Students’ Council delayed the appointment of a new chief tribune to the Students’ Union’s judicial branch due to the applicant’s political alignment.
Last Tuesday, councillors debated the appointment of law student Karamveer Lalh as chief tribune of the Discipline, Interpretation, and Enforcement (DIE) Board after arts councillor Stephen Raitz raised concerns over Lalh’s affiliations with the United Conservative Party (UCP). The DIE Board provides judicial oversight for the Students’ Union and is responsible for the interpretation and enforcement of SU bylaws.
Council discussed Lalh’s appointment in an hour-long closed session, during which media and the public were not allowed in council chambers. When the session ended, Speaker Jonathan Barraclough said further discussion on Lalh’s appointment would be postponed to the next council meeting on July 24.
Lalh is the treasurer of the United Conservatives at the University of Alberta and was a volunteer for the UCP’s policy subcommittee. The UCP currently maintains a position that SU fees should be voluntary.
In a statement to The Gateway, Lalh said he is disappointed in the delay due to the board currently being understaffed.
“I do want to say that I do not work for the UCP and have no obligation to conduct my personal or professional life in accordance with their policy manual,” Lalh said. “The UCP (or any other political party) does not give members directives. My obligation to the Students’ Union and the students of the University of Alberta predates the UCP’s existence.”
Lalh’s appointment was forwarded to council by arts councillor Robert Bilak due to Lalh’s experience in student governance and his work as the past president of the Interdepartmental Science Students’ Society. Lalh is currently the DIE Board’s acting chief tribune after the previous chief tribune graduated, and is the only applicant for the position.
Raitz said while he wasn’t against Lalh’s candidacy, he was worried Lalh’s affiliations with the UCP may harm the SU.
“I am totally aware of the SU’s traditional non-partisan stance and I am somewhat aware of how the DIE Board operates,” Raitz said. “Based on the fact that this person will have a lot of power to disempower the SU, having a candidate like [Lalh] directing disciplinary decisions stirs up some thoughts in my mind.”
Barraclough questioned the need to discuss Lalh’s political affiliations, saying “a person’s political affiliations would not necessarily make them not good at their job.”
Lalh said his partisan affiliations were stated in his resume and that since joining the DIE Board in 2015, his political affiliations has never been a problem.
During the council meeting, all five Students’ Union executives were away attending a Council of Alberta University Students conference in Lethbridge. The executives are expected to return for the next council meeting on July 24.
Lalh said he plans on attending next council meeting and would be happy to testify if required by council.
“I trust that this delay will be resolved soon and the DIE Board remains able to hear cases in a timely manner,” Lalh said.
Update (July 23, 5:35 p.m.): The Students’ Council meeting on July 24 has been cancelled. Another meeting has been scheduled for July 31.
Update (July 31, 11:10 p.m.): On July 31, Students’ Council voted unanimously to appoint Lalh as chief tribune of the DIE Board.