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A “constitutional crisis of our very own”

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The following is a letter USSU President Scott Hitchings sent to Members of Students’ Council (MSC) regarding the AGM and the previous by-election for the International Students’ MSC. This letter was originally posted on the USSU’s blog on November 23, 2011:

Members of University Students’ Council,

We are in the midst of what could appropriately be coined a ‘constitutional crisis’ regarding the recently held by-election for the two positions on University Students’ Council for International Students.

In the lead up to the Annual General Meeting, I attended an information sharing meeting set up by the International Student and Study Abroad Centre (ISSAC) in order to explain our proposed amendment to Section 28 to remove the word “association” from “International Students’ Association” and to simply have seats on University Students’ Council for International Students. An email was sent from the ISSAC to each and every international student at the University of Saskatchewan and was thus a very open, and not a closed meeting.

At that meeting I came away with two messages, one being that the changes were acceptable and were not, in fact, robbing International Students of representation or marginalizing International students in any way; the other being that it is important to have International Student representation on University Students’ Council as quickly as possible, and thus that the USSU should move forward with holding a by-election for the two seats for International Students, to be held on the November 17th and 18th. I would like to reiterate that the USSU held the by-election at the behest of those in attendance at the very open meeting set up by the International Students and Study Abroad Centre.

The by-election was indeed held on November 17th and 18th, with the results being Du Rui and Kai Li elected by international students to be representatives of international students on University Students Council.

The problem we now encounter is that the motion to amend Section 28 and remove the word ‘association’ from “International Students’ Association” was struck down, thereby restricting membership on University Students Council to only International Students who are members of the International Student Association. Yet, the International Students’ Association does not exist. Therefore, the two students who were elected in a free, fair, and open by-election by International Students at the University of Saskatchewan to represent International Students on University Students’ Council cannot sit as representatives of International Students because they are not members of the International Students’ Association because that association does not exist.

The exact problem that the amendment to Section 28 sought to alleviate has now flown directly into our collective face. As President of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union, I am required by the Non-Profit Corporation Act, 1995 to ensure that the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union adheres to its own bylaw. Therefore, I must enforce section 28 of the USSU Bylaw and cannot allow Du Rui or Kai Li to sit at University Students’ Council and represent the International Students who elected them to their positions, as a result of the fact that section 28 of the Bylaw states that membership on University Students’ Council must be from the International Students’ Association, which neither Du Rui nor Kai Li can be a member of, for the simple fact that one cannot be a member of a group that does not exist.

This problem would not exist if the amendment to Section 28 had been passed, as the two councilors would have simply been International Students elected by International Students and thus would have been in keeping with the amended bylaw. However, that is not the case, and the problem is now ours to embrace.

I see that there are two solutions to this problem. One solution is one over which the USSU has no control: that undergraduate International Students at the University of Saskatchewan establish and ratify the International Students’ Association. Upon this action being taken, the USSU would then be forced to hold another by-election for the two seats on University Students’ Council for the International Students’ Association.

The other solution is that University Students’ Council – as laid out in the powers of University Students’ Council in the Non-Profit Corporations Act, 1995 – amend Section 28 of the bylaw to remove the word “Association” from “International Student Association”. This solution would still require the USSU to hold another by-election for the two seats on University Students’ Council, but would not require that the USSU wait until an International Students’ Association is formed before holding the by-election. This solution is the most logical; as it would ensure that in the future this problem is never again encountered. However, this solution could also be perceived to be deceitful and/or dishonest.

Unless the University Students’ Council decides that the latter solution is the preferred route, we have no option but to wait until the International Students’ Association forms and ratifies before holding a by-election for the two positions on University

Students’ Council, which ought to be filled as soon as possible. Until such a time comes, however, there will continue to be no representation from or for International Students on University Students’ Council, which is a most unfortunate situation.

– Scott Hitchings

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