The AMS’s chief electoral officer has been terminated.
Olivia Yu — who was hired in August to serve as the society’s chief electoral officer (CEO) — requested termination while AMS Council was in a closed session on Wednesday, November 24 due to what she perceived as improper employee treatment from the student society.
The past three council meetings have featured in-camera discussions — which are closed to everyone but AMS execs, members of Council and select staff — on “employee conduct.” These discussions are confidential, but Yu cited these closed sessions as the reason for her termination request.
“I do not want to work for a society that chooses to think that it's a proper way to treat an employee by having these long in-camera sessions without including the employee [in question] in them,” she told The Ubyssey.
On Tuesday, Yu said she notified the society that if these closed discussions continued, she would request termination. After Council was in-camera for an hour on Wednesday night, she submitted her request.
When asked what led up to Yu’s termination, AMS President Cole Evans said he couldn’t comment on the specifics. “All I can confirm is that the Chief Electoral Officer position is currently vacant.”
Evans said the AMS always discusses HR-related issues in closed sessions to “respect the personal confidentiality of an individual or a group of individuals whose conduct is being discussed.”
“In all situations at the AMS, we will always make sure that we are treating employees fairly and giving them an opportunity to respond and [an] opportunity to share their experiences,” he said.
While the discussions in closed sessions remain private and confidential, Yu was called into one of the three in-camera sessions briefly.
Yu did not comment on the content of those discussions, but said she said the situation with the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) election appeal put her in a “downward spiral.”
In October, the then-newly-elected computer science (CS) representative from the SUS appealed her decision to invalidate his election results due to him not being a CS student. The AMS Elections Appeal Committee later validated the results on a technicality, although the committee agreed that the rep shouldn’t have been able to run. The representative has since resigned due to online scrutiny.
Yu added that she believed she wasn’t given the respect and support she deserved from the AMS and Council.
“It's unfortunate because I do love what I do, but it's a bad job. It's like a really bad job.”
Yu expressed concern about the lack of a proper transition when she got into her role. She said she was given the transition report and little else. Past CEOs called the CEO position “a monster truck rally” and “the worst job in the AMS.”
Evans said that while the AMS will always make sure its employees are supported, the student society also expects all hired employees to act professionally, with care and “in a way that is aligned with the values of the organization.”
Yu said she did nothing that violated AMS Code, bylaws or policies.
A suspension of code
At the same meeting, councillors voted to suspend a section of AMS Code that prevents them from voting on motions during closed sessions.
The section of Code III-1-27(b) prohibits Council from voting on any motions outside of its public, open sessions.
Council briefly came out of its closed session Wednesday night to vote on the motion — which was moved by VP Academic & University Affairs Eshana Bhangu and seconded by Evans — before returning to closed session again. It’s unclear whether they voted on a separate motion in closed session, and if so, what that motion was about.
The meeting ended shortly after, according to a message from Evans.
In a separate statement sent to The Ubyssey, Evans defended Council’s decision, citing “strong precedent for this procedure in exceptional circumstances,” including in December 2013.
Evans added that transparency is “a core value and priority of the AMS,” but that certain cases require items to be considered in closed sessions.
“Common reasons for ... this include legal items, issues relating to personal confidentiality, HR-related topics, and other topics that are in the best interests of our membership to remain confidential,” he wrote.
Preparing for AMS Elections
This termination will likely further complicate the AMS’s efforts to increase student electoral engagement after the 2021 AMS Elections had a turnout of only 6.9 per cent.
In April, the student society formed an Elections Engagement Committee to produce a report on electoral engagement, however, after the committee failed to meet over the summer, it was dissolved, with work passed over to the Elections Committee. The Elections Committee, which was chaired by Yu, is expected to release its own report in January 2022.
Evans said the AMS is still focused on running a successful election season in the spring, including hiring a new CEO and other election positions.
“We will continue to find ways to make sure we're engaging students and giving them reasons to vote in elections.”
“I would just say that myself and the AMS are very appreciative of the time, energy and enthusiasm that the former Chief Electoral Officer put into their position and that we wish them the best in their future endeavours,” he added.