Elections Results…oh, and Kopp is exposed

As we all know, the UMSU election results came in, and like many other students, we were quite disappointed with the results.

Mostly because we believe that electing Tanjit Nagra is just going to be a continuation of the same kind of UMSU we’ve seen with Jeremiah involved over the past three years. We’ve said it before and will say it again, Tanjit was and still is very close friends with Jeremiah Kopp. So close that he hired her as Volunteer Coordinator at UMSU for the entire year and she didn’t have to go through any sort of application or interview process, Jeremiah just gave her the job. And she made sure to use this position all year to her advantage, gaining contacts and accessing other freebies and perks from UMSU through Jeremiah.

At this time we do take solace with the election of three UMSU Strong candidates who will hopefully stop any potential unethical behaviour, corruption or mismanagement of students money.

Speaking of which…

By now you should have all seen this recent article in the Manitoban newspaper that shows how UMSU President Jeremiah Kopp likes to treat our money.

As you know, we’ve been talking about this type of activity at least for the past couple of years as students have reported seeing him on countless occasions living large on the student union’s finances.

Thanks to Finance Committee members doing their jobs and standing up for students, Kopp has been exposed in some of his spending habits from the past year. Over $29,000 in ten months as President charged on the UMSU credit card and then charged out to UMSU budget lines. It was reported at Council he charged close to the same amount as Vice-President Internal on his UMSU credit card. What we don’t understand is why he even had a credit card as Vice-President Internal, did Finance or Council approve that? Previous UMSU execs we spoke to say they never had one. So why does any executive member need a corporate credit card? Maybe the President should have one for UMSU-related emergencies, but not to spend at their own discretion.

Jeremiah Kopp claims all those charges were “legitimate” purchases, going through proper channels, but were they actually approved through Executive committee? Just getting staff who report to you and who you’ve threatened and intimidated for the past two years does not count as proper approval. Approval is asking your peers on Executive, and if it’s over $5,000, approval is asking permission from Finance Committee before spending any money, especially on capital and other major purchases. If it’s a grey area and questionable, or just outright unethical, for example, spending students money on alcohol for yourself, or taking friends out for fancy lunches or buying expensive gifts, or booking a super expensive hotel room for a few nights in Ottawa where you already had accommodation and charging three in-suite movies to the account, or taking out $900 in cash advance, or just about everything on the list of charges found on Jeremiah’s credit card statements, he should be asking for permission first.

It is evident that Jeremiah Kopp has been treating the UMSU Council budget as his own personal charge account with no proper approval or pre-approval of expenditures. He claims it is all “legitimate” and that everything was to benefit students, but students are no longer that gullible to his bogus claims. Just because UMSU Council approved a budget, this does not give him the authority to spend it as he solely sees fit. From what we can tell from reading UMSU bylaws and talking to previous UMSU Execs and Council members, expenditures out of that budget must be approved through the Executive, Finance Committee, and/or UMSU Council, and not just one person dictating where to spend our money. As you can see from the email exchange with UMSU accounting staff regarding Jeremiah’s request to give his buddy Wilfred Sam-King (newly elected VPE) some students’ money to go on a trip, he is not following UMSU finance and sponsorship policies and he appears to have no regard for bylaws, policies and doing what is right and ethical when it comes to spending other people’s money. To Jeremiah, it appears to be all about doling out money and benefits to friends and supporters and of course on himself and his girlfriend. Now, how about that forensic audit look at last year’s expenditures by Jeremiah as well, as we said it here before, we all know he charged a hefty amount on the UMSU credit card as Vice-President Internal with the same attitude and behaviour, and complete disregard for financial rules and ethics.

We’re sure there is more to come…

Stay tuned.


UMSU Elections: Candidate/Slate Platforms Part 3

For this post, as promised, we will be looking at the platforms of the other UMSU slates and the independent candidate. After reading through all of their policy documents, we must say, for the most part, we were quite impressed.

Zach for Pres
Independent candidate, Zach LeClerc, running under the name Zach for Pres, has been doing a pretty good job of getting his message out there with only a fraction of the budget and not so many volunteers. His ideas are broken down into three categories: Governance and Operation, Opportunities and Services, and Programs and Events, with almost all promises appearing valid, as he has the experience from being on the Executive this past year and from being involved in residence and on campus for quite a few years already.

Comparing the two current UMSU executives running for President, Astitwa and Zach, Zach wins hands down when we look at work ethic, credibility, and trying to do the best for students, and Zach definitely has more realistic goals for UMSU in his platform this year. With his knowledge and experience, Zach promises to make things better at UMSU in a lot of different areas, whereas, as we mentioned earlier, almost all of Astitwa’s promises from last year weren’t reached or even attempted, and this year many of his promises appear unattainable. But some people will say anything to gain power.

