Philosophical ideas on slates, freedom of assembly, democracy etc can and have already been extensively debated on numerous other posts. As of right now, we should depart on a bit of a tangent in examining the system within the post-slate era that UBC students currently find themselves in. It seems to me like there are several issues to the recent disqualification of Blake Frederick.

There is an obvious inconsistency from year to year in the subjective interpretation of code. The question is whether there should be.

The interesting cases always arise when the political meets the judicial, and within this context let us consider the judicial party to be the four 20-something year old bushy-tailed individuals who have been appointed by councillors (last minute as always, is my guess), relying on partial evidence, but not obliged to follow any explicitly outlined procedure except for their own moral guidelines.

Of course, from year to year the Student Court anticipates being busy during this time of year, when candidates appeal the decision of the EA’s office, hoping their luck at a more “legal” or “official” body, traditionally consisting of students with at least some legal training.

Then there is the issue of whether or not AMS council, the highly political body, will decide to accept the appeals decision of the Student Court. It is in poor form not to do so, but as the archives are my witness, Council has overturned or rejected its rulings numerous times as it sees fit, at the moment’s political flavour at hand.

So, when we come back to the specific issue on slates and the recent disqualification of Mr Frederick, how robust should this interpretation of a code be from year to year? Should a candidate be “testing out” the mood of the EA, seeing what he or she can get away with?

Is campaigning alongside other candidates in the same room vehemently slate-like to one reasonable person, but a-ok with another?

Is the EA contradicting her own words when she disqualifies candidates who campaigned together in a cafeteria, but earlier allowed classroom announcements to be made together?

The subjective interpretation of reasonable standard becomes the gray zone in which the EA’s office enters the power play to make or break the political career of the candidates.

From year to year, this interpretation has differed. To quote Spencer Keys, father and founder of the post-slate era, the punitive measures on slate-oid activity has included:
“…in 2005 one candidate was found to have had his website registered and paid on the credit card of a candidate in another race. He got a 24hr campaign suspension.

In a more relevant example, despite lots of candidates doing speeches at the same time, it was ruled (if I recall correctly) that a line was crossed when one candidate told a classroom to “Vote progressive” when numerous candidates had explicitly identified themselves as “progressive.” That person also received a campaign suspension (I think) but it hardly mattered anyway when they won by 500 votes. The first guy lost his position so it also didn’t matter.”

Should there be a list of precedent rulings to be followed as general guidelines for the candidate’s sake, such that they know what is and is not considered slate-like behaviour? Keep in mind that these rulings themselves may have had their share of controversies, involving the Student Court and lateron Council.

Or perhaps in this post-slate era, there are very few people left who remember how blatantly obvious a slate was like, and the purpose behind banning them has reduced itself into a witch-hunt for even the most invisible alignments, friendships included?

It seems to me the EA’s were given no transition as to the intentions behind this particular section of code, and are now keen for the election to become so puritan to the point where a candidate should run in the other direction if someone else is postering on a prime location, or campaigning in the same cafeteria.

What a precedent.


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  1. I’m not entirely sure if you want EAs bound by precedents set by their predecessors. I mean, I once exiled your former boy from campus as a penalty for the remainder of an election, a penalty many through too extreme (I thought I was being lenient; amazing how ones perspective changes the view). Situations are always so different that discretion really is needed.

    Posted by Chris | February 12, 2009, 10:39 am
  2. There really are few people still on campus who actually know what ‘slates’ meant or seen them in action. As someone here doing my second UBC degree (I know, what was I thinking!) and who has been here for 6 years, I am one of the few who actually saw slates in action (and then only in my first year of undergrad). What occurred in this election was, in my mind, not a slate.

    I agree with Gina that there has to be some sort of guidelines laying out specifically what is not allowed and what the punishment for those actions are. This would allow candidates to ensure that they do not violate these rules and allow EAs and ECs to punish candidates for violations in ways that are deemed by everyone to be fair and unbiased (after all, if you know what the punishment is and what the crime is… you’re asking for it if you do it). With the current situation I don’t think candidates even know what is actually okay and what is not as there are too many mixed messages being sent.

    Posted by Amanda Reaume | February 12, 2009, 1:03 pm
  3. Being bound by precedent isn’t necessarily needed but being guided by precedent should be required. The problem with increased specificity by Council is the danger that any list that’s created becomes a list exclusive to all others rather than a list of features that exists as a starting point. As Chris says, flexibility is required.

    What should be required is that election rulings (as well as Appeals Committee and Student Court rulings) be logged on the website so both candidates and the Elections Committee have access to previous rulings and can allow “case law” to develop.

    Nevertheless Gina, good post.

    Posted by Spencer | February 12, 2009, 1:25 pm
  4. One of the major issues the AMS dealed with last year was a firm definition of what constitues slate. The definition is fairly loose, and from what Blake has been accused of, he does qualify as having broken the rules as what a slate is. However, so did I when I ran last election cycle.

    Before Stephanie Ryan (former AUS Prez) and I were off of Council we tried to set a firm definition of slates. This would have allowed people to share resources, organize similar strategies, but ultimately be unable to endorse another candidate. This ammendment to Code was stopped by AMS Council by quite a substantial margin. The AMS, on both the left and the right, confirmed their strong belief in their opposition of slates on that vote last year. We may lament the misfortune that has befallen Blake, but it was not without precedent nor without strong support from the AMS.

    Posted by Andrew Forshner | February 14, 2009, 12:41 am
  5. For what he has been accused of, his actions may fall under that “rule”. You made a subjective judgement call which only the EA’s office can make.

    My argument is that the ambiguous and subjective interpretation of the EA’s office of code can be a problem, ie, where she allows joint classroom announcements, but when it comes to campaigning on different sides of the cafeteria, it’s a red flag worthy of retroactive disqualification.

    The more worrisome issue in the long run is that because of this inconsistency and ambiguity, conjoined with a lack of precedence from year to year, a candidate is out to lunch when it comes to knowing exactly how knitpicky they must be in terms of following code, especially in the gray areas such as campaigning in the same class.

    Posted by Gina Eom | February 14, 2009, 4:12 am
  6. “so puritan to the point where a candidate should run in the other direction if someone else is postering on a prime location, or campaigning in the same cafeteria.”

    Let’s not be naive and pretend that this is what was happening.

    Posted by Chris | February 20, 2009, 4:22 pm
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