Incoming Students’ Union President, Pegah Jamalof, faces criticism for gathering during stay-at-home order, responds to backlash

The results night recording, made available via YouTube. Jamalof gives her winning speech at 10:30.

Incoming Students’ Union President and CEO Pegah Jamalof has issued a statement after facing criticism for being seen in what appeared to be a gathering on the election results night on Jan. 29.

In the election results night recording, which has now been made publicly available, Jamalof can be seen celebrating her win with what appears to be her friends gathered in the background. 

“Hi, sorry, I’m just at my friends, like, we just decided to stick with COVID regulations, I’m living alone, at my best friend’s place. Thank you so much for this, we are so happy, my campaign team could not be happier, this is probably one of the best nights of my entire experience, so thank you so much for this. I don’t know what else to say, I didn’t prepare for anything, but thank you so much,” Jamalof said in her winning speech.

Jamalof addressed the issue in a statement with The Cord.

“I think that I should be as transparent as to the events that took place [on election] night. I live alone, which was not something that I wanted to share due to my safety. I’ve been staying with my campaign manager, Jin, and her roommates, which I’m legally entitled to do,” Jamalof said.

“That being said, we invited two of my team members to celebrate this night. They had been safe prior to; however, I understand that it was not necessarily the right call.”

According to Ontario’s stay at home order, while individuals must limit close contact to members of your household only, those who live alone may consider having close contact with one other household. 

Those who do not follow the rules may be fined or be prosecuted for up to a year in jail.

“I am sorry about the concerns regarding COVID guidelines. We were all just very excited and that led to a lapse in judgment in the moment, however, this is not a pattern of behaviour or a reflection of my team or my abilities,” Jamalof added.

“I hope that students know that I am sorry, and that this will not affect my ability to formulate the great policies on my platform that they voted for.” 

Jamalof’s full statement can be found online

When asked by The Cord if she had considered how celebrating her election win in a gathering could be poorly perceived by viewers, Jamalof said it was not something she thought of. 

“I didn’t really consider it at all, in that sense, because I have just been seeing this one household. But I see now where I made an error,” Jamalof said.

Many students have taken to @SpottedLaurier on Twitter, Instagram and Reddit, to express their criticisms regarding the incident. 

“Nice to see our new ‘soon to be’ SU President already breaking COVID rules,” one tweet read. 

“We’re almost a year into this pandemic, I don’t think a’ ‘lapse of a judgement’ is a valid excuse for her actions,” one post on Reddit read. 

Jamalof said the criticism has been overwhelming. 

“I’ve never had a position like this. It’s like, you go from a private kind of lifestyle, where you just have your friends, and now it’s all these people that I never contacted or haven’t had any interaction with just saying these things about my team and I,” she said to The Cord. “It becomes a lot, it is sometimes scary … I’m still kind of just processing it all,” Jamalof said.

The Students’ Union has issued a statement regarding the incident. 

“Representing the undergraduate student population is a great privilege that comes with great responsibility. Strong leadership requires discernment, but also humility and a willingness to learn from mistakes,” the statement read.

“As Pegah has acknowledged, her celebration on results night did not meet the standard we are committed to in the midst of a province-wide shut down. As a community we must also recognize that constructive accountability is more valuable than anonymous condemnation.”

“We look forward to commencing the informative and rigorous transition process with Pegah and her incoming team. Thank you to everyone who supported the elections process this year, we sincerely appreciate your engagement,” the statement concluded.

Jamalof echoed the sentiments of the Students’ Union’s statement.

“I know that I’m a leader now. I will be leading by example and I have done so, prior to. I made a mistake and I hope that [students] can entrust me with the role,” Jamalof said.

“I don’t think that it will affect my ability to take this role on, but I am open to feedback, and listening to [students] and I’m happy that they are so caring to the Students’ Union elections, and the policies and my presidency.”

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