Yes, we still have some doubts about Zach seeing as he was in office for a year and we really didn’t see much improvement in transparency and accountability, and UMSU actually got worse in many areas. But, he has identified some of these areas for improvement in his platform, so that’s a good thing. Maybe we can chalk up most of the toxicity and mismanagement of UMSU to Jeremiah’s “leadership”; however, we also note that Zach was free (and obligated) to report to Council what all Executive members were up to, including the President, and provide regular financial reports, share financial statements, and open up UMSU from the veil of secrecy as we see it today. Will that change if Zach gets elected? We sure do hope so. And many of his promises appear to show that he wants to head in that direction.

Take Back UMSU
For the Take Back slate, Andy Fenwick and his team seem to be in it for many of the right reasons, first and foremost, making UMSU for and about students again. They have a few great ideas for doing this, and released a full policy guide earlier this week outlining in more detail how they are going to fix UMSU from what it is today, taking it from a Top-Down organization where executives control everything to a Bottom-Up democracy where students actually have a say. This will include Town Halls, Ad-hoc Transparency Committee and remodeling the Governance and Operations Manual to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment in UMSU.

Take Back also talks about re-establishing relationships (damaged over past three years) to help combat the budget cuts across campus. Great idea! The bylaw and policy proposals are also valid, as UMSU should be required to go to referendum when asking for a fee increase, especially one as significant pushed through Council by this year’s executive – including Astitwa, Zach, and Jeremiah, in late November. And yes, there definitely should be a policy that states that all UMSU executives remain non-partisan during other student faculty council elections, but don’t forget other elections as well. We’ve had enough of the recent UMSU executives using UMSU time and resources to campaign for City, Provincial and most recently Federal political parties/candidates.

We are not sure about their idea for a degree long-term cost guide, but it could be possible to develop, as long as students are on board for using it. The UMSU budget breakdown is a great idea, as more information the better for students; after all, it is our money. However, they could go further on this and give students more of a direct say on where their money is spent through some sort of valid budget consultation process. Addressing Aramark’s monopoly on campus is a daunting challenge, but some of their ideas here seem manageable. We also like the mention of working to reopen the Used Bookstore, closed down by this year’s Executive with no real explanation to students, some vague mention of moving it to an online selling system, but of course, students were left to fend for themselves with no reason or support from UMSU.

As we mentioned about Strong UMSU and UMSU For You, the promises to get discounted parking passes and various opt outs for the U-Pass and Active Living Centre are unattainable. And some of their other promises around the job database are similar to other slates, but we are not sure how easy this will be to complete and maintain. However, overall, we like Take Back’s focus on providing more services for students and making UMSU a student union again.

UMSU Forward
Last, but certainly not least, we are doing an analysis of the slate UMSU Forward. Niall Harney is running for President, and we have heard him and other UMSU Forward candidates speak very well and very strongly on important student issues and tangible ideas during the election forums. They may not have the most glossy or fanciest posters, but they do seem the most genuine and relatable to students.

UMSU Forward’s campaign approach has been less aggressive and more connected to listening and engaging in students’ interests and needs. The platform is very detailed, as you have hopefully seen and reviewed. They break down their ideas into five main pillars – Advocacy, Climate Action, Food Strategy, Transparency & Democracy, and Student Community. This made the document easy to read and understand their proposed plans for the coming year. Although it was a lot to read, we actually appreciated the detail and reasoning in their promises, and it showed that they had taken the time to think through and develop their commitments to ensure that they are actually attainable.

Some of the key highlighted promises pulled out the document include: defend students’ rights, create a student-run and owned composter, an UMSU food strategy, including $5 meal deals, better options for international students and residence students, campus farmer markets for fresh food options, participatory UMSU budget, revamp social media and communications, consultation sessions, building community, regular free breakfasts, student-run competitions, increased support for student groups, among many other ideas and commitments. And, from what we can tell, most if not all are attainable and necessary for a functional, representative and engaging students’ union. For more specific details on their platform, check out their facebook page, as again, we were quite impressed with their comprehensive package of promises for students.

Regardless of who you decide to vote for tomorrow, please first consider what has happened at UMSU over the past few years, what do the slates/candidates actually represent, who can actually fulfill promises and not waste students money (Astitwa and Tanjit have failed in both these areas), and who can we actually trust to try to make our UMSU better, for all students, not just a select few and their friends.

Get out and vote today and tomorrow at a polling location on campus near you.

Make your vote count. You can make a difference.

UMSU Elections: Candidate/Slate Platforms Part 2

This post is the “UMSU For You” Policy Guide – in full review.

The first seven pages are bios of each candidate. We skipped this part, you can too.

The first section on Governance & Policy outlines a few policies and transparency promises. This includes their unattainable commitment to change the U-PASS contract to allow for new opt-outs for bike riders, carpoolers, students with accessibility needs, and students living on or near campus. Tanjit claims that her position as UMSU Volunteer Coordinator this year has provided her with insight and knowledge of UMSU governance and administration, but it appears she either didn’t ask questions or retain any information when it came to the whole U-PASS program and subsequent negotiations. Or, maybe she is just making these grandiose claims to do something that she knows is not possible at this time, specifically for political gain. As we all recall from the referendum question, the U-PASS program does not allow for those additional opt outs. And, for “UMSU For You” to create a 12 month pass, UMSU will have to go back to the students with another referendum and a new price to expand the program for 12 months. We don’t think this will be happening any time soon. Yes, by all means, lobby the City to ensure that they provide more buses due to increase usage, but we are pretty sure the City Transit officials know how to do their jobs and have already planned for that.

