Letter opener not required in latest student union developments
MAR 22, 2013 | BY YUKON DAMOV
UPDATED* Team Renew was acclaimed last week in the midst of internal turmoil that continues to stew. In addition to threats of defederation, the executive team-elect has encountered its own controversy. Team member Sana Ali forfeited her candidacy for vice-president external in the middle of the election and publicly criticized campaign management, leading to a video response from Team Renew that received fierce backlash, including a petition to have the videos removed.
Aimee Quenneville, University of Toronto Students’ Union board member-elect, began the petition Monday, arguing that Ali “is being personally and maliciously targeted by the current UTSU executive” for critiquing UTSU’s “conformist policies” as an insider. In an open letter posted on Facebook at 1:00 am Thursday morning, Quenneville has demanded that the videos be removed from Youtube within 48-hours.
Team Renew was unavailable for comment when the newspaper went to print.
Sana Ali dropped out of the campaign last week Wednesday, posting an open letter on Facebook decrying the campaign for “groupthink,” stifling dissent, and an unwillingness to consider internal reforms.
Ali wrote that when she tried to express her views on online voting, “the skewed election process in favour of incumbents, and keeping communication lines with the ‘opposition’ open” the conversations were effectively cut short. These are all major planks of a Ali was saying that “opposition” views are not welcome inside UTSU.
UTSU executive team-elect released its two-part video response over the weekend. The emotionally-charged public video mixes personal, direct addresses to Ali with attempts to rebut her criticisms, especially denying the claim that the team’s platform was given to the candidates, not created by them.
Ali considers the video the kind of “emotional blackmail and group pressure” that she believes Team Renew exhibited throughout the campaign.
“It was what I faced when I was still part of Renew and they have done the same thing now that I’ve removed myself,” Ali told the newspaper. “I don’t think they addressed my real concerns, they just tried to make me feel bad and they definitely made me look bad.”
Ali and Team Renew, who have not spoken to each other since her withdrawal.
Munib Sajjad, UTSU president-elect, thinks that the video achieved its two-fold goal. “We wanted to address things stated in her letter and we did,” he told the newspaper, “but we also wanted to take the opportunity to let Sana know that we were genuinely hurt by her quitting and not speaking to any of us about it beforehand or afterward.”
Quenneville wants the videos taken down not only because she considers them personal attacks, but because she believes they could affect Ali’s admission to graduate school, that they reflect poorly on the University as a whole, and 500 signatures, a quarter of the total “yes” votes received by the victorious candidates, is more than enough support.
Sana Ali has decided not to run as an independent for the open position from which she withdrew. “The truth is, this whole thing has really taken a toll on me, and though I have gained a lot of support, I have also made some enemies, and it’s been difficult figuring out how to move forward.”
As Team Renew figures out how to mollify its strident opposition, or, alternately, tries to let this latest saga fizzle out into oblivion, it has found itself in a difficult spot before even taking up its positions.
*This article has been updated as of March 22. The March 21 article read, "UTSU released its two-part video response over the weekend." The correction has been made to read, "UTSU executive team-elect released its two-part video response over the weekend."
- Subtitle: In a week full of ‘open letters,’ UTSU board member-elect demands Sana Ali videos be taken down