International student barred from running in upcoming SU election
By: Julieanne Acosta, March 4 2022 —
The Chief Returning Officer (CRO) of the Students’ Union (SU) has voided the nomination for Mateusz Salmassi — an international student — from running for vice-president external in the upcoming SU general election.
“The CRO has voided my candidacy by wrongly claiming that I couldn’t work for the SU full-time because study permits have a 20-hour workweek restriction, because I would violate my permit as I can only take one course per semester, and because my study permit has an expiration date within the next term,” said Salmassi in a press release.
In light of this, Salmassi submitted a Review Board application on Feb. 11 and the Review Board has asked the CRO to explain the decision by providing a number of documents.
“Had the SU staff personnel, Nikhat Ahmed, or the CRO explained their concerns with my candidacy, I could have provided information and explanations without unnecessarily expending Union resources on a Review Board application,” read the application by Salmassi.
In an interview with the Gauntlet, Salmassi and his would-be campaign manager, Isabelle Reynolds, further explained their concerns.
Reynolds noted that the Government of Canada states in federal legislation that international students can work more than 20 hours a week if they are employed on campus, including by the SU.
“The SU is saying that there are hours he’s going to have to work off-campus and they’re not sure if we are going to be able to ensure it’s 20 off-campus hours,” said Reynolds. “The reason that this decision by the CRO does not make sense is that Mateusz will be employed on-campus and his off-campus activities will be fundamentally linked to his on-campus work.”
SU bylaws state that SU executives can’t take more than one course scheduled during Union office hours. However, Salmassi notes that in order to remain a full-time student he could pursue a minimum of nine units or six units with official accommodations.
“[The CRO] stated that taking this higher course load would be ‘difficult and uncommon.’ Whether someone can handle taking more than one course in the role is arbitrary and between the student and their team in the SU,” said Salmassi in the press release. “This isn’t something the CRO should rule on to exclude anybody from participating in an election.”
Salmassi was also advised by the U of C International Student Services to not apply for an extension of a study permit sooner than 90-120 days prior to the expiration. Salmassi affirms that he has every intent to renew his study permit.
“We really want to explore whether there are simple accommodations that can be made within the role of SU executives that can make accessibility for international students to be SU executives,” said Salmassi. “My hope is that we can overturn the decision through the Review Board to open the gate for international students in the future.”
When asked about the SU’s policies regarding international students running as candidates, Mike Brown, the SU’s external communications specialist wrote in a statement to the Gauntlet that there are no restrictions, however the SU is bound by Canadian law with regard to working hours.
“There are no specific SU policies in place regarding international students and SU elections. However, the SU is also bound by Canadian law including legislation that limits the number of hours and locations where international students can work while studying in this country,” read the statement.
In closing, Reynolds expressed how disappointed they are with how this decision was made and the resulting actions they had to proceed with.
“The way that this decision was made with no information for us in advance and no indication that this was going to be an issue is concerning. The process of appeal was arduous and we had to put in so much work in order to make it happen. It resulted in the likely situation where we’re not going to be able to run the campaign and I’m really disappointed that we don’t have the opportunity to offer [Mateusz] as a choice to students.” said Reynolds.
All SU governing documents can be found on their website. For more information on the SU election, visit the SU website.