The Lister Hall Students’ Association has officially been charged under the Code of Student Behaviour by the University of Alberta, following an investigation by Protective Services.
Due to privacy concerns, the nature of the allegations haven’t been confirmed, but The Gateway has obtained evidence that Students’ Council was asked by the SU executives to approve $10,000 in legal fees during an in camera Council session.
Although SU President Colten Yamagishi clarified to Council that this money would be an increase in their budget and not necessarily be given to the LHSA, the ultimate argument for the approval of this increase was to assist the LHSA with legal fees in regards to the case against them, which he called an “attack on the delegated authority” of the SU.
“When we go into a really complex issue like this, not only do we need someone with extensive legal background and material, but also someone who could advocate for the individual in that meeting,” Yamagishi explained.
“We think this is a really serious issue, and we need the best of the best.”
LHSA President Eric Martin was not able to comment on the situation as of press time, but Yamagishi told councilors that Martin had been forbidden to investigate his own case.
“That’s what (the Discipline Officer) told him. They said, ‘You can’t go on the internet, you can’t look up some of these videos.’ These investigations are just ridiculous,” he said.
SU Vice-President (External) Petros Kusmu added the reason for taking the meeting in camera was because Martin and his lawyer were told not to discuss the topic outside their meetings with the Discipline Officer.
“Doing so, they said, would lead to a direct investigation into (Martin),” Kusmu added.
Deborah Eerkes, the director for the Office of Student Judicial Affairs, said the process for charging a student group is nearly identical to the one used when charging an individual, although she couldn’t comment on the specific case.
She added decisions are made on a case-by-case basis to protect the integrity of the unviersity’s processes, but that it’s extremely unlikely a student would be forbidden from even revealing the fact they’ve been charged.
“I don’t know that anyone would ever be prohibited,” she said. “Again, I don’t know the circumstances, so it would be really hard to comment on that, but typically, no.”
Once evidence is compiled and a case is built, Eerkes said the accused party is brought in for a meeting.
“That group, or student or whoever it is, has the opportunity to respond to the evidence, to provide other documentation, if there’s something about that evidence that stands out as either incorrect or incomplete, that student group can say so. And then the Discipline Officer does further investigation,” she explained.
“All of our decisions are appealable, and everything else, the process is pretty much the same. Everyone has a right to hear the case against them, to provide some sort of information or defense, bring an advisor, all of those things,” Eerkes said.
When asked for comment, SU Vice-President (Student Life) Saadiq Sumar said Martin was the best person to comment on the matter.
“In terms of everything that’s going on, we are not in the know, because (Martin) has not been able to tell us anything,” he said. “Everything that we know, Council knows.”
When asked during the in camera session why the SU isn’t going through the ombudservice, Sumar told councillors he believes they have exhausted all other avenues of action.
“The reason why I believe the ombudservice would not do anyone justice, really, is that we believe the system itself, the Code itself is not written in a manner that is good for students,” he said.
A statement from the U of A said it would be inappropriate for the university to comment on the proceeds of an in camera meeting, and that the university does not disclose particulars of discipline cases.
“Respecting the due process rights of students and student groups, as well as ensuring the integrity of the discipline process, is of the utmost importance,” the statement read.
Council voted to pass the $10,000 increase, with nine abstentions and zero against.
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