is an absence of [a] Nominating Committee.”
According to the petition, “the contract of Mr. Ben Fung in the capacity of CEO expired on 30th May 2014, and [he] was automatically rehired by President of SSMU, against article 2.4 of SSMU by-laws.”
SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa, however, stated in an email to The Daily that Fung was, in fact, rehired as CEO for the 2014-15 academic year through the previous SSMU executive’s decision to renew his contract.
“The decision was made before the current, 2014-15 SSMU executives’ terms had even started,” Ayukawa stated. “Based upon a plain reading of the bylaws, the 2013-14 Executive Committee’s decision to renew Ben Fung’s contract did not require a meeting of a Nominating Committee, given that the contract was a renewal, not a new hire.”
“I have searched through old documents relating to SSMU hiring process and cannot find evidence of the selection process outlined in By-Law Book I (which is Nominating Committee selecting the CEO and bringing that recommendation to Legislative Council) being followed for at least the past five years,” she added.
2013-14 VP External Samuel Harris seconded Ayukawa’s statement in an email to The Daily.
“The approval or disapproval of the hiring of an employee (or rehiring) is made at the Executive Committee,” Harris said.
“Student staff positions are under the responsibility of different executive portfolios. Responsibilities can include evaluating candidates (either incumbents or interviewees) to recommend for approval at the Executive Committee,” he added.
In an email to The Daily, 2013-14 VP University Affairs Joey Shea said that “SSMU employees are hired by the execs responsible for their portfolio. The CEO is under the president’s portfolio,” and was unable to comment further.
2013-14 SSMU President Katie Larson did not respond to an email from The Daily asking to confirm this statement.
Fung emphasized in an email to The Daily that he and the Elections SSMU staff had taken no part in their rehiring.
“We weren’t involved in the renewal of our contract in any way other than sending a re-application to SSMU HR [Human Relations] just like any student applying to the job would have,” he stated.
In an interview with The Daily, Simakov highlighted that the petition is not a personal attack directed toward Fung.
“There are people who are responsible for where he is now and this has nothing to do with him necessarily. I won’t comment on his performance in the position. What I will comment [on] though is that it’s particularly egregious that the [hiring for the] position of CEO was done illegally, given how contentious and how controversial his position was in the last election,” he said.
Kibler expressed what he hopes he and Simakov will achieve, in the event that Simakov wins his case at a J-Board hearing.
“What we hope this shows is that when the next elections to SSMU Council happen next spring, that those undertaking positions for SSMU and who are elected to SSMU positions understand clearly these positions and responsibilities associated with them and will not take them lightly and will understand that students at McGill are willing and able and have been successful in [holding them] accountable,” he stated.
J-Board’s Chief Justice Muna Tojiboeva stated that she will only be able to confirm the date of the hearing once the J-Board receives the respondents’ positions on October 29, as both parties could agree to mediation instead of a hearing. However, Simakov stated that a hearing was scheduled for November 3.