CSU Reinstates Laforest, Gallardo for CSU Election
Two heads, as they say, are better than one.
In that spirit, students will have more choices than expected when they vote in this year’s Concordia Student Union general election, as the CSU Judicial Board voted to reinstate A Better Concordia presidential candidate Schubert Laforest and VP Academic and Advocacy candidate Lucia Gallardo on March 16.
“We’re happy,” Laforest told The Link after the hearing. “We’re happy that we’ve finally been officially reinstated, so we’re not in this awkward grey zone of worrying about whether we can campaign.”Gallardo and Laforest had been disqualified by CSU Chief Electoral Officer Ismail Holoubi on March 5, though the disqualifications were only made public on March 10.
In an email to The Link on that day, Holoubi stated that the two, as well as Council hopeful Ullyana Stefashkina, were not eligible to run, due to not being registered students at Concordia.
Stefashkina did not appeal the ruling against her.
After nearly a week of confusion over the issue, the decision by the JB was reached quickly.
“We didn’t receive any evidence that they were not students from the respondent,” said JB member Shannon Thomas.
Both Laforest and Gallardo attributed their disqualifications to bad timing and confusion with paperwork over their visa status in Canada.
“I had an [old visa], and then I got a new one, but it hadn’t been fully processed yet,” said Laforest. “Therefore Student Accounts put a block on my account. Once I got proof that that document existed, there was an issue with my loans not coming in, [which caused me to pay my tuition late].”
In Gallardo’s instance, she said she had two visas, both of which were valid. When the Dean of Students office checked on her status, the paperwork had not yet been refilled with the information from the right one.
“I have two visas, and they overlap. One of them expires in June, and the other one starts in March. They wanted the long-term visa, which goes from March  to March 2017, which is the one they wanted on record,” she said.
Gallardo had submitted the visa information on Sunday, while the verification took place on Monday.
“It took me by surprise, but at the same time, it’s part of being an international student and I think this has helped raise awareness of international student situation, so I’m actually kind of happy in a way that it happened.”
While Gallardo thought that the issue had hurt the A Better Concordia team’s campaign effort, Laforest said that it wasn’t yet clear if the issue had hurt their chances.
“I personally feel like it hurt, because I wasn’t able to go full-force and campaign like I would have liked to, and neither has Lucia,” he said.
“However, we did get a lot of recognition as to what actually happened to us, and the story got out there and got people more interested in what was going on in the elections.”
Though the reinstatement is official, the JB has yet to issue its full written decision. Thomas said the document will include recommendations for the future.
“[We’ll be recommending that] people be more aware of their student status,” she said.
“I know that people don’t check their MyConcordia portal every minute of the day […] I know it’s tough to check every two minutes on your visa, but the recommendation is just for people running for important positions in the future to keep abreast of their situations.”
While the JB hearing got heated on several occasions, with Gallardo at one point accusing Holoubi of “smearing” her character while questioning her on the chronology of events, both candidates expressed confidence that it will not affect Holoubi’s ability to run the election.
“I think the CEO is still on top of these things,” said Laforest. “He may have been offended by the decision, but at the end of the day, he’s doing his job and I think that he will just continue to do that and whatever his personal feelings are won’t get in the way of administrating this election.”
Holoubi did not respond to The Link’s emails by press time.