From March 6 to 8, Brock University students will once again receive an e-mail regarding a referendum on the Student Justice Centre (SJC). In the recently held February executive elections, students were asked to decide whether or not they support an increase funding to the SJC from $0.91 to $4.88. A total of 2,541 votes were casted in favour of increasing the fee, with 2,091 voting against and 940 abstentions. However, concern over the language used in the referendum has led Brock University Students’ Union to send the question back to a vote.
Since the official vote tally of the February executive elections, some have been concerned that the question asked was not quite specific enough. The question used by BUSU in the SJC referendum was: “DO YOU SUPPORT A $3.97 INCREASE TO THE STUDENT JUSTICE CENTRE FEE ($0.91 TO $4.88) STARTING SPRING 2018 AS OUTLINED IN THE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING?”
Issues have been raised due to the fact it was not specified in the question that the proposed increase in the fee was ‘per credit’. In a recent meeting of the Brock University Students’ Administrative Council, held on February 28, various BUSU representatives, including outgoing President Faisal Hejazi and Chief Returning Officer Fiona Purkiss, referred to the lack of the words ‘per credit’ in the referendum as a ‘clerical error’.
As a result of concerns over this ‘clerical error’, BUSAC has decided to send the SJC back to the ballot box. In an official statement on the issue released by BUSU, it was stated that “Although our marketing and the official Memorandum of Understanding stated that the fee was per credit, it wasn’t explicitly written in the ballot question.”
Promotion of the revised referendum began on March 1, with voting commencing at 12:01 a.m. on March 6 and finishing at 9:00 p.m. on March 8. This time, BUSU will not be actively campaigning on either the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ side of the referendum. In the initial February election, BUSU did run a ‘Yes’ campaign which was headed up by Maddy Wasink, Vice President of Student Services for BUSU. Wassink was voted in by 16-1 in the Jan. 17 meeting of BUSAC to act as the Campaign Manager.
In the Jan. 17 meeting, council was asked why such an increase to funding for the Student Justice Centre was necessary. In response, Wassink noted, “the manager being paid, student jobs, student sexual violence support, and campaigns run by the SJC”. Hejazi supplemented her rationale by noting that the “Ombudsman service is being performed by one person whereas at [University of Toronto] they have multiple coordinators. We also want to completely bring forward a new program for combating sexual violence.”
For this second round of the SJC referendum, one particularly aspect of the vote has some students very concerned. For the revote on March 6-8, BUSU will be suspending By-law 401, also known as ‘Referenda By-law’. This bylaw consists of five major parts: definitions & interpretation, general administration, polling, prohibitions & enforcement, and general.
In fact, some students are so concerned on this by-law suspension that an online petition has been generated and circulated titled ‘VERY Concerned Students for Referendum Fairness’. The petition states that the suspension of By-law 401 would constitute the suspension of “the rules and laws of student democracy”. The petition specifically addresses certain portions of the by-law, including section 3.1a, 3.1b, 3.1c, 3.1d, and 3.2(4). The petition also alleges that the suspension of the by-law will create “the most dangerous precent [sic] in Brock history!”
So what do all these bylaw sub-sections have to say? Section 3.1 a) deals with fairness. It states that candidates are to be treated fairly by all BUSU personnel involved in the election, and conflicts of interest to be declared and handled ethically. Section 3.1 b) deals with equality. It says that all candidates should have equal opportunity to speak to students, be asked questions, appeal decisions, and not be limited by barriers, financial or otherwise. The next subsections deal with consistency (no bias due to race, gender, etc.) and transparency (right to know). Finally, Section 3.2(4) states: “[The referendum process shall] provide every undergraduate student with the opportunity to engage the Campaign Teams so that their voices may be heard.”
More on this referendum and quotes from BUSU will be included in the March 6 publication of The Brock Press.