A late-night decision by the Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) elections committee about fortune cookie messages that ended up in lecture halls has disqualified four of five candidates for executive office. Mark Baseggio, Phil Haines, Brandon Larry and Brett Bergie were disqualified under BUSU bylaw 560 XII (o), which is part of the students’ unions rules covering campaigning. The rule states that candidates will lose all of their 25 points for “campaign materials put in lecture halls/seminar rooms/labs etc.”
The day before polling began, the candidates had given out fortune cookies with messages bearing all four names. Members of the committee found 16 of these messages in lecture halls and seminar rooms.
All of the candidates except Larry were running unopposed.
The candidates have appealed the decision, saying they did not put fortune cookies in the lecture halls — rather the messages were left by students.
“The bylaw is very specific,” says Larry, who was running for vice-president student services. “It says ‘campaign material is not to be put in lecture halls.’ If I was on the election committee, my question would be, ‘What does ‘put’ mean?’
“My answer would be intentionally placed where it is not supposed to be. Having said that, the decision does not make sense … I am totally for following the rules of the election, but if the rules aren’t clearly laid out, how am I supposed to do that?”
Troy Brooks, BUSU’s ombuds officer and chief returning officer (CRO) for the election, disagrees.
Brooks, who has been CRO three times, says he clearly outlined candidates’ responsibilities to them.
“I instruct them that it is their responsibility to police campaign materials regardless of who puts them there.”
He says he tells candidates that campaign materials such as flyers and lollipops would be “off-limits” in lecture halls and seminar rooms, and that it is their responsibility to ensure they follow these rules.
Jim Callender, who was running for president until this past Monday, says Brooks told candidates, “Anything you put in someone’s hand is your responsibility.”
Baseggio, who was running for president, called the decision “a slap in the face.
“I think that the election committee has clearly made a decision that was contrary to the intent of the bylaw. A word that comes to mind is ‘paper pushers,’” said Baseggio. “We’re being penalized for running an innovative and effective campaign that informed the message of the election out there, which the election committee failed to do.
“That was clear on the first day of voting when the voting stations were set up without demarcation. The polling stations appeared to be a few students doing homework at tables …
“We’ve become victims of the election committee, which clearly isn’t in the best interests of Brock students.”
Brooks said the voting members of the election committee, made up of councilors from the Brock University Students’ Administrative Council (BUSAC), unanimously voted to disqualify the candidates. The voting members were Carla Kerrigan, Mehdi Wolf, Jeff Priest and Andrew Scott Medieros. Current BUSU executives Duncan Small, Garrett Rocca and Leigh-Anne Purvis were all ex-officio non-voting members of the committee, while Brooks has a vote only in the case of a tie.
“I still believe the committee made the best decision possible based on the information provided and the bylaws,” said Brooks. He said the committee decided to hold the meeting in camera, so members could “speak openly” and to “remove bias.”
Larry has a long history of working with BUSU, as a bartender and DJ at Isaac’s and acting as a councilor. He says that this decision has made him want to reconsider his work with the organization.
“Reading week will be a very, very important thinking time for me. That is where I will make my decision as to whether or not my … passion for this organization is deserved,” said Larry.
Both Baseggio and Larry said they felt the committee’s decision did not put students first, and expressed the opinion that bureaucracy and process had taken precedence over the democratic process.
“My whole goal was students first,” said Larry. “This is politics first … that’s what this organization has become about. I’m not a politician … I ran in this election to make things better for students, not for politicians, and that’s what this is all about. I feel that students have been screwed … Socko [the sock puppet who has launched a parodic campaign for president] is 100 per cent right. The bureaucracy of the students’ union has taken over and this is decision is not in the best interest of students.”
“I feel that I’m the best candidate and I think that it’s laughable that the election committee has interpreted the bylaw in this way,” said Baseggio. “They are ignoring our hard work and financial investment, two weeks of missed tests and overdue assignments … I want the students to really challenge this decision and tell people how they really feel.
“We’ll fight to it to the bitter end, but I’m really disappointed and disgusted with everything that’s going on … I’m not a person who gives up and next time I would like to see everyone at the polls.”
— with reporting by Anya Spethmann