Graduate students elect new GSA executive

Meaghan Labine has been elected the new Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) president for the 2010-11 year.

The other GSA executive include: vice president external, Liz Gonsalves; vice president academic, Peter Nawrot; vice president internal, Fahoud Delijani; vice president health sciences, Pawan Sharma; senators Raja Chakraborty, Mohammed Sadek and Ning Ma.

Labine said that ,while at this point she had many ideas, it is important that any decision made by the council be made as a team.

“It is imperative that our executive all are involved in the decision making process and passionate about our first steps, which will translate into our greater directive,” said Labine.

“With that being said, we do have goals for the coming year, with the main focus being to turn the GSA into a proactive organization that identifies issues that are important to U of M graduates and then efficiently working to either resolve those issues or see the initiatives resulting from those issues through to fruition.”

Other presidential candidates included Tim Melnyk and Dewa Mangal.
Mangal explained that she almost withdrew her name from the election, but it was too late to take her name off the ballot.

“I just thought I was not able to work for this position or handle this position as I’m so busy. It didn’t seem reasonable to me,” said Mangal.

Mangal said she may consider running for election in the future, but it would depend on whether or not she is still interested and had the time to commit to the position.

“The main reason why I wanted to be the president was to bring positive changes. Then I realized that I don’t have time, so that’s why I really didn’t put any effort or go through the election process because I didn’t want to win if I didn’t have time to work.”

The election ran smoothly without any major issues, with the exception of a few candidates who didn’t adhere to the election bylaws, said Chief Returning Officer (CRO) for the GSA 2010 elections, Rotimi Ojo.

“We have the constitution and bylaws that need to be strictly adhered to, but some of the candidates didn’t adhere to that and as the CRO I need to make the decision to disqualify some candidates because of that,” said Ojo.

Arman Vahedi was disqualified from election for the Vice President (External) position.

“That was a pretty unusual incident,” said Vahedi.

Vahedi said he was told he was disqualified after sending out personal e-mails to people asking them to vote for him that had not been approved by the CRO. He explained that he had been somewhat confused as to what the election bylaws allowed him to do.

“It’s a little bit ambiguous if any material or if any individual materials should be approved or not.”

Ojo explained that he and the election committee decided to disqualify Vahedi because they found his actions to be in violation of the bylaws.

“Part of the bylaws says that I need to approve every email before they are sent out but he didn’t send me a copy of the email before it was sent out,” said Ojo.

Ojo said that although Vahedi apologized for his actions, the damage had already been done.

“Some of the people that he sent the e-mail out to complained about the content of the email, so I had to disqualify him.”

Although voter turnout was slightly higher than last year, Ojo estimated that only 10 per cent of the graduate student population came out to vote.

Part of the reason for the low voter turnout is because most graduate students aren’t campus based. Ojo suggested an online voting system to compensate for this, adding that the GSA also needed to be more participative.

Said Ojo, “I believe we should have more vibrant councilors who want to get people to come out and participate in the GSA.”