After Appeal, Judicial Board Chair Resigns
The ongoing controversy surrounding the position of Concordia Student Union Chief Electoral Officer took another turn last week, as the Chairperson of the CSU Judicial Board resigned, citing personal reasons and a “toxic environment.”
Cassie Smith, who had presided over the hearing that nullified the position of former CEO Bram Goldstein on Nov. 2, sent her letter of resignation on Nov. 10.
“To preserve my health, my sanity and my grades,” Smith took the “difficult but necessary decision” not to commit “academic suicide” by remaining on the JB, an independent ruling body of the CSU. The resignation came as an appeal to overturn the Goldstein decision was being drafted.
In her letter of resignation, Smith explained that the “stress […] in the face of repeated personal attacks and harassment from some of the parties involved in this complaint,” also motivated her decision.
“I feel like this entire affair has been underpinned by a fundamental lack of respect and it is simply not worth it for me to remain in such a toxic environment,” she wrote to the CSU Chair.
Smith explained to The Link that, “unsolicited […] messages sent to my Facebook account aggressively berated me on a personal level.
“In a larger sense, I feel like the parties involved in the complaint have at various points treated each other with clear disrespect,” she said. “I understand that this has been a contentious issue, but I feel like that makes it even more
important that people conduct themselves with civility and professionalism.”
In her letter of resignation, Smith also recommended that fellow JB member Ceejay Desfosses step in as Chairperson. Desfosses was voted into the position by the rest of the JB members on Friday.
The role Desfosses will play in the future has been called into question, however.
Respondent and former CSU councillor Tomer Shavit filed an appeal of the JB’s decision citing a “lack of impartiality” on the part of Desfosses for “acting in a hostile manner,” “possible collusion [with the Plaintiff,]” requesting she “recuse herself from any future proceedings on this matter.”
Shavit also cited CUTV footage from the JB hearing Nov. 1 as supporting evidence.
“The problem is that I’ve accused [Desfosses] of not being impartial, and now she’s the new chair of the JB,” said Shavit.
Desfosses told The Link on Nov. 14 that she was aware of what Shavit has formally accused her of.
“Even though I understand that the source of his anger is the disappointment of the outcome of the final decision, it does not mean he is any less accountable or responsible for his unprofessional ex-parte communications […] in addition to making unfounded and serious accusations,” she said.
The CSU Bylaws state that the “Council of Representatives may, at the request of a party to proceedings, annul a decision of the JB by a four-fifths majority vote […] should it conclude that the JB decision was manifestly unreasonable or motivated by racism, sexism, collusion, bribery, homophobia or a conflict of interest.”
“The accusations against [Desfosses] in the appeal have to be dealt with before the Board can move forward since it is a conflict of interest for the JB to preside over a case that questions the conduct of its own members,” agreed Smith. “The Board has contacted the Council Chair in an effort to find an appropriate way to proceed.”
Shavit told The Link that while he has “no problem with the other three members [of the JB] not mentioned in [his] appeal to preside over the [process],” he did take issue with the amount of time the possible conflict of interest might take to be resolved.
Desfosses told The Link that, as of press time, the treatment of the appeal is suspended “until the appropriate course of action is decided,” adding that she believes an independent body should be called in to handle the matter.
With the November byelection weeks away, Shavit said he “would like to see the JB change their decision and not accept the complaint filed by the CSU, to see Bram [Goldstein] re-appointed as CEO and the matter of [Desfosses] be taken care of.”
Goldstein’s dismissal on came after JB concluded on Nov. 2 that last year’s Council did not follow proper hiring procedure, and would thus imperil the legitimacy of any elections held under Goldstein.
While Smith preferred not to comment on the appeal, she said she has “personally never seen [Desfosses] exhibit any behaviour that would point towards collusion.”
The next CSU Council meeting will take place Nov. 23 in H-763. The political action starts at 6:30 p.m.