For the Health and Dental Plan, “UMSU For You” claims they are going to reduce costs and still provide effective services by negotiating for lower fees. Again, they seem to ignore the fact that UMSU, under Kopp’s leadership as VPI two years ago, locked all University of Manitoba students into a five year contract with their friends at Student Care. We guarantee you they won’t be decreasing any Health and Dental Plan fees any time soon. In fact, we can be fairly certain that they will increase the fees again, which is a common trend with these multi-year contracts: increase each year, then a slight decrease before the contract renewal. As we all know, fees were jacked up significantly last year, with the claim that it was because the plan was doing so well. How is it that UMSU can effectively run a fully insured health and dental plan prior to this multi-year Student Care contract for over ten years with little change in premium prices while adding additional coverage, providing flexible membership and quality front line support, and retaining all excess premiums? We have said it before and we will say it again, it is becoming more and more evident that individual students and UMSU as an organization have been significantly screwed over by short-sighted and bought-off executives.

Under transparency, “UMSU For You” promises to live stream UMSU Council meetings. Okay, sounds great, if it’s possible. But this doesn’t really improve or “ensure complete transparency” as their Policy Guide claims, as all it will do is allow students to watch and listen and not actually participate in meetings. Live-streaming the meetings is also likely to deter councillors from speaking up, or running as representatives at all.

“UMSU For You” talks about Budget Consultations and Communication, which is great, and yes, students should be aware and involved the University’s Budget, but what about UMSU? Why not budget consultations for UMSU’s annual budget as well? That is a significant way for students to be involved in setting the priorities of the Student Union. Monthly Board of Senior Sticks meetings should be a given, as well as properly advertising and holding UMSU AGM’s once per term. It’s sad that candidates actually have to make this as a promise as these minimum requirements are actually noted in UMSU governing documents and should just be automatic. Tanjit likes to brag about creating a budget consultation for the Faculty of Arts, but she did this just a week before the elections started, where was she all year? If you weren’t able to attend the election forum in Engineering, check out the UMFM podcast where Tanjit suggests that only the small Arts departments were impacted by the cuts (about 36 minutes in).

We’ve had courses cut across arts programs this past year with many intro courses offering online options only in place of in-class courses. Tanjit demonstrates some real ignorance here about issues that students she claims to be representing are struggling with.

We like that “UMSU For You” is reiterating the need to have an inclusive UMSU Council, which will be much different from the toxic and unsafe environment that has been spearheaded by Kopp, but how can they guarantee the selected UMSU Chair will act in a manner to ensure full transparency and equality during meetings? As Council members can attest, this obviously isn’t happening now, so why did the current UMSU Chair, Kyle Mirecki, publically take a leave of absence to help on the “UMSU For You” campaign? This is a clear violation of his neutral role as Chair of Council, by the way.

We like the fact that “UMSU For You” is promising to provide regular updates on finances and initiatives, but again, this should just be automatic, and we are unclear what they are actually promising here. Does this include more emails to all students with actual information, updates, and financial reports? More details would be great. We are sure that an increase in transparency when it comes to where our money is being spent will be greatly appreciated by all students. And yes, we agree, polls and surveys are great, if implemented and used properly, something we haven’t seen this past year with the Executive’s “consultation” to increase UMSU fees.

“UMSU For You” promises Online Voting. This is scary, and a very bad idea. They say they will partner with an “external organization” to conduct online voting for referendums and future UMSU elections. First of all, from what we have learned through our research, these programs are often very expensive, and as we have seen at other organizations who have implemented online voting, nothing is hack-proof. We spoke with a graduate student who, since the UMGSA switched to online polls, wasn’t able to vote in the last executive election because their U of M email account wasn’t working. Furthermore, how do we guarantee this “external organization” is reputable and above board, and not just another friend connection of the current executives (and their supporters) wanting to retain power? A lot of serious questions and concerns here and no real way for a CRO to regulate.

Under External Relations, “UMSU For You” promises to pave Markham Road. Again, unattainable, but if you read the fine print, they are just going to advocate to the City to do this, which means nothing will happen as we all know the City has budget limitations and other funding priorities. This also sounds like another case of this slate wanting to tell city officials and administrators how to better do their jobs. We are sure they will appreciate that.

