CSU to remove General Coordinator from office
Executives unanimously signed a letter to remove Elijah Olise from his position
Members of the Concordia Student Union assembled a letter containing a list of allegations against General Coordinator Elijah Olise.
All seven remaining executives signed the letter to the CSU’s chair on July 18 calling for Olise’s removal in a special council meeting.
The executives compiled Olise’s breaches of policy. These included failing to submit documents in time, sending faulty information about position appointments, and “dereliction of duty” as General Coordinator. A meeting devoted to the matter will be held on Wednesday, July 27.
In the letter presented to CSU chairperson Michelle Lam, the executives described lengthy periods of time when Olise was on leave. The letter also notes his “repetitive failures to reply in a timely manner to communications from other Executives,” as well as his failure to submit his report for a June council meeting.
Executives accused Olise of a broader “failure to execute any significant work since he took office,” including an incident where he did not obtain a list of undergraduate students in time, one of the required tasks of his mandate. Another executive was forced to obtain special permission from the Concordia administration to retrieve the list in Olise’s stead.
The clause being invoked to remove Olise from office is bylaw 10.3.2., which states that executives may be removed “by a simple majority vote of the Council of Representatives upon the recommendation of at least four members of the Executive.” All seven executives endorsed this removal.
According to Academic and Advocacy Coordinator Asli Isaaq, what pushed her to support the removal was Olise’s handling of responsibilities surrounding the Concordia Board of Governors. A supplemental document accompanying the letter included evidence of misconduct on his behalf involving the appointment of BoG representatives to Board and Senate Associate Secretary-General Shelina Houssenaly Kassim.
“It was not an easy decision at all. We debated it for a while as a team. It felt like the right choice to make because from the beginning of our mandate, we had a hard time working with the General Coordinator.” — Sabrina Morena
During a regular meeting on June 8, the council selected councillor Nassim Boutalbi and Internal Coordinator Fawaz Halloum to represent the student body at the BoG. Though the executive traditionally present at the Board is the general coordinator, Olise lost his bid to fulfill this duty. He nonetheless contacted the secretary and told her he would be present at the Board instead of Halloum.
After noticing discrepancies in Olise’s accounts about who’d be present at the Board, Houssenaly contacted the CSU, thus informing executives of Olise’s violation of bylaws 7.5.4. and 2.1.7. These bylaws state that the general coordinator is in charge of correctly implementing and representing the decisions of council.
“His actions after the Board of Governors meeting and his dereliction of duty—with Elijah, you have a CSU executive that doesn’t work and is getting paid by students to not do work, not abiding by the bylaws and going behind council’s back,” Isaaq told The Link.
The letter also mentioned “irreconcilable differences and complete breach of trust between the present General Coordinator and all of the other members of the CSU Executive Committee,” which motivated the executives to take action.
“Going forward, we’ll probably divide the GC’s tasks amongst ourselves. It sucks, but we’ve been operating quasi-without a GC for a little bit, so we’re a well-oiled machine when it comes to dividing up [his] tasks,” Isaaq added.
“With Elijah, you have a CSU executive that doesn’t work and is getting paid by students to not do work, not abiding by the bylaws and going behind council’s back.” — Asli Isaaq
Loyola Coordinator Sabrina Morena was saddened to see such events play out, but believed the right steps were being taken. “It was not an easy decision at all. We debated it for a while as a team. It felt like the right choice to make because from the beginning of our mandate, we had a hard time working with the General Coordinator,” she said.
“There were several breaks in policy. We felt like he wasn’t respecting our members and our team,” Morena continued. “He requested mediation sessions, but after that, there wasn’t a clear follow-through with a date or time or when he’d be available despite contacting him several times.”
In an email sent to councillors on July 19, Olise responded to the allegations. “I have made efforts to mediate conflict as well as connect with the team, to develop a healthy working relationship. From the beginning of our mandate (training), it may have been shut down, dismissed, or ostracised and my value has been diminished due to my junior experience as a Concordia student,” he said.
Olise has felt that there has been a severe lack of empathy and understanding towards him, creating an inhospitable environment. “What started as excitement for a role representing students, led to unwarranted stress and a feeling of isolation within a role that requires the cooperation of the CSU executive team. I began to feel disempowered to do the job I was elected to commit to by the Student body of Concordia,” he continued.
“What started as excitement for a role representing students, led to unwarranted stress and a feeling of isolation within a role that requires the cooperation of the CSU executive team.” — Elijah Olise
Several team members have described Olise’s removal as a last-ditch effort to reason with the General Coordinator. After a multitude of breaches in policy, a demand for a letter of resignation was sent to Olise on June 13, a month before the removal letter was submitted.
The resignation request cited his “refusal to cooperate with the team,” and “obstructing the democratic process of the CSU regarding appointments and interviewing of chairpersons.” The resignation request also included accusations of “dismissing and silencing people during team meetings,” and “openly reprimanding or calling out employees.”
Olise has felt like he was being pushed out, and the June letter only furthered that feeling. “Since the resignation was not truly voluntary, it is, in effect, a termination. I was presented with a letter requesting my resignation on [June 13] moments before our executive meeting,” he wrote. Olise has deemed this situation a constructive dismissal.
“Throughout my mandate as the General Coordinator,” Olise said, “I have felt as if I was walking on eggshells with the team, and every action I committed was viewed with doubt. Never in my opinion truly receiving the benefit of the doubt, or any nature of good faith.”
Despite the ongoing situation, the executives are nonetheless preparing for their upcoming year, Morena claimed. “For the time being, we have to adjust as a team. This changes the team dynamic and puts us in shock a little bit. The team will meet after this is done and work something out.”