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January 10, 2002 Schulz wins, but CSU election being contested



Chris Schulz

Chris Schulz


by Sigalit Hoffman

Chris Schulz, head of the Representative Union slate, has promised to take office today, despite the fact that a ruling on the legality of the November student election is not expected for about two weeks.

“As far as we’re concerned, the Representative Union is not waiting for any ruling, since the contestation process set out in the CSU bylaws has not been followed,” Schulz said.

Jessica Lajambe, the chief electoral officer, received 85 complaints and two election challenges, so she asked the university’s four-member judicial board to decide whether the mid-term election was legal.

“I can’t ignore the severity of the contestations,” Lajambe said. “To make a decision would have been irresponsible towards the defendants.”

The head of the Representative Union called Lajambe’s move to pass the decision on to the judicial board illegal, but Lajambe defended her decision saying the CSU election bylaws were “outdated” due to the special circumstances of the election.

“They didn’t hold [up] well in the legal sphere,” she said. “Had my decision not been favourable to the [RU] party, it would have been contested anyway.”

Lajambe investigated the complaints and wrote a report of her findings, which the CSU was scheduled to review at its meeting last night. Lajambe said the election had been “messy.”

“I hope this will be an eye-opener for council — I hope they take note of the election discrepancies,” she said. Lajambe recommended remodeling the CSU election bylaws based on the federal electoral system.

Schulz said that according to the student union’s own constitution, the newly elected council is supposed to take office once the council receives the report. “We’re expecting the CSU to adhere to its own bylaws,” he said.

Schulz won the election with 45 per cent of the vote, but his campaign was mired in controversy after his party was accused of improper communication with another slate. The allegations led the CEO to temporarily bar the Representative Union from the running.

Lajambe reinstated the party hours later, and had to extend the election to give the voters who had been presented with a truncated ballot the chance to vote again. The election proper was Nov. 27 to 30, and the special election was Nov. 29 to Dec. 5.

The Umbrella Party, led by Zev Tiefenbach, came in second with about 38 per cent of the vote. About 3,600 Concordia students voted, surpassing last year’s record turnout by one third. However, almost 21,000 students were eligible to vote.

In the meantime, Schulz has sent a lawyer’s letter to interim CSU president Patrice Blais to protest the temporary three-member executive council he formed. Blais, who was vice-president finance, stepped in when Sabrina Stea resigned as president just before the election. Stea was subsequently elected to the CSU Council of Representatives in the by-election.

“According to the bylaws, the interim presidency ended once the by-elections were held,” Schulz said. He called the move a ploy to allow Blais to hang onto the presidency.

President-elect eager to take office

Chris Schulz, the president-elect of the Concordia Student Union, wants to make the CSU more accessible to students and more cooperative with the administration.

“We want to reach out to students,” Schulz said. “It shouldn’t take 30 days of stopping by and hoping to catch a member of the executive. It should be a matter of dropping by or making a phone call.”

Schulz said the preceding executive suffered from a “deficit of legitimacy” in the eyes of its constituents because it didn’t respond to their needs.

He also wants to build a dialogue with the university through the Dean of Students. “A hostile, confrontational relationship isn’t constructive,” he said.

Schulz hopes to start a student services fund that will help students gain access to campus resources. The fund will help students rent audio-visual equipment as well as the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall or the D.B. Clarke Theatre. Though Schulz will have a very short term as president — just this term — he hopes to at least lay the foundation for the completion of his projects.

He said his most pressing project is repairing the university’s public image. “We feel it’s very important to undo the damage that’s been done.” Schulz is planning a massive drive for food and clothing for needy Montrealers if he enters office.

Schulz was elected with just over 45 per cent of the vote, but complaints about the election might jeopardize his presidency. He promises to honour the results of the student referendum if the university’s judicial board accepts his nomination.

“We have a mandate to address every [referendum question] that passed and to take measures towards their eventual completion,” he said. The results included democratizing the position of the Dean of Students, and demanding that the university repeal its decision to exact a 1.61 per cent “bad debt” fee on the funds of money transferred to several student groups to cover the costs of those students who default on payment of their student fees.

Schulz is upbeat despite the controversy surrounding the election, which drew in about 3,600 voters.

“We doubled last year’s turnout, and raised the record CSU turnout by one third,” he said. “This is a big step for students, it’s a positive one, and it’s only going to go up from here.”