“Student Experience”, the favourite buzzword of UMSU and the University over the past few years, but nothing has really improved in this area during that time, and “UMSU For You” is promising nothing new for students. The Frosh and Frost Music Festivals have been money losing ventures for students since they began, and more recently only pretend to break even with hefty financial “donations” from student faculty councils. Over the past number of years we have seen student faculty council executives signing contracts (under questionable circumstances and authority) with UMSU for sponsorship in exchange for some promotion, free tickets and t-shirts. For the past few years it appears UMSU has been taking up to $40,000 from U1SC and U1 students to pretend like the Frosh Festival didn’t lose so much money. The financial risk and recent money losses have been significant for a couple thousand people attending these one evening events, many of whom are not even U of M students. There has to be a better way. Doesn’t UMSU have staff to plan events such as Orientation, or their more derogatory term, FROSH? Why are students paying huge cash for UMSU to hire outside companies to organize this UMSU event? Friends getting lucrative contracts again? Remember when Al Turnbull hired his close friend to lose over $170,000 (including $20-25,000 from U1SC) in students’ money for the inaugural Frosh Music Festival a few short years ago? UMSU needs to stop this cycle of wasting so much student money on these types of events. How about a concert and social event that is financially and operationally manageable, organized by UMSU and using local, affordable, quality talent? It can be done.

“UMSU For You” makes some promises about restructuring Student Group fees. This commitment is very confusing. Are they talking about Student Groups recognized by UMSU? That’s what it sounds like, but what are these student group fees or levies they speak of? From what we understand, unless your group is separately funded through a referendum-approved levy (e.g. WUSC, Engineers Without Borders, UMREG/Bike Dungeon) then most UMSU student groups are supposed to receive annual operational and event funding from UMSU Council and its Student Group Promotions and Affairs Committee. Regardless, “UMSU For You” makes no mention of what this “rearranging the structure of students fees” actually means for student groups on campus. Do they even know?

“UMSU For You” says they will make sure that the bus shelters on Dafoe Road are kept warm. There’s no indication on how they plan to do that. More promises that are outside of their control, and so they can’t honestly claim they will “ensure” it to happen. This includes “Longer hours for gym and libraries” (has University budget implications, and likely won’t happen); “More study space/improved lounges” (needs capital funds from admin and students); “Bannatyne faculties convocation” (University decision, they can’t “ensure” this).

“UMSU For You” also wants students to pay for a Counselling Centre in which the University should already be providing. Many questions remain with this promise, such as how much will this cost, who will staff it, will they be fully trained, where will this be located? Again, much like Strong UMSU’s promises, many details are lacking, and why are students proposing to take on this cost when it should be an essential service already provided by the University?

We are sure the University of Manitoba’s Waste Prevention Office will appreciate hearing about how they are doing a terrible job with the recycling program on campus. How will “UMSU For You” actually ENSURE that all buildings and lounges are equipped with an equivalent number of recycling bins to waste bins? How will their proposed campus compost program work? Who will coordinate this, and how will it be funded? And, for the promise “to revamp and rebrand the Bike Dungeon”, did the “UMSU For You” candidates talk to the organizers of this service first? From what we understand, this is a student levy funded organization, so it might be wise to consult with those students first.

The advocacy commitments – Campaigns, Equity Week, International Student Tuition seem reasonable, as are most of the programming initiatives connected to these promises, but again, most if not all of this should already be part of standard practice in UMSU. It’s great to see the promises related to Indigenous Achievements, and again, this should be standard at UMSU, but sadly in the last few years, this hasn’t been the case. It’s also hard to imagine a quality “equity” week from the slate outed as harbouring racist and anti-semitic beliefs.

“UMSU For You” promises to create a job bank to promote jobs on and off campus. Great idea, except it sounds a bit redundant as Career Services and other agencies already do this sort of thing at no cost. They also want to create a Student Initiative Fund, based on what happens at the University of Calgary. First of all, what they appear to be saying is that they are going to establish another student levy, but hopefully through an actual student referendum this time. Otherwise, where are they proposing UMSU gets these funds? Also, if students are paying for these large-scale projects on campus, do they at least own and/or control a part of these spaces? A lot of questions and concerns remain about this “Quality Money” idea.

While the Resource Fair is a good idea, we have concerns with the proposed “Immigration Assistance Centre”. Why does “UMSU For You” want students to again pay for services already funded and provided by the University through the International Centre for Students?

That’s basically their entire platform. In summary, a few good ideas, but most promises are unattainable, basically strive to do the minimum standards for UMSU operations, and offer the same old ideas for enhancing “Student Experience” on campus, with a few added initiatives of funding programs already offered through the University or for essential services the University should be funding.

We will post our analysis of the other candidates/slates platforms later tonight or tomorrow, but from our initial assessment, any of the slates outside of these two slates – “Strong UMSU” and “UMSU For You”, with their obvious connections to Kopp, will be far better than the legacy they plan to continue.

We hope you find our insight helpful, but we mostly hope you ask questions, get involved, and of course, get out and vote for the best candidates to represent you and to best run your students’ union.

Voting takes place starting tomorrow! March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at polling stations across campus.

UMSU Elections: Candidate/Slate Platforms

For this post, as promised, we are going to delve into some of the many promises from the UMSU Executive candidates.

