York University Recognizes Hillel-Backed Slate

The Canadian Jewish News

York University Recognizes Hillel-Backed Slate

January 22, 2004

By: Francis Kraft, Staff Reporter

Is the York University student election imbroglio finally over?

It appeared that was the case last Tuesday when the administration issued a statement saying it has recognized the November student government election results, in which candidate Paul Cooper’s “Progress Not Politics” (PNP) slate won 27 of 32 positions on York Federation of Students (YFS) Council, including all four executive positions.

But as of Monday morning, the YFS office was still closed to Cooper, and the old council was still refusing to formally ratify the slate and turn over the keys.

York representative Nancy White told The CJN Monday that discussions were still under way as to whether the incoming council had to be ratified, or whether the administration’s decision is an adequate equivalent.

The situation is “very, very complicated,” said Jordan Saperia, who won the position of faculty of arts councillor and who also serves as Hillel president. “The York administration is treating us as the new student government,” he said, noting that Cooper and some of his vice-presidents met with York president Lorna Marsden to discuss issues of including parking and tuition.

But he said the PNP slate does not have an office, nor does it have financial control. “It’s almost like there are two councils right now – one which has the approval of York, and one that doesn’t, and yet for some strange reason is still functioning.”

The YFS bylaws “make it clear that there’s no choice but to ratify [the PNP slate],” said Edward Prutschi, PNP’s legal counsel. “We take the view that what has occurred at this point is deemed ratification…As far as I’m concerned, Paul is the president.”

Cooper, whose slate was backed by Hillel, promised to reorient YFS’ focus toward student issues such as parking, security and tuition. The federation, Hillel charged, had become increasingly involved in supporting anti-Israel activities.

“The current process for resolving this dispute has fallen short of university standards for a responsible, orderly and democratic transition of student government,” Bonnie Nueman, vice-president of students, said in last week’s statement. Ratification, usually a formality, was initially delayed by a YFS elections committee hearing on Dec. 4 to determine whether Cooper’s campaign literature expenses violated campaign spending regulations.

Although the complaints were dismissed, ratification was delayed again at a Dec. 15 meeting of the outgoing YFS council because of allegations that a committee member was intimidated into abstaining on Dec. 4. The other three members voted in Cooper’s favour.

Early in January, Cooper’s acquittal was overturned in a YFS council meeting. Mike Novak, outgoing YFS president, chaired the original hearing. He told The CJN following the January meeting that the PNP “rightfully deserve to be in office.”

His council has since turned against him, filing a notice to impeach him on Jan. 9, the same date the administration assumed financial trusteeship of the YFS and stopped transferring the money it collects from student levies on council’s behalf.

The YFS board also turned over its power to a constituency committee made up of York’s individual college presidents, White said.

In a news release last Wednesday, the YFS expressed disappointment at the administration’s “unilateral and illegitimate ‘recognizing’ of a new student council.”

“The YFS believe the York University administration’s actions to be unwarranted, misguided and potentially harmful to the student body at large.”

The statement, which was distributed by Pablo Vivanco, the outgoing YFS vice president of external affairs, called on the university to “immediately retract and allow for a proper and lawful completion of the constitutional process and transfer of power.”

Efforts to reach the outgoing council for comment were unsuccessful.

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