On October 28, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board released an interim order suspending the General Assembly’s motion to split the vote on the ratification of the Board of Directors until further evaluation.
The order comes following a contentious motion moved by SSMU VP Internal Maya Koparkar at the General Assembly to vote on each Director individually.
Noah Lew, Alex Scheffel, and Josephine Wright O’Manique failed to receive the votes necessary to serve on the Board. While Lew and Scheffel have sat on the Board since the summer, Wright O’Manique has only recently been nominated by the Legislative Council to serve as a Director for the upcoming year.
Director Jonathan Glustein filed the petition, naming Maya Koparkar and then-Speaker Jad El Tal as respondents in the case. El Tal resigned from his position on Friday morning.
In an email to The Bull & Bear, Director Glustein referenced both the legality of the motion in terms of the Board being under its twelve person capacity, and the nature of how the vote was conducted: “At the Fall 2017 General Assembly, 105 people voted against Noah Lew. Alexander Scheffel and Josephine Wright O’Manique were also voted down by just over 100 people. Already, over 450 people have signed an open letter that calls for all three Directors to be put to an online referendum vote. The spirit of the SSMU Constitution affords power to the members to make decisions. A vote of 0.4% of the student body to choose the Directors who will serve on our highest governing body is simply undemocratic and at odds with the SSMU Constitution.”
He maintained that “the Constitution clearly states that the Board shall be composed of twelve voting members. In this case, by dividing the question, only 9 members were ratified, meaning that if this were to proceed we would have a Board with a composition in violation of SSMU’s Constitution for a full year, opening SSMU up to both legal challenge and violation of its Memorandum of Agreement with McGill University.”
The petition called into question the constitutionality of Koparkar’s motion to split the question and ratify each director separately at the General Assembly. It also claimed that by allowing the motion to be heard and voted on, the Speaker violated the SSMU Constitution. Director Glustein filed the petition “seeking an interim order to be made by October 28, 2017 that all 12 Directors’ names, as they are listed in the motion to ratify the SSMU Board of Directors…be submitted for ratification by means of an online referendum during the Fall 2017 Referenda period.”
When asked for comment on being named in the petition, Koparkar wrote to The Bull & Bear: “When all of those conflicts were going on regarding the constitutionality of the Board back in September, when we discussed as a Board, someone alluded to the fact that the Board wasn’t democratic because it wasn’t composed of elected members to which someone else said that they were democratically elected via GA approval […] we had talked about this later and someone suggested dividing the question as a way of adding legitimacy to this process, which I felt was fair especially given that we voted on the councillors for the [Board] in this manner at [Legislative Council] a couple weeks ago, but then during the GA when it became clear that it was procedurally going to be an issue I stopped pursuing it.”
Koparkar was surprised at the outcome of her motion to split the vote. She stated, “For the record, I think the result was unfair – I didn’t think people would vote in the capacity that they did and although I am named in the [Judicial] Board motion, I will cooperate in terms of the outcome the petitioner is seeking out.”
The Judicial Board unanimously ruled to suspend the GA motion until it could conduct an official hearing to evaluate the constitutionality of splitting the vote. The suspension maintains that the Directors who failed ratification but have already served – Noah Lew and Alex Scheffel – will not be demoted of their functions until a ruling is issued regarding the constitutionality of the vote.
All motions passed at the General Assembly must be ratified online. However, the Judicial Board found it could not simply add the three individuals who failed ratification to the existing ballot. Because Lew, Scheffel, and Wright O’Manique were not approved at the General Assembly, they cannot be retroactively included in the General Assembly motion regarding the Board of Directors that will be sent to referendum.
Until the Judicial Board makes a ruling, the interim order issued “preserves the status quo prior to the General Assembly and maintains the 12 Directors’ status.”