First up, the slate called “Strong UMSU”, led by current Vice-President External, Astitwa Thapa. With Astitwa running as President and being from the current Executive who made a lot of promises last year to get elected, let’s take a quick peek at how that went. Did students actually get anything they voted for?

We can link back to a post from last year where we reviewed a number of Astitwa’s promises under Jeremiah’s “Your UMSU” team. As we can see, they promised outside companies (namely Shawarma Khan and Green Carrot) taking up UMSU space on the third floor – this did not happen. Astitwa and his team promised a new patio for the Hub. Not one thing happened here. Yes, their original promise was criticized for being very expensive, on University property, and not available for about 8 months a year. So, that’s a good thing it didn’t happen, but really, his team could have at least made the current Hub patio a nicer space for when it is usable/nice outside. Jeremiah, Astitwa and the other “Your UMSU” members also promised renovations to expand GPA’s Convenience Store, and we recall a promise to add some Jenna Rae cakes, but again, nothing happened here.

Astitwa’s team also promised a “Student Access and Initiative Fund”, which we mentioned last year was already happening before the election, and it was just mostly smoke and mirrors to reinstate some of the funding that Jeremiah had cut to these student services and awards the year before. They also promised a 3-day reading week, and this did get approved through Senate, but for 5 days. Yes, they did some work on it, but this was something the University had in the works already, they were in the know and decided to promise it, and lucky for them it happened to get approved for 5 days (as Clear Slate had actually promised last year).

Astitwa also promised a few “green” initiatives, including a waste audit of all UMSU businesses – this did not happen. Last April, before starting his term as VPE, he got a motion passed at UMSU Council to support the Divestment Manitoba campaign to encourage the University to take their investments out of fossil fuels (oil and gas stocks) in the market. However, UMSU continues to invest our money from the Endowment Fund in stocks most likely connected to unethical funds, and nothing has been done or reported about this by Astitwa and this year’s Executive. His Executive also gutted or cut many of the policies regarding sustainability, and unilaterally decided (no motion to Council) to start selling bottled water in UMSU businesses in contradiction to these UMSU policies. The UMSU Green Team under Astitwa was directionless and the students involved often felt frustrated that there was no leadership (or actual purpose) for their group. They all got nice t-shirts though.

Oh, and let’s not forget “Your UMSU” and Astitwa’s promise to spend our money on an UMSU app for students. This again, is another promise that didn’t get done, and surely it would have been easy enough to do under the Vice-President External position, as what else actually got done with respect to that portfolio this past year? Oh wait, he’s promising it again this year. As we said last year, do students really want or need an UMSU app? Not unless it improves Wi-Fi on campus and does our taxes for free, then maybe it will be useful.

What else did the VPE do with respect to his portfolio, namely communications, this past year? Well, the new UMSU website was approved by last year’s Council and most likely designed before he started. As we noted before, the new website is not very functional or user-friendly, it takes about 10 clicks to find anything, especially Council documents, and there is no UMSU financial information (not even a fee breakdown or budget) on the website anywhere, so financial transparency with respect to our money is non-existent. It looks pretty though. That’s about it for communications for the year. Poster boards were rarely updated, and those TV’s seemed to play the same loop of the Executive’s faces and a few ads for UMSU campaigns and businesses. Students have complained that UMSU’s social media presence was sporadic and disorganized at best, with no central posting of what UMSU does and what the Executive have done all year on any social media accounts. The only communication members received from UMSU were emails from Jeremiah, mainly to provide excuses for their fee increase and lack of transparency.

Looking back, there are certainly a lot of promises that Astitwa and “Your UMSU” didn’t keep this past year.

Astitwa graduated in May 2015 with his Environmental Science degree (from the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty), as you will see from his Facebook post below:

But, according to the “Strong UMSU” policy platform document, he is still pursuing his Environmental Science degree with a focus on Sustainable Development. We know you can pursue a second degree, but shouldn’t it be from a different faculty? Or, maybe what happened is he realized he needed to be a student to run for UMSU, so he applied to University again and registered for a course, or just “opted in” to be a member of UMSU.

Also, if you happen to look through Astitwa’s Facebook page, his year as Vice-President External certainly included a lot of traveling and excursions across the country, as well as campaigning for the Liberal Party in the last Federal election. Here he is with Jeremiah campaigning for the Liberal Party candidate, Terry Duguid.

