While I have written about how we should be expecting campaigns on campus to follow the rules, a larger problem exists. What if the rules need reform?
Having odd rules does not excuse a candidate from not reading the rules, intentionally breaking them or their inability to run a disciplined campaign team. But regardless of how all of these recent appeals for the McMaster Students Union president-elect turn out, there should be a re-evaluation of what is necessary to keep in the rules and a consistent system that serves to better represent the severity of each violation.
There are a few different approaches to how violations have been approached over the years.
One example of this is rule 5.1., which reads, “Materials may not possess any logo(s) of the MSU, McMaster University, or McMaster University recognized groups”. This is a standard violation.
In 2016, a cooperative approach was used when Mike Gill was tagged in a photo of someone wearing an MSU Spark shirt. This was deemed to be in violation of the rules for the usage of an MSU logo. The Chief Returning Officer warned Gill about the situation, Gill replied that the person was not on their campaign team and the CRO added that it was still their responsibility to ask the individual to take the photo down, which it was. The motion to fine Gill failed.
In that same year, Justin Monaco-Barnes uploaded a campaign video filmed in the Underground that had the MSU and Child Care logos visible. The CRO notified Monaco-Barnes, and the team put a “censored patch” over it. Two motions passed: the first was related to 5.1., and the second was for inappropriate use of MSU resources.
It is also worth noting that Gill’s violation had to do with a non-participating member posting an MSU logo and Monaco-Barnes’ violation came from his campaign team. This election also featured a ruling that dismissed a complaint against Jonathon Tonietto as they could not verify if someone using Snapchat was on his campaign team.
2018 featured a different approach according to the Jan. 25 minutes. The CRO emailed all candidates stating that all logos needed to be blurred. This came up in Rabeena Obaidullah’s violations when a campaign team member wore a McMaster sweater in their photo on the campaign website and in the team photo. This resulted in a 5.1. ruling, and a severe violation for deliberately breaking a rule.
The 2018 election also featured multiple rulings that added non-participating members to campaign teams, then passing violations on those teams.
The actions of members added to Aydin’s team resulted in one standard violation. Multiple standard violations and one severe violation were added for Farah because of members added to the team by the committee and multiple standard violations were added for external endorsements. One additional standard violation was added for retweeting a non-MSU member’s endorsement, which is fair. Multiple standard violations and one severe violation were added to Odaidullah because of members added to the team or friends of the candidate.
Inconsistencies when it comes to the communication of violations with the candidates and the rulings on those violations and on non-campaigning members have led to this year being strange when it comes to rulings.
In 2016, you could be relatively sure that all of the violations against Sarah Jama, who was disqualified and later reinstated after appeals, were from her or her campaign team. Her disqualification and reinstatement went through a process that evaluated her designated team’s ability to follow the rules, and uphold the integrity of the campaigning period. This year has been questionable whether Farah and Obaidullah deserve to be disqualified on their own merits or if they were disqualified thanks to things that were out of their control.
These different approaches to interpreting the rules should be clarified and overhauled to allow for each year to be judged similarly. There should be no questions about whether the subjective interpretations by the elections committee in a particular year have significantly influenced the election results or fines levied.