On July 13, a complaint was filed to the Discipline, Interpretation, and Enforcement Board (DIE Board) alleging that a University of Alberta Students’ Council councillor was ineligible for their seat. Since then, the complaint has been retracted, and any potential investigations into the incident are set for council to discuss.
In the complaint filed by Christian Zukowski, council’s speaker, he alleges that Haruun Ali, an arts councillor, is in contravention of Bylaw 100, section 3(2). That bylaw says “every councillor is required to be enrolled in the faculty they represent,” and Zukowski had found Ali to not be enrolled in the faculty of arts. Zukowski’s anticipated witness was Matin Koohkan, Students’ Union (UASU) chief returning officer (CRO).
Bylaw 100, section 8(1)(c) requires that the speaker of council “confirm that all individuals occupying positions requiring them to be undergraduate students meet all requirements set out in bylaw” every term. Because Bylaw 100 has no instruction for how to remedy situations where councillors are ineligible for their positions, Zukowski brought the issue to the DIE Board.
Zukowski’s requested order for the DIE Board was to remove Ali from Students’ Council immediately.
Speaker of council says complaint was filed “in good faith”
Included in Zukowski’s complaint was a list of claims, which he alleges had led up to the complaint.
In the timeline included, Zukowski received an email on June 28 from a member of council noting that an unnamed councillor was in violation of Bylaw 100. The day after, Zukowski began confirmation of councillor eligibility, but the process was delayed until July 11.
Zukowski worked with the the UASU governance staff and Kookhan to verify enrolment.
On July 11, Zukowski was forwarded email correspondence from the elections office with the U of A stating that Ali was not presently enrolled in the faculty of arts. The following day, Zukowski met with Ali to “request that [he] resign from [his] position.” Ali refused.
Notably, the complaint adds that “whether or not [Ali] will be enrolled in the faculty of arts for Fall semester of 2022 is irrelevant,” as he was not enrolled in the faculty of arts at that present time.
In the 2022 Students’ Council election, Ali had received a letter from Lucas Marques, previous CRO, that stated he “fulfilled all election eligibility requirements in accordance with Bylaw 100 and 2300.”
Although Zukowski had known about the letter, he still initiated the DIE Board complaint because he did not see it “within [his] powers to allow [Ali] to continue to be in contravention of bylaw.”
“The purpose of the resignation [request] was never to get him off council; it was always to help him come back as [a] councillor in the faculty that he’s in,” Zukowski said. “I did try to act in good faith.”
The reason Koohkan, this year’s CRO, was involved in the investigation was due to Zukowski’s inexperience with the speaker role, and following conversations with other UASU staff, he decided to reach out to the elections office, who has contact with the U of A registrar.
Zukowski’s filing stemmed from the complaint about an unnamed councillor, but Koohkan had also received a complaint prior that specifically named Ali. However, Zukowski maintains that he had no knowledge of the complaint made to the elections office.
Complaint about councillor alleged to be “targeted”
Ali was the first councillor who had their eligibility for council checked. This has led to claims from Ali that his eligibility check is “selective enforcement of bylaw.”
“It’s been made to seem like [Ali] was targeted, but the intent has always been to confirm eligibility of all of council,” Zukowski said. “[Ali’s] information just ended up coming up first.”
When asked when he would complete the eligibility check for other councillors, Zukowski said he would need “a little bit more time.”
“I don’t have a clear timeline for that.”
As for why he withdrew his DIE Board complaint, Zukowski explained that the issue had grown, and council should be addressing it.
“This honestly became a much bigger thing than I anticipated,” he said. “As this evolved and grew into a larger issue, it became clear to me that council as a whole will have to determine their own path forward from this.”
Councillor alleges eligibility check violated his privacy
Prior to receiving written permission from Marques, Ali had reached out to Marques to ask if he could still run as an arts councillor if he was registered for arts in the Fall semester. In the email correspondence back, Marques stated, “yes you can still run.”