Was any of this partisan campaigning done on UMSU time? As an elected representative of all students, how does he separate this partisan activity from UMSU? We also wonder if any of the travel over the past year was associated with and/or paid for by UMSU, and if so, did UMSU Council receive full reports on the purpose and costs of such travel? We’re just wondering, as there’s nothing in the UMSU Council documents. But again, Astitwa’s reports to Council were pretty minimal to more recently non-existent if you take a quick look in the Council packages on the UMSU website.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the “Strong UMSU” platform and a few of their big promises for the upcoming year. As you will see, they promise quite a bit, but not much detail about how they plan to do any of it. Astitwa’s first plan is to cut the executive’s salary, no indication of how much, but this also brings up many questions and concerns from students. If they are cutting the salary, doesn’t that just mean these executive positions will continue to be filled by students (or non-students who just “opt-in” to UMSU) who are relatively wealthy, don’t need to work and don’t have huge loans to pay for school, and who can just buy UMSU elections and then do little work all year, not be accountable (no office hours, no reports to Council, etc.) and not fulfill many of the election promises? Just an observation. If the executives are actually doing their job properly and doing all of the work required representing students (consulting, providing detailed report, attending meetings, being accessible with office hours, organizing events, and so on…) in a 40+ hour work week, 50 weeks a year, they will likely be paid less than minimum wage. However, we can certainly say we’ve seen executives over the past three years doing very little, taking off countless days and generally not being available to students, and were neither transparent nor accountable to UMSU Council, but still got paid their full salary. Our fear here is that by reducing the Executive’s salary, this will mean they will do even less work (by current standards) and be even less accountable to students. How about they just break down their salary into monthly stipends and then UMSU Council has to approve them receiving their pay if they have done adequate work and provided detailed reports, which may help to ensure they are accountable to students all year? However, we have received concerns from several students about Executive members, including Astitwa, taking “leave of absences” from their position to campaign for faculty council elections to stack UMSU Council with friends and supporters. So, this doesn’t make for a very strong UMSU Council if they are just there to nod along and rubber stamp everything the Executive says.

“Strong UMSU” promises a Sexual Assault Support Centre, but as many students have pointed out so far, this sounds so stigmatizing. Why not have resources in conjunction with current mental health resources on campus? Where is this Centre going to be? Will there be trained staff? How much will this cost? Who will be involved? At this time, it appears to be classic lip service to the cause, with no real intentions of actually doing the work. More details would be helpful.

“Strong UMSU” promises free “feminine” hygiene products on campus, apparently because it is 2016. Well, first of all, if they recognize that it is 2016, they should also recognize using the word “feminine” to describe hygiene products is not the best terminology. How about we just call them hygiene products or personal care products instead? It is 2016, and from what we understand, you don’t have to be “feminine” to use such products. Second of all, how does this promise fit into any sort of sustainability platform? Why not promote healthier and better for the environment options at no cost for students? And finally, as many students have pointed out, this service is already available through the Womyn’s Centre on campus, and has been for decades. Astitwa claims they plan to put these free products in washrooms across campus, which will not only be a huge cost, but Womyn’s Centre members have told us this will undermine and take away from the community built within the Centre.

“Strong UMSU” promises to cut University parking pass fees. This is more lip service to appease those students upset about having to pay for a UPASS and for a parking pass on campus. We all know, and they know, this parking fee reduction is not possible. The University and their business model (of making money off of students for parking, food services, etc.) will not allow for any cuts in these fees. In fact, we will most likely see another increase in parking fees this coming year and there’s nothing that “Strong UMSU” can or will do about it. Actually, as we reviewed all the promises in their platform, we noticed that many of them are unattainable or outside of their control.

“Strong UMSU” promises a meditation and relaxation space for students in University Centre on the first floor. Where is this going to be? Maybe the Manitoban student newspaper office behind GOSA, now that the previous and current executive made a side deal to get them to move their location in exchange for a motion in UMSU Council to increase their student levy without having to go to referendum. This could explain why the Manitoban has done very little critical reporting of UMSU executives over the past couple of years, and also why students are rightfully upset that they have to pay more fees and UMSU executives once again just bypass the referendum process for students to decide where their money is spent. As we said before, why is it that UMFM and WUSC have referendum questions right now, but the Manitoban and UMSU does not for their fee increases? In UMSU’s case, the $64 per year is a drastic increase, and as we have found in the supposed “consultation” survey, students were hardly supportive of the idea of paying $30 more to the Endowment Fund. Here’s part of the current Executive’s submission to the Board of Governors to justify their $64 fee increase.

So, assuming they didn’t inflate the numbers by any means, only three students were the difference between yes and no, but another approximately 1/3 were unsure (likely as they had little information on the proposal to increase these fees). Also note, that the question to students was flawed, as they claimed the Endowment Fund hadn’t seen an increase in over a decade. This is clearly false as it did see a $1.50 per semester fee increase as we found in Board of Governors minutes from May 2013, during Al Turnbull’s first term as UMSU President.

On a final note about the “Strong UMSU” slate, many students wrote in with concerns about two of the slate members (Adam and Benedicte) currently in a relationship, and wondered if this could pose a conflict. Well, we are not aware of any rules against this, but it does bring up some questions around ethics and accountability. The executive candidates are elected individually, meaning that each executive is meant to be independently accountable to all students, and not just show blind loyalty to their executive slate and president. So, like we’ve seen this year, the current VPA and the UMSU President are reportedly in a relationship, which has and continues to create a dynamic where they automatically support each other in votes on Executive and Council, with little to no constructive feedback, discussion or debate. This is a concern, and a major reason why it is highly questionable and concerning for executives to be in such a close relationship. How do they even try to keep each other accountable? Although, to be fair, regardless of relationship status, we really haven’t seen any executive keeping each other accountable in the past few years.

