Violence Erupts at Student Union Amidst Corruption Allegations
Campus police were called as a candidates meeting for the U of T Scarborough Campus Student Union (SCSU) was interrupted when around 50 students entered the conference room, whilst chanting “Freeze the SCSU election”, according to a report issued late Monday night by The Varsity.
UPDATE: The Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Mahir Zuber resigned his position on January 24. Zuber statement in a letter to all members of SCSU and University of Toronto, Scarborough Students (UTSC) reads as follows. “I was grabbed by students, thrown onto a table and punched in the face. Because of these events, I do not wish to continue as CRO due to fear for my own safety.”
The group of students were protesting the disqualification of three candidates running for executive positions. Protesters entered room SL232, in the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) Student Centre, at around 5:00 pm.
The group of protesting students, was led by Deena Hassan, Ray Alibux, and Asif Khan. Deena is the current Vice President (VP) of Operations for SCSU. Both Alibux and Khan were running for president of SCSU. Hassan was running for a VP position. However all three of them were disqualified from the race, leaving only one candidate for president.
Watch protestors storm the meeting.
A physical altercation occurred, leaving Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Mahir Zuber injured, and SCSU Internal Coordinator Arthi Velupillai seeking medical attention for an arm injury.
Alibux, 19, a commerce student, says the altercation occurred as SCSU members were preventing the protesters from entering the doorway.
“The CRO and [Velupillai] were trying to block the door, using their arms to block the doorway, and started pushing us back. We raised our hands up, just trying to get past, and pushed through,” said Alibux.
Once they’d entered, Alibux and Hassan stood on the conference table. Hassan giving a speech about SCSU’s alleged corruption to the onlookers who remained in the room.
At this point, campus police was called. According to Alibux, they waited in the hallway for Albiux and Hassan to finish their speeches.
Then they started to talk to people one by one. Alibux and other protesters submitted videos of the altercation as evidence of their innocence. According to Alibux, campus police took down a couple of names but allowed everyone to leave.
An investigation by campus police is ongoing.
Why were they disqualified?
According to The Varsity, Hassan was disqualified over “an abuse of power”. She wore a sweater indicating she was the current VP of Operations while campaigning for votes. According to The Varsity, this is against the SCSU bylaws.
Alibux was disqualified for not getting enough student signatures. According to The Varsity, “improper practices” were engaged in. Thus the validity of the 100 signatures necessary to be eligible to run for a position was questioned. It resulted in disqualification. Alibux, however, contends that he got 102 signatures. He says the SCSU incorrectly determined that 3 of the signatures were not valid.
“They said these 3 were not students at the school. Which is ridiculous because one of them I know. I have classes with him. But when I offered to provide them with proof they wouldn’t cooperate.”
A petition posted on change.org outlines the protesters complaints with the SCSU. It reads:
“We, the undersigned students of the University of Toronto Scarborough,” the petition reads. “Demand that the current electoral process for the 2018 Board of Directors and Executive election for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union be immediately put on hold.”
They include allegations that the CRO is biased because of personal relationships with one of the candidates. Also that a lack of evidence was provided for why Alibux, Hassan, and Khan were disqualified. And finally, allegations that current SCSU members were directed/showed their support for a particular candidate. According to the petition, this violates the bylaws.
As of time of publication, the petition has 607 signatures. Signees in the comments section are issuing complaints about corruption in the SCSU.
What’s Happening Now?
The plan was for campaigning to begin on January 23 after the candidates meeting. As of January 24, it has not begun. Although according to The Varsity:
“Nafisa Mohamed, Chair of the SCSU Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC), the ERC will have to meet again and reschedule another all-candidates meeting before the campaign period can begin.”
“Despite the delay in the start date, there is no halt on the election itself. The voting will still take place from February 6–8,” said Mohamed to The Varsity
The SCSU is yet to announce if they will allow Alibux, Hassan and Khan to run. Alibux says if the SCSU rules against them, they plan to appeal to the Board of Governors.
SCSU executives have sent no reply to our requests for comments.
DISCLOSURE: The author was high school friends with Alibux, and is occasionally in contact with him.*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.