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J-Board invalidates QPIRG question

Unclear whether McGill administration will accept ruling

The SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board) ruled Tuesday to invalidate the fall 2011 referendum question regarding the existence of QPIRG on the grounds that the question “deals with two issues, instead of one as required by the [SSMU] Constitution.”

The text of QPIRG’s question – which was voted on from November 4 to 10, 2011 – read, “Do you support QPIRG continuing as a recognized student activity supported by a fee of $3.75 per semester for undergraduate students, which is not opt-outable on the Minerva online opt-out system but is instead fully refundable directly through QPIRG,” with the understanding that a vote of ‘no’ would terminate student funding of the organization.

The J-Board case, filed by students Zach Newburgh and Brendan Steven, was heard last week in the Lev Bukhman room.

QPIRG board member Kira Page said that the organization is “dismayed and disturbed” by the results, and is deciding how to proceed. Page said that an official statement from QPIRG will be issued by the end of the week.

J-Board’s decision was released two days after the end of the #6party occupation of the James Administration building, which demanded that the administration recognize the results of both QPIRG and CKUT’s referendum questions.

The McGill administration and QPIRG have been in discussion regarding the organization’s Memorandum of Agreement and fall 2011 referendum question. It is unclear how the J-Board ruling may affect discussions between McGill and QPIRG. Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson announced in January that the administration had decided to invalidate the results of the fall 2011 referendum.

The second part of the petition, which challenged the actions of Elections SSMU Chief Electoral Officer Rebecca Tacoma during the campaign, was dismissed.

“Based on all of the evidence before us, including the written and oral arguments, as well as the testimonies, the respondent’s decisions seemed justified, transparent and intelligible,” the ruling read.

The ruling requires a ratification vote by the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD). BoD will not meet until after the February reading week, and would require 4/5 of the Board to reject the ruling in order for it to be overturned.

SSMU President Maggie Knight said that SSMU is not planning on releasing a statement, but that information about the ruling is available on SSMU’s website.

In terms of an appeals process for BoD, Knight said that SSMU is in “a little bit of a legal gap.”

“We will let people know that we are going to be discussing it at the Board of Directors meeting, and we will invite anyone who is particularly concerned and think there has been some sort of egregious miscarriage of justice to come forward with their concerns,” Knight said.

There will be a referendum question regarding the structure of the BoD and setting up an appeals process, but voting on winter referendum questions will not take place until March.

Steven and Newburgh released a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “We are satisfied with the Judicial Board’s ruling to invalidate the result of the Fall 2011 QPIRG Existence Referendum,” it stated.

“We call on the Board to respect the principles of natural justice and due process by affirming the decision outlined in the verdict. The integrity of the SSMU’s referendum process demands it. The SSMU cannot set a precedent, which allows referendum questions to stand when they do not provide members of the SSMU with a clear choice when voting,” it continued.