Former University of Windsor student union president says he was disqualified after 'white power' comment

Former University of Windsor student union president says he was disqualified after 'white power' comment

The former president of the University of Windsor Students' Alliance says he was disqualified from serving his term because of controversial comments he made during a debate. 

Then-president Moussa Hamadani was seeking re-election in February when, during a public debate, he muttered "white power" under his breath in response to perceived heckling. 

"It was a moment that I had to myself and it came out," he said. "There was heckling, at least from my perspective of things."

He didn't realize there was a microphone in front of him while the debate was being broadcast live on Facebook.

"However, let's not conflate here. White power is not the same thing as white people. White people are not to be for white power. It's the same thing," said Hamadani. "We're not expecting that white people stand for white power or white supremacy."

Hamadani tells CBC News that he apologizes to anyone who may have been offended by his comments. However, he wouldn't elaborate about why else he was disqualified.

"There's a better time and a better way of doing just that," he said, without being more specific.

Official investigation kept secret

Before he was disqualified, Hamadani had easily won reelection with 1092 votes. Runner-up Larissa Howlett received 637 votes.

An official investigation into the election has concluded. The information was shared during an in-camera board meeting and won't be made public.

Now, Howlett has assumed the role of president. Her term started Monday, but she wasn't immune from the controversy either.

Howlett was disqualified after the election due to what she describes as a conflict of interest related to her previous position as UWSA Student Groups Coordinator.

It was eventually overturned, but the plot thickened when she was disqualified again. After accepting her defeat, Howlett was told on April 24 that she was, in fact, the new UWSA president effective May 1.

"It's fair to say that the students deserve answers because a lot of the students were wondering 'why me, what happened?'" Howlett said.

New president promises more transparency

Howlett said she is committed to increased transparency. She wants to revise the UWSA's election bylaws over the next year "so this chaos doesn't happen again."

This sort of controversy isn't all that uncommon though, said Ryan Flannagan, University of Windsor's Associate Vice-President of Student Experience.

Controversy not uncommon

Although the institution stays at an arm's length from the UWSA's operations, he said there are many checks and balances in place when it comes to accountability.

"You have young people who don't have a ton of experience," said Flannagan. "People understand that young adults are going through the maturation process. I think people give them a fair amount of leeway in order for them to figure it out."

Flannagan said the student union is a separate entity, which is responsible for more than $4.2-million in revenue generated from student fees.

The University of Windsor would only intervene with the UWSA in "extraordinary circumstances," he said.