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
February 7, 2018

Statement on the SGPS Presidential Election Results

Kingston, ON – Today, the SGPS Judicial Committee made the following statement: The Judicial Committee was activated regarding the recent SGPS presidential election. On Wednesday, February 7, 2018, the Judicial Committee nullified the Presidential election, as per SGPS policy. No other election or referenda questions are affected by this decision. The Committee has now made the following recommendation to SGPS Council: SGPS Council, as the highest elected body of representatives in the SGPS, shall appoint either Stephanie McKnight or Tyler Morrison as the incoming SGPS President at the February 13th Council meeting; Each voting SGPS Councillor shall have one vote, as per SGPS policy; McKnight and Morrison will participate in a 45min debate, followed immediately by a secret ballot vote; and The candidate who receives a simple majority (50% + 1) in the vote shall be selected as the president-elect, subject to subsequent ratification by SGPS Council at that same meeting. Both McKnight and Morrison have taken a leave of absence from their current SGPS Vice President roles until the Council meeting. Additionally, no campaigning will occur by either candidate during this time, apart from participation in the debate. The February 13th Council meeting will commence at 5:30pm in Wallace Hall of the JDUC. All students are encouraged to attend and engage with their elected department or program Councillor in this process. We thank you for your time and patience as we move forward. For questions or concerns, please email Jennifer Williams at speaker@sgps.ca. PDF Statement
February 1, 2018

Statement on the “Bus-It” Referendum Result

KINGSTON, ON – Today, SGPS President Adam Grotsky made the following statement: The results of the 2018 SGPS Elections and Referenda revealed that the “Bus-It” student fee failed to meet the two-thirds majority threshold required for it to pass. As it stands, the consequence of this vote is that, beginning September 2018, SGPS members will lose their unlimited Kingston Transit bus access. Following the announcement of the referendum results, the SGPS has heard from a significant number of students who fundamentally misunderstood the referendum question that was posed to them: Do you agree to an increase in the Bus-It (Kingston Transit Student Pass) mandatory student fee from $68.30 to $90.00, an increase of $21.70? It is apparent that some students believed the proposed fee increase was for enhanced transit services, rather than unlimited access to the bus itself. Others thought that by voting “no”, the fee would revert back to its current price. I strongly believe that affordable access to public transit is an essential service for graduate and professional students. If SGPS members do not benefit from the preferred student rate of $90 per year, they will need to pay the public rate of $76 per month or $912 per year. In consideration of the confusion and misunderstandings outlined above, I am calling on SGPS Council to vote against ratifying the results of the Bus-It referendum. All referendum results must be ratified by SGPS Council prior to taking full force and effect. This measure is in place for circumstances precisely like the one we now face. In consultation with the SGPS Elections Team, should SGPS Council vote against ratifying the Bus-It referendum results, I will move to hold a special referendum on the Bus-It fee. The special referendum would be conducted in March 2018, using language that clearly underscores the question’s purpose and meaning. This is an option of which I see little downside. Either the original referendum results will be reaffirmed, or it will be made clear that those results did not accurately reflect the will of the student body. I strongly encourage students at large to share their concerns with their elected representatives, and I strongly encourage members of SGPS Council to vote against ratifying the results of the Bus-It referendum at the February 13 Council meeting. 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.