January 14, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 57  

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Student union at York crumbles in chaos

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

York University’s administration took financial control of the York Federation of Students last Friday after the YFS council refused to ratify a group of winning candidates from a late-November election.

The election attracted significant media attention as it was perceived by many to be a contest between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups of students. A slate of candidates calling themselves “Progress Not Politics” criticized the current YFS for being openly pro-Palestinian and campaigned on a platform of returning the student union to campus issues only. PNP went on to win a landslide victory with 26 of 31 candidates elected.

Since the election, the student union has been caught up in a squabble that has resulted in the issuing of a notice of impeachment to the current YFS president and a coup-d’état by the newly elected candidates, in addition to the administrative disciplinary actions.

“This is the most incompetent, useless council I’ve ever seen,” said Yaakov Roth, campaign manager for Progress Not Politics. “It’s really sad that this is happening and I am thoroughly disgusted.”

“We will be proceeding with legal action,” said Paul Cooper, YFS president-elect, leader of the PNP group as well as president of the Young Zionist Partnership, adding in the course of the arguments, the council had effectively overturned its own bylaws.

According to Sandra Pierre, the YFS’s VP-quality and services, three of the losing candidates submitted a complaint soon after the election, alleging the PNP slate was guilty of overspending during the campaign. The elections committee voted on this issue Dec. 4.
Of the four-member committee, three found PNP not guilty and one ran out of the room rather than vote, Roth explained. On Jan. 6, the council of the YFS — composed of the members of the YFS who had just lost the election — voted to overturn the elections committee’s decision.

“A number of things were procedurally wrong and illegal [with the Jan. 6 decision],” Roth said, explaining that the council did not allow the elections committee members to vote but did allow the plaintiffs to vote, adding it passed by one vote. On Jan. 9, York’s administration froze transfer of funds to the YFS.

The council met again on Monday, where according to Roth, the speaker declared the Jan. 6 decision the illegal, noting an existing bylaw stated that any decisions by the elections committee on issues of spending were binding and could not be appealed. The council then voted to challenge part of what the speaker had said.

The speaker then told the council he would not proceed until consulting a lawyer. The PNP members stood, declared they were taking office immediately and walked out, Roth explained. They proceded to the YFS’s office and “got to work.” He confirmed that staff at the office were scared and left.

According to Pierre, as the council meeting continued, the decision was made to issue a notice of impeachment to the current YFS president.

Pierre expressed disappointment that the university froze the YFS’s funding rather than letting the process continue. “Elections are contested all the time, not just in student governments; there must be some due process [to deal with this],” she said. “You can’t rush this.”

“It is obviously absurd and offensive of York’s administration to meddle in the affairs of the student union,” said Joel Duff, Ontario chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students. “The student union is an incorporated body — it is not responsible to [York’s] administration, it is responsible to its members.”

Duff pointed out that York’s administration has no legal entitlement to the money they are withholding from the YFS. “Under no circumstances should the university take authority over the student union.”

“We want this matter to be resolved under their constitution,” said Nancy White, spokesperson for York’s administration, adding the administration would meet with all those involved in an attempt to help students find a solution. “We are trying to enable the students to resolve [the impasse] on their own.”

She explained that the university collects a levy from students and passes it on to the YFS, adding this will now be withheld. “We are also in the process of taking control of [the YFS’s] bank accounts,” White said. “[Reinstatement of funding] has not been determined yet.”

York Timeline

Nov. 27, 2003
Election results show York students voted 26 of the 31 PNP candidates onto the YFS. Three of the losing candidates submit of complaints campaign overspending against the PNP slate.

Dec. 4, 2003
The elections committee holds a vote on the overspending accusation, finding PNP not guilty.

Jan. 6, 2004
Council of the YFS meets and votes to overturn the elections committee decision.

Jan. 9, 2004
York’s administration takes financial control of the YFS.

Jan. 12, 2004
Council of YFS meets and the speaker rules that the Jan. 6 vote was illegal. PNP takes over YFS office (effectively a coup) and the remaining council decides to serve the sitting president with notice of impeachment.



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