And, one last major point. We’ve had quite a few students tell us that the “Strong UMSU” campaign video is cringeworthy. While we applaud the effort to get their message out there, it just seems so satirical and fake at times. And why does it feature a professor? But, one of the most important things to note, this video was produced by Avery Steadman. Who’s that you ask? Well, he’s a good buddy of Al and Christian, and they claimed he “volunteered” his services to do their campaign video for the “Refresh” slate and again for “Your UMSU”. Although the UMSU Bylaws clearly state that all campaign materials donated or provided for free must have a “fair market value” attached to it, the CRO at the time claimed that they could use this campaign material at basically no cost. This created (and continues to create) a huge disadvantage for other slates that obviously do not have access to these normally high priced resources. In this case, the video, which is over 3 minutes long, and created and edited by a professional, should cost at least $2,000, or more. Other slates or concerned UMSU members may want to call around for quotes on this, but our sources in the industry say that it would be very expensive to create, just factoring in their time alone. And furthermore, Avery is not and never was a U of M student, which clearly violates the UMSU election campaign rules as all volunteers must be UMSU members.

That’s all we have for now regarding Strong UMSU’s campaign and platform. Next up, “UMSU For You”. Yes, we will cover all platforms. Stay tuned.

Keep sending us info and your thoughts and insight. And, we will meet again.

Contact us

We have had a number of questions lately asking for our email address to send us information, so here it is:

Feel free to contact us through this email or through the comment link below.

New post looking at the slate campaign promises coming out soon.

Stay tuned…


These are your UMSU For You candidates…

We are sad to say that these are a few screenshots found on Twitter made by a couple of candidates for the “UMSU For You” slate.

First, we know what some of their loyal supporters are going to say… “Oh, that was 2-3 years ago, he/she has changed!” or how about, “But they’re visible minorities…(therefore it’s okay?)”. No, actually, it’s not ever okay, and 2, 3 or 4 years ago is not that long ago. Do these candidates now get why it is so inappropriate and insensitive to use those derogatory words? Do students get a real apology or another “we are sorry if anyone was offended” kind of gesture with some excuses attached? Are they going to claim it was “just a joke” “in their youth”, just like Chris Belanger and Al Turnbull before them? We are sorry to say, but people don’t just change in a short period of time. We are fairly certain they don’t understand the hurtfulness in their words, because if they did, why is it still publicly available on their profiles for everyone to see and why would it ever be put on social media in the first place? And yes, we have searched all social media profiles of all other candidates, and not one has anything close to being offensive or insensitive as these posts. However, if you do end up finding anything, please share or send our way. What is said on social media is reflective of the individual and students deserve to know who may be representing them.

We need to stop electing people who think it’s okay at any time in their lives to post derogatory and offensive comments and spread negative stereotypes against any group of people. Otherwise, they will likely just perpetuate the toxic environment within UMSU that began a few years ago and has been exacerbated under Jeremiah, who created his kingdom on nepotism, antagonism and belittling others. Don’t let his “from the heart” Facebook posts or his initial kindness to your face fool you. Narcissists know how to play the victim, and of course, play the game well. Beware of the narcissists in this election. They will put up a good front of being charismatic and positive, but behind the scenes they carry and spread a lot of negativity. Students who have worked with Tanjit have noted this about her. And we have already seen two sides to Astitwa in his pursuit for power and presidency. Can we not just elect students who actually listen and care about representing and supporting students and not just people who are wannabe politicians that continue to pretend to care and promise just about anything (but not follow through) just to get elected?

We will be looking further into many of the campaign promises in our next post. Again, if anyone finds derogatory and offensive comments made by any other candidates, please let us know. And feel free to share with us your thoughts on the campaigns so far.

That’s all for now. May we meet again.

UMSU Elections 2016: Who’s running?

This will be a post about the candidates/slates running in the UMSU elections starting on Monday, February 22. Campaigning takes place for two weeks, with voting on March 2, 3, and 4.

First up, the slate named: “UMSU For You”. This is basically the same name as “Your UMSU”, just switched around to make it look new. Not very original, but we guess appropriate as Tanjit Nagra, running for President in this slate, is Jeremiah’s chosen one to continue his legacy (see our latest posts below). Tanjit was a lead organizer/campaigner for the Refresh slate when Jeremiah won as Vice-President Internal two years ago, as well as the official Campaign Manager for Jeremiah’s “Your UMSU” slate last year, as we all know. Last spring, Tanjit ran for President of the Arts Student Body Council (ASBC), under Jeremiah’s guidance and support, of course to use it as a stepping stone for their plan for her to run for UMSU President. Tanjit gets hired at UMSU to be the Volunteer Coordinator starting last summer. No interview or selection process for her though, she’s just handed the job, thanks to her good friend Jeremiah. This shady hiring happened after the Executive had already hired someone through an interview process and after several weeks just let her go for no reason, and we’ve been told that Tanjit was “hired” by Jeremiah within an hour of the other Volunteer Coordinator being let go.  Sounds like a strategic move (and dick move to the other student legitimately hired to do the job) to place Tanjit in a position where she can start to build her volunteer base for her planned run for UMSU President, while getting paid a lot of money from UMSU to do so.

