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Sex assault allegations prompt calls for incoming U of S student president to step aside
Published Friday, March 23, 2018 8:45PM CST
The University of Saskatchewan’s outgoing student president and more than 100 other students are calling for his newly elected successor to step aside following allegations of sexual assault against the president-elect.
The outgoing president, David D’Eon, who posted his call for Coden Nikbakht to withdraw his name from the presidential race on Facebook as voting was underway Thursday, was on hand Friday as several students in the university’s Place Riel building demanded Nikbakht step down.
D’Eon’s Facebook post and the protest were in response to allegations Nikbakht used drugs to sexually assault women.
“I believe the allegations. I believe women. I understand that any legal consequences need to be decided in a court of law, but the position of President is not just a legal one, it’s built on social responsibility and leadership,” D’Eon wrote on Facebook. “In light of these allegations, I believe that the only socially responsible thing for Coden to do is withdraw his name from the race.”
Nikbakht, who won the election with 1,016 votes, was the lone candidate for president of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union — which represents undergraduate students.
A majority of the more than 100 students in Place Riel demanded Nikbakht step aside before the next student executive terms begin May 1, but some students on hand argued against the protesters’ calls.
“I am in favour of due process. I am in favour of innocent until proven guilty, and these people are being unreasonable,” Erik Carey, a student, said.
None of the allegations against Nikbakht have been proven in court, and, on Friday, the president-elect released a statement denying the allegations.
“I just want to say that I am extremely appalled and bewildered by the recent allegations made against me. I never imagined that running as a candidate for our USSU would be this sickening. To the people who gave me their support and to those who did not, I want to reassure you that these allegations are nothing but false. I will be deciding what actions I will be taking next, in the meantime, please be patient until I release my next statement,” Nikbakht’s full statement read.
No one representing the university spoke with CTV News on camera, but the school did issue a statement.
“We are aware of the concerns that were brought forward following the USSU election yesterday. We take student concerns very seriously and we actively investigate any and all formal complaints that the university received,” the university stated.
The campus did not confirm, however, if a formal complaint against Nikbakht was received. Neither did Saskatoon police.
Some of the protesters argued the call for Nikbakht to step down is not too strong of a demand, considering the nature of the allegations.
“The only punishment he is facing here is being asked to step down and be a regular student. I don’t think that that is very much to ask with accusations like this,” student Sarah White said.
D’Eon acknowledged Friday he cannot withhold transferring the presidential position to Nikbakht, but he stated he will not take part in any of the traditional processes to transition power, should Nikbakht decide not to step aside.
“It’s a tradition, and it’s not an obligation, and I’m choosing not to do it,” D’Eon said.
USSU bylaws state a student executive member may be removed from office if 7.5 per cent of undergraduate students sign a non-confidence petition requesting the member’s removal and if student council passes the special non-confidence resolution.
Byelections are held to fill vacant positions, provided the position becomes vacant on or before Oct. 31, the bylaws state.
--- Ashley Field contributed to this report