We Need Accessible Elections
The Concordia Student Union and the university’s political culture have flat-lined.
We don’t want to harp on the tired cliché that the student body is apathetic—we know that already. We know that nobody gives a damn.
What we need to concentrate on is why.
This year, 1,438 undergraduate students cast at least one ballot in the Concordia Student Union elections.
That’s four per cent of the entire undergraduate student body.
Last year, The Link calculated that approximately 1,500 students went to the polls.
That low voter turnout was blamed on an unfortunate mix of bylaw changes and the tumultuous environment on campus caused by rolling student strikes.
So, what’s the excuse this year?
When campaigning period started and it was announced that only one slate of eight individuals plus one independent candidate were running for the CSU executive positions, anyone who cared scoffed.
When we asked CSU President-elect Melissa Kate Wheeler before the elections what she thought about this, she said it was “bad for democracy.”
She and others close to the union agreed that so many positions were left uncontested due to the embarrassingly awful year the CSU had just endured. Students were turned off to student politics, they said.
But Wheeler shook it off and said that her slate was going to campaign just as hard as they would if contested. They were going to get students to care.
Well, so much for that.
Wheeler and her executive—just like the rest of the CSU, both old and new—have an affinity for slogans, as well as making promises they ultimately cannot fulfill.
When we asked students one-on-one if they even knew that there was an election going on, the majority said “no.”
Did they know who was running in the election? “No.”
Recent bylaw reforms made running in the elections more accessible to students-at-large and ultimately more democratic. The reforms took away the slate system, and as one former CSU president put it, took the power away from CSU “dynasties.”
But we have to wonder: Were students-at-large left behind? Maybe democracy alone just isn’t sexy enough.
Granted, the CSU is an anomaly of sorts.
There’s an old saying that when you’re doing a good job, nobody notices, but when you’re doing a bad job, everybody does.
The opposite is true for the CSU.
If the CSU isn’t a vocal force, then people forget they exist. It makes it all too easy for them to ignore an executive taking home tens of thousands of dollars of their tuition money as salary and making decisions that really do affect student’s time spent at this institution.
The point is that too many students went to the polls without understanding what to do once they were there.
When students went to vote they were handed 16 multi-coloured ballots and told to shuffle sideways behind a three-paneled poster board to take part in the democratic process.
Many of them selected a few that they understood and returned the rest untouched. Others complained about waste, chose a few ballots and handed back the rest.
Others still became completely disinterested in voting at all—subsequently walking away.
This cannot keep happening.
So, to the new CSU, congratulations on making quorum. Congratulations on your new positions as well. You have a long road ahead of you and a lot of work to do.
But we implore you—set a new trend. Make good on your promises.