Interestingly enough, we recently received some information from students who had signed up for volunteering at Frosh 2015 and were told by Tanjit that they would be selling drink tickets at the event. However, once they got there, Tanjit said they were no longer needed and she had placed her friends in those positions. These students were quite upset about this, seeing as they arrived early and Tanjit failed to tell them this until they got there, but also because throughout the event they saw some questionable things happening with those friends allegedly helping themselves to money from drink ticket sales. This was the students’ account of what they witnessed, we cannot 100% guarantee what happened, but it is questionable enough to make note of what they saw, and hopefully, someone can look into this.

Feeling entitled to students’ money is nothing new to Jeremiah. He continues to be seen charging large amounts of food and drinks on the UMSU credit card, and he continues to enjoy a huge discount at UMSU’s businesses, a discount he gave himself through approval by last year’s Executive (not through Council). Throughout the past year, Jeremiah has been taking Tanjit to meetings with University administration and government officials, most likely part of his grooming process to pad her resume and build those connections. Tanjit was also very, very active in the Federal elections, helping local Liberal candidates get elected, while also working for UMSU and using her campus connections and resources, paid for by us students. It was interesting to see the ASBC Council, in which Tanjit is President, pass a motion condemning Jeremiah for his actions and behaviour, particularly toward the UMSU Councilor from ASBC. Suffice it to say that Tanjit was not in favour of passing that motion against her good friend and mentor, Jeremiah. But, the majority of ASBC saw differently and saw the real Jeremiah, and approved the motion condemning his actions.

Here we are, the day that election campaigning begins, and Jeremiah has been busy the last couple of weeks helping Tanjit with her campaign. But what about the other slate, Strong UMSU, led by Jeremiah’s biggest cheerleader for the past two years? Astitwa Thapa, the current Vice-President External, is also running for UMSU President, and apparently didn’t get the memo or just doesn’t care that Tanjit is the chosen one, as he has his own aspirations. Astitwa has lined his team with notable students on campus, with at least a few active in student groups, faculty councils, St. Paul’s College, and oh, yeah, active members of the U of M Campus Conservatives and Young Tories of Manitoba. Astitwa, he’s a nice guy. But, we need to remember who his loyalties were with when Jeremiah voted to increase international student fees by 18% at the University Board of Governors last year. To the international students’ faces, he pretended to care, but then they witnessed him running over to Jeremiah to tell him all they said, mock them for being upset, and they both had a good laugh about it. He obviously didn’t care about those students facing huge increases on top of their already high tuition fees, likely as he was done his degree and making over $30K now as Vice-President External. Hmm, but what did he do all year? Really, though. Ah, but he’s a nice guy.

Zach LeClerc, running as an independent for UMSU President, is definitely hard working, actually provides relatively detailed reports to UMSU Council, and appears to have more honesty and integrity than Astitwa and Tanjit, but also know, he has been the UMSU Vice-President Internal for the past year, and sketchy stuff like the $64 fee increase without referendum and a cloud of secrecy still exists when it comes to UMSU’s budget and finances. If he’s running to win, here’s hoping he promises to actually open up UMSU to be more transparent and accountable with our money.

The other full slate running, UMSU Forward, is led by Niall Harney for President. Niall has been involved on campus and leading campaigns that UMSU should be spearheading on behalf of students. The team appears to be made up of students who are quite involved in their respective faculties and with important student issues on campus, such as food, safety, services, tuition and other fee increases, University budget cuts, and actually advocating for students. We are betting the other slates, namely Tanjit and Astitwa, will try to smear them as “communists”, as Jeremiah likes to do with anyone progressive, or just about anyone who disagrees with him or questions his conservative ideologies under that Liberal Party banner he so proudly wears.

Andrew Fenwick is running for President with a partial slate called “Take Back”. We hope that means take back UMSU to actually make it open, accountable, inclusive, and focused on students, and not a “$18 Million Corporation” as Jeremiah likes to call it. Andrew appears to be very active on campus, doing a good job on UMSU Council, questioning the actions and decisions of Executive, and not supporting the $64 increase in UMSU fees as it needed to go through referendum. Andrew has been on Council a couple of years, and was once one of the Executive’s biggest supporters, before he realized what kind of sketchiness was happening with this and previous execs, especially where Jeremiah was involved.

That’s all we will cover for now, but more to come in the coming days.

As a final note, we have noticed that there is a Twitter handle featuring our blog name. While we appreciate that we are being promoted and information is being shared, please note that we are not affiliated with this account and you should keep that in mind with respect to some of the information on there. We spend a great deal of time verifying facts, and maintaining sources and witnesses to what we report. We cannot guarantee that the Twitter account does the same. But again, thank you for getting the word out.

Till we meet again.