March 5, 2018

Joint statement re: SGPS Presidential By-Election by Stéfy McKnight & Tyler Morrison

Today is the beginning of the campaign period for the Society of Graduate & Professional Students (SGPS) at Queen’s University Presidential election, with Tyler Morrison and Stéfy McKnight as candidates. Over the course of the last month, we (Stéfy McKnight and Tyler Morrison) have collectively received a number of questions about why there is a by-election for the position of SGPS President, and we hope that this statement will clarify those points and concerns. The original SGPS Presidential election in January was nullified. The SGPS Chief Returning Officer (CRO) received notice of a self-disclosed accidental infraction of election policy, brought to their attention as soon as it was discovered by the candidate, Stéfy McKnight. McKnight utilized more than the allotted campaign budget. The CRO placed a fine for the violation, which was then appealed by Tyler Morrison, who has since pardoned the infraction. This appeal activated the SGPS Judicial Committee who nullified the results of the election, triggering the upcoming by-election. Although the over spending infraction was small, both candidates accept the decision by the Judicial Committee to nullify the results, and are looking forward to engaging in the upcoming campaign period. We prepared this statement with the desire to put this violation and appeal behind us, and attempt to have the most neutral and fair by-election as possible. Moving forward, we have respectively agreed to not respond to further questions about this issue. We wish to focus the campaign period and election on SGPS issues, policies; our platforms and plans for the SGPS, and not on the infraction and appeal. We urge SGPS members to positively engage in the electoral process, focusing on graduate and professional student issues and policies in the upcoming campaign period, and not on the infraction. We are adamant that this is the most productive and logical way to move forward. Remember to cast your votes online through your email on March 12th and 13th. Submitted respectively, Stéfy McKnight & Tyler Morrison
February 14, 2018

JDUC Redevelopment Referendum Results

Kingston, ON – Below are the results of the 2018 Special Referendum on JDUC Redevelopment held among SGPS members: “Do you agree to the establishment of a mandatory, non-reviewable $40 fee to support the redevelopment of the John Deutsch University Centre, to be collected annually commencing in 2019-2020 academic year? Approval of this question will result in a University capital contribution of $20,000,000 and additional funding to cover financing costs.” Choice     Votes     Percentage Yes            1065       77.3% No               312         22.7% Abstain      79 Voter turnout: 33.7% SGPS President Adam Grotsky made the following statement: While the SGPS fee for JDUC redevelopment was successful, the AMS fee fell narrowly short. The collection of the SGPS fee is contingent on the University’s capital contribution and project financing, as stated in the referendum question. Therefore, the SGPS will not collect this fee from students unless there is a path forward that retains the University’s contributions. The SGPS is committed to working together with the AMS and University to determine how to proceed. In any case, the SGPS results cannot be ignored. Our campaign for JDUC redevelopment was fuelled by the need for graduate student community – and a space that will foster it. Students spoke loud and the results are clear: graduate students need graduate space to strengthen the graduate experience. I look forward to working with the University to ensure that is made a reality.
February 9, 2018