Ali alleges that the collection of his information from a Google Form sent out by Koohkan is “potentially a violation of … [the Personal Information Protection Act] (PIPA),” and that the UASU “illegally obtained [his] data.” He is currently in the process of determining if they did so.
When Ali found out about the DIE Board complaint on July 14, he was “shocked,” and responded by telling council that he would be “writing a letter to the minister demanding a public inquiry into [the complaint] and several other improper behaviours that the [UA]SU has exhibited.” Ali, however, has not sent this demand, and there was no “fully drafted [letter.]”
Since then, Ali has received confirmation from the faculty of arts that he will be enrolled in arts in the Fall semester. He was originally meant to be in the faculty for May and June, but due to a “larger mix up” his enrolment in the faculty was pushed to September.
During his July 12 meeting with Zukowski, Ali had offered to resign on July 21. He explained that this was because he “did not want to drag this out” and receive violent threats like those during the election.
“While I believe that the privacy concerns were important, I do not want to publicly drag this out,” Ali said. “The reason why I [offered to] resign is because I did not want to have any more violent threats to me from Reddit.”
The reason for a later date of resignation was also so that Ali could finish his work as chair of Nominating Committee. Zukowski refused this offer, asking Ali to resign immediately, which Ali also refused.
“I wanted to ensure that we can have a smooth transition out.”
Ali brought up the fact that this kind of eligibility check has not been done for a long time, something that Zukowski agreed “hasn’t been done for a few years.” Ali alleges that this complaint may have stemmed from personal disagreements within council.
“This is a very odd situation. I don’t think this has ever been brought up in the history of the UASU,” Ali said. “I just think this is an archaic bylaw — part of Bylaw 100 that to my knowledge hasn’t been used in a couple of years [and] the UASU just so happened to be pulled out and use this year.”
Elections office claims there was no breach of privacy
In early July, Koohkan received a complaint that named Ali as the councillor ineligible for their seat on council.
Koohkan was aware that his predecessor, Marques had issued a letter giving written consent for Ali to run as an arts candidate. However, he alleges that the information Marques received does not match the information now.
“[Marques] told me that the information given to him is not what is being said right now,” Koohkan said. “[Marques] informed me that he was told that [Ali] would be in arts by Spring term.”
In an interview with The Gateway, Marques stated that this was “personal information” that he could not disclose, but stated he had followed all bylaw requirements of his position. He added that once the election had passed, it was “not really under the elections purview anymore.”
“For all the candidates, I did get the letters from [their] faculties … [and] I did not make any decisions with any candidates without having their full nomination packages,” Marques said.
To confirm Ali’s faculty registration, Koohkan reached out to the faculty of arts undergraduate office to get a confirmation about Ali’s registration within that faculty. They responded saying Ali was not in the faculty of arts at the time.
All councillors sign an Information Sharing Agreement, in which certain information requests can yield information about councillors’ program of study. In this agreement, the UASU “may apply to the university’s Information and Privacy Office for approval to use personal information” for specific purposes. In this instance, the Information and Privacy Office was not contacted — only the faculty of arts.
However, Koohkan maintains that there was no breach of privacy from the Google Form that he had sent out to council.
“Information was not given to anyone who would not have access to students’ IDs, including the speaker of council,” Koohkan said.
“I was in the belief as a CRO that Councillor Ali has been the violation of Bylaw 100 section 3, and the CRO can always discredit or disregard a decision made by the past CRO if it is on good basis of facts.”
Investigation pending council’s decision
Following the DIE Board complaint’s retraction, Ali called for a special meeting of Council Administration Committee (CAC) to be held on July 18. At this meeting, CAC decided that a potential investigation should be further discussed by all of council.
In this CAC meeting Marc Dumouchel, UASU general manager, offered both an external and internal investigative option. Councillor Ali stated during the meeting that he preferred an external investigation so a “reputable third-party [investigation]” could be conducted. Dumouchel added that the internal investigation was also “not [his] favourite option.”
Dumouchel mentioned various external options available with pricing based on complexity of the case. In other similar cases, the cost of the investigation has been from $5,000 to $25,000.
The investigation will be discussed again at the council meeting on August 9.