Documents leaked to the McGill Daily allege that Tariq Khan’s campaign for the presidency of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) included 15 bylaw violations.
A petition was submitted to the SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board) following Khan’s March 21 win. The documents name Elections SSMU Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ben Fung as the respondent.
The petition identifies multiple bylaw infractions on Khan’s behalf, including “intimidating tactics” and “coercive measures to get students to vote,” such as “personally approaching students without leaving them privacy to vote.”
The petition charges Fung with inadequately responding to these alleged violations.
“Mr. Khan continually demonstrated a lack of integrity and consideration for the Elections By-Laws,” the petition reads. “This lack of action on the part of [Fung] gave Mr. Khan an unfair advantage throughout the entirety of the campaign period.”
Because Elections SSMU later invalidated Khan’s presidency on April 1, the Judicial Board case was retracted. While some of the information in the petition may be the same as that compiled by Elections SSMU, Fung said the two investigations were unrelated.
“[The decision] wasn’t prompted by [the petition],” he said. “We have been working on this for a very long time before the petition was submitted to the Judicial board.”
Fung said Elections SSMU received evidence that Khan violated multiple bylaws during the campaign period.
“In the time following the elections we were made aware of several things, either through email, our own investigations, or requests for investigations of new information,” he said. “Part of our due diligence is to seek the testimony of all parties [….] We [took] all this information into consideration.”
According to Elections SSMU, Khan’s bylaw infractions include financial inconsistencies within his budget report, unsolicited messages regarding campaigning to SSMU members, and the “impingement of the spirit of a fair campaign and of the voting process.”
“We won’t go into more detail at this time because we want to respect the privacy of all the parties involved in this situation,” Fung said.
Khan said he is taking the allegations by Elections SSMU seriously.
“I am the first to step forward and acknowledge that my campaign has not been without fault,” he said. “However, I am deeply disheartened at the intensity with which many allegations have been brought forward in regards to my campaign.”
As a result of the invalidation, runner-up Courtney Ayukawa has been declared president-elect. SSMU bylaws allow the CEO to invalidate an election if he or she deems “any grave violation of the Constitution, bylaws, or policies” to have “adversely affected the outcome of the election.”
The Judicial Board has the ability to overturn the decision, although Khan would not confirm if he was planning to submit a petition to challenge the ruling.
“My advocate and I are working to take immediate and appropriate action to ensure that fair spirit is preserved and that the democratic process, which is so vital to elections, is not deterred,” he said.
According to Fung, Ayukawa was declared president-elect due to bylaw 16.3 which mandates that in the case of an invalidation, the runner-up becomes the winner. Additionally, there is not enough time left in the semester to run another election according to the bylaws.
Ayukawa expressed excitement at the news.
“This obviously isn’t the ideal way to start off a presidency, but I have a lot of faith in the Society and I have a lot of faith in the students on campus,” she said. “With that confidence, I think I can work with the rest of the executives to have next year be really strong.”
Ayukawa said the controversy around the decision may indicate the need to reform its governing documents.
“I’m definitely very interested in working with people […] to see if they have any opinions on how to change the elections structures and policies to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again in the future,” she said.