Updated Statement by the Judicial Committee re: SGPS Presidential Election

Kingston, ON – Over the last two days, we listened. We listened to the questions and concerns from the SGPS membership and have decided to release a statement in response to what we heard: According to policy P.11.3 “Procedure”: “The Judicial Committee is…responsible for hearing appeals made by SGPS election candidates.” The Judicial Committee is a confidential body, whose purpose is to protect those involved and the sensitive matters surrounding the appeal process, to the best of our abilities. We withheld these details to protect the candidates, not to purposely withhold important information and details from our membership. Upon hearing from our members, we recognize the need for greater transparency. During the campaign period of the SGPS Presidential election, a self-disclosed violation of campaign rules occurred by a candidate, who overspent their allotted budget on campaign related activities (P.9.8 (f)). Following an exhaustive investigation during the voting days, the CRO instituted a penalty in the form of a fine, following the announcement of the election results. This decision was appealed, within the allotted week following the election, which, as stated in Bylaw and Policy section P.9.10 “Penalties”, activated the Judicial Committee. Given that this decision does address the very nature of our democratic process, the standard set for our deliberations was high. Our deliberations took more than double the allotted time and the Committee came forward with the following points. To the Committee’s knowledge, this is a first in SGPS history with no precedent to follow: The violation in question required a higher penalty than what was initially granted. The maximum fine available to this body is a total withdrawal of the campaign allotment; our Committee determined that this fine was insufficient. Our rationale behind this decision is to set the precedent to prevent candidates who violate the spending allotment to feel that they may do this in the future and be elected to office, which comes with a substantial salary; That the violation, based on policy P.9.10(c), did not meet the requirements for disqualification of the candidate. Our appeal was centered around sub-sections: “(2) any other circumstance determined by the CRO to give a candidate an unfair advantage where such an advantage cannot be nullified in time for voting; and (3) where a penalty is to be levied after the close of voting, in any case where an offence would likely have changed the outcome of the election.”The Committee was unable to assess if the spending violation provided an advantage in the election. The Committee determined that the violation did not warrant a disqualification for the candidate. Instead, we chose to nullify the results; The decision to nullify the results of the election and forward the matter to SGPS Council was seen as the most appropriate solution to the matter at hand. As the election results have been published, we felt that both candidates would not face an equal opportunity to run in a campus-wide by-election. SGPS Councillors are selected by their respective departments and programs to decide on matters on behalf of the student body. We felt that this would be the best opportunity for candidates to have a contested election. The Judicial Committee felt that a group of seven determining the next President of the SGPS would be unfair and we chose to refer this decision to SGPS Council. We also took into account the mental and physical well-being of the candidates involved, and concerns regarding a fair by-election. We also considered the need for sufficient time for Executive transition. As a Judicial Committee, we also feel it is important to note that throughout our investigation, we found significant gaps in Bylaw and Policy concerning the election process, the responsibilities of the election team, and the appeal process. Without a policy framework or precedent, the Committee was forced to look at the current bylaws and determine the most appropriate resolution to the above issue. We are tasking the Bylaw and Policy Committee to meet and rectify these gaps and present amendments at the March Council meeting. Recommendations by the Judicial Committee to SGPS Council: To host an SGPS Presidential Election during the February 13th SGPS Council meeting, as per our previous statement; and To task the Bylaw and Policy Committee to review policies described in this statement, among others, and bring forward amendments at the March Council meeting. Should this recommendation be approved by SGPS Council, all Councillors sitting on the Judicial Committee will either proxy their vote to a department representative or abstain from the SGPS Presidential Election. Please direct all questions and concerns to Jennifer Williams at speaker@sgps.ca. While we encourage discussion, we will not tolerate harassment of any kind. We thank you for your patience as we deal with this matter. PDF Statement
February 8, 2018

Statement on the Nullification of the Presidential Election

Kingston, ON – Today, SGPS President Adam Grotsky made the following statement: On February 7, 2018, the SGPS Judicial Committee released a statement declaring the results of the presidential election null. The statement also recommended that SGPS Council appoint either Stephanie McKnight or Tyler Morrison as president at its February 13 meeting. The SGPS relies on the separation of powers between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of our organization – such a system provides indispensable checks and balances on power. While I accept the authority of the SGPS Judicial Committee to nullify the results of the presidential election, I do not accept its lack of transparency. A decision that throws aside the will of the student body, in an election that saw the Society’s highest voter turnout on record, must be accompanied by a justification of that decision. I am calling on the Judicial Committee to release an updated statement that provides a full explanation of the circumstances that resulted in nullification and the reasons for their decision. I also respectfully disagree with the Judicial Committee’s recommendation to appoint a president through SGPS Council. As per SGPS Bylaw and Policy, the Judicial Committee is comprised of seven members of SGPS Council. Their decision to have Council select the next president blurs the line between the judicial and legislative branches. SGPS Council cannot act as both judge and jury. At the start of the February 13 Council meeting, I will call for a by-election to be held between Stephanie McKnight and Tyler Morrison, and I urge Council for their support. A by-election is the only path forward that will confirm the right of the student body to elect its leaders. The Judicial Committee has the power to nullify the election, but the student body must have the power to choose their president. Finally, while I encourage debate and welcome criticism, I will not tolerate the harassment of my peers. The behavior and conduct that I have witnessed is not acceptable and does not reflect the student body I am proudly a part of. I look forward to continuing a respectful dialogue on these important issues. For questions related to SGPS Policy, please contact Jennifer Williams, SGPS Speaker, at speaker@sgps.ca. For all other inquiries, please contact Adam Grotsky, SGPS President, at president@sgps.ca. PDF Statement