On January 23, 2019, the Science Undergraduate Society’s (SUS) representative to SSMU, Moses Milchberg, resigned for personal reasons. According to the SUS Constitution, by-elections to fill a vacant seat are to be held in the event of a resignation. However, instead of nominating a replacement to serve as interim SUS representative to SSMU for the remainder of the term, executives made the decision to have previously-elected members of their team proxy for Milchberg during Legislative Council meetings. Asa Kohn, student of the Mathematics Department, took issue with this decision.
“The SUS refused to appoint a replacement after Moses Milchberg resigned, and when I pointed out that they were violating their constitution, they sent me a vague email that didn’t even mention the constitution,” explained Kohn. “There seems to be a common belief among student society executives that the provisions of society constitutions can, and sometimes should, be taken as suggestions,” he added.
After unfruitful discussions with SUS executives, Kohn submitted a referendum question to the SUS Chief Returning Officer (CRO) on February 18. The question asked undergraduate students of the Faculty of Science to voice their opinion on whether or not the nomination of an interim SUS representative to SSMU should be undertaken by the SUS Executive Committee. Ultimately, the question was deemed invalid by the current CRO and SUS President Reem Mandil, and was not included as an SUS referendum question. According to Mandil, the course of action taken by the Executive Committee was the appropriate response given the time at which the resignation occurred. She also asserted that Milchberg’s seat was not vacant as proxies were being sent to Legislative Council.
“As an executive team, and also among discussions at our General Council, we decided that the best way to deal with the resignation was to send proxies of elected executives to fill his place in Legislative Council meetings at SSMU. We formally passed a motion at Legislative Council approving this decision and ever since then we’ve been handling it through proxy,” said Mandil.
When asked about the logic behind their decision, Mandil highlighted time constraints. Considering the date of the resignation, the by-election for the SUS representative to SSMU would have been held only a few weeks before the scheduled full election. “This would have been a complicated timeline. In addition, holding a by-election requires approving dates and setting campaign periods. This would’ve delayed that election for a certain period of time where we would’ve had to send proxies anyways. Hosting an election takes a lot of time and resources that we felt were better used when sending a proxy,” added the SUS President.
Dissatisfied with the position upheld by the SUS Executive Committee, Kohn filed a petition to the SSMU Judicial Board in early March. In his 96-page document detailing the situation, he requested that the decisions made by the SUS Executive Committee be judged unconstitutional. Almost three weeks after filing the petition, he is still not aware of its status.