As MUN Students’ Union 2017 election cycle gets underway, the Elections Committee and Chief Returning Officer, Tiffany Holmberg are facing allegations of breaking policy in regards to the display of campaign material, and how the space for that material is allocated to candidates.
Under subsection 2 of section 3 on banners in the MUN Students’ Union policy guidelines, the policy states that, “The location of the banner must be booked with the CRO. A draw will take place at the official CRO candidates meeting to determine the order in which banner locations will be chosen”.
The guideline is shown as last revised in 2014, and is ostensibly the most up-to-date policy available. It is the only guideline which is available on MUN Students’ Union website. The union bylaws, which are also provided on the MUN Students’ Union website, indicate that the policy guidelines are the material to be followed during an election.
Campaign Manager Says CRO Not Following Guidelines
Pierce Collier, campaign manager for Executive Director of Finance and Services hopeful Matthew Drover, is calling the changes to the policy unfair.
Collier says that despite given policy stating that the draw for banners should have been held at the CRO candidates’ meeting last Friday, his campaign was not notified of the new policy until the following Monday morning. Collier says the change disadvantaged Drover’s campaign, stating:
“The bottom line is, the fact that we’re not following a bylaw, I think it did put us behind the eight-ball, because we only got our banner up today [Tuesday], whereas all the other candidates had theirs up yesterday”.
Sophia Solomon, one of the three candidates running for the Executive Director of Finance and Services position, was the first to have her banner up Monday afternoon. By seven-o’clock, four other candidates had their banners displayed. Matt Drover’s banner was put alongside the others Tuesday afternoon.
Collier says that he doesn’t think the Union made an oversight in policy, rather that, “…it was the elections committee more specifically, that either made an oversight, or due to political posturing or some kind of influence, where they said, well let’s not do that again, let’s not follow our bylaw this year”.
CRO Defends Actions
Following a request for clarification on the policy, an email sent to editing staff at the Muse from Holmberg stated that the ‘draw’ system, as it is commonly referred, is used only in instances where multiple candidates request the same space for their banners. Holmberg says that because no candidates came forward at last Friday’s Candidates’ meeting, she assumed that candidates hadn’t decided on locations yet, and there was no need for a draw.
In a separate email, obtained by the Muse, Holmberg clarified to the candidates that the banner placement has always been on a ‘first-come-first-serve basis’, and that the ‘draw’ method is used only in cases of conflict between candidates. In the email Holmberg stated that, “First come first serve is not based on emailing me, but putting your banner up”.
The ‘draw’ policy was waived during last year’s election, when only a single executive position was contested between two candidates. Holmberg acted as the CRO for that election, as well as the year prior which used the ‘draw’ system stipulated by the policy.
Amidst this year’s confusion regarding the alleged policy changes, Collier says that he doesn’t know how potential candidates might access the correct information.
“We’re trying to engage people” say Collier, “which has been a past stated goal of almost every Director of External Affairs I have ever known, and many others on the Union have said they wanted to get students involved. How can we do that if we don’t do the simple things like provide them the correct information on running elections? It just doesn’t make sense”.