Is Legal Ethical?


Outdated Students’ Union policies give way to totalitarian appointment of Brody Haskell

Over Super Bowl weekend, the Washington Post published a minute-long advertisement expressing their slogan: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” It was made to represent the struggle foreign correspondents face in the rise of journalistic related terror across the world. This ad can also relate to the current situation involving our incoming president and the recent controversy.

First off, a vote happened. Cecil VanBuskirk was elected, with 63% of the popular vote. As a result, he takes on the position of president of the Students’ Union, and with that comes the responsibility of representing StFX students. 

Perhaps a critique of the voting results is needed. I can assure you that several people voted for VanBuskirk because of his wide-spread presence on campus meeting with societies and departments. Perhaps people viewed Will Fraser as abrasive and too ‘know-it-all’ for them to get his vote. But, there is a difference between voting for a candidate based on a public appearance and voting for a candidate based on research of their platform. 

“Knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free,” the Washington Post commercial claimed. The student body should  reflect on that mantra and make an informed vote for the candidate that reflects what they value in the future.

Secondly, yes nepotistic qualities were shown when VanBuskirk chose his friend Brody Haskell as the new Vice President of Finance and Operations. The recent controversy happened at the council meeting on March 17, 2019 regarding the hiring process for executive members of the Students’ Union.

VanBuskirk found a clause  in the By-Laws that needs fixing. Isn’t that a good thing? Within the Students’ Union, there are three main documents: The Act of Incorporation (The Act), By-Laws, and a Policy Manual. They all should be seamlessly fluid with one another, and unfortunately, they are not currently up-to-date. 

This is also a problem with the high turnover rate of Council positions, as actually changing By-Laws takes time, and is not simply voted upon in council, it must be brought up to the legislature. The responsibility of the By-Laws falls to the Chair of Council. It is a gargantuan task to go through every single law and make sure it is consistent with The Act, albeit to have it done within a year!

The Act of Incorporation contains the clause VanBuskirk enacted to supersede the By-Laws. It is a document that has not been updated since 1972. That should say more about the current rule and law processes of the Students’ Union than of VanBuskirk himself. He did not do anything illegal, he was well within the scope of the policies.

Don’t blame VanBuskirk, blame the Students’ Union for neglecting their duty of hiring lawyers to edit documents that impact the integrity of the Students’ Union. At least now, an increasing amount of students are voicing their displeasure about the issue on social media. This is better than the alternative of having no conversation. However, only a quarter of the student body voted to begin with in this past election. A lack of publicity effort on behalf of the Students’ Union, who did not advertise the debate in The Xaverian Weekly and advertised only 13 days before the election on their own social media account, could be factors in those numbers. 

In the end, the lines between ethical and legal became muddied. The extent to how Vanbuskirk exerted his power showed the flaws in the systems of the Students’ Union at large. In order to have a total democratic student government means that the policies and acts that are a part of it have to show democratic values, and without it, there will always be an opportunity for unethical behaviour, however legal it may be.