Saturday, January 27, 2007

Elections 2007: where is the Movement?

I'd like to give my impressions on the election campaigns this past week.

First of all, I'm happy to see that the debates have improved by a lot - the debate structure has been changed to allow for elaborate answers, and the candidates in turn have done their homework.

The Wednesday VP Academic debate for example was highly impressive with Jerry Fan Fan and Brendon Goodmurphy having well thought out directions in terms of lobbying for student housing.

Despite of opponent Peter Rizov's objections from the last debate, Brittany Tyson moved away from the "experience vs nonexperience" spat and focussed on her ideas including the AMS card, end of the day price drop at AMS food outlets, 99cent Pizza Fridays at Pir R Squared with donations to services, more support for the TACS assistant clinic.

The Debate on Friday was distracting due to the Guitar Club having a full-out concert at the SUB concourse. To my surprise VP External Candidate Joel Koczawarski didn't show, and his opponents Matt Naylor and Chris Brush both finished strong.

However it was hard for Tim and I to believe it was campaigning period. Why? Because we've seen no active campaigns this past week, with the one exception of Jeff Friedrich and his partner standing outside the SUB with a sign.

Sure, most corkboards on campus have been plastered with posters, and I've received a handful of emails from candidates soliciting votes. But I have seen zero classroom announcements, no flyering, no spectacles. This is political lobotomy!

Risking the label of UBC Dinosaur, I want to reflect back to the days when slates were still around. I ran with a slate, namely the now legendary (and infamous?) SPAN slate - Student Progressive Action Network.

A look back at slates.... behind the jump.

Planning started in November.

Former VP Admin Josh Bowman and VP Academic Laura Best who were both elected the previous year on SPAN spent an entire day informing us on the issues. There was a 40 page long information package on all of the issues from tuition to campus development to waste management of the SUB. Regardless of which position we ran for, we were well-informed on all of the issues.

We booked a theatre and practiced classroom announcements. We spent hours taking the perfect photo for our flyers, coloured overheads, and posters. There was one colour and a logo which identified us all. There were patches to be worn on bags, sweaters, and our support network was encouraged to wear them.

There was strength in numbers. Each of us had signed up at least 20 volunteers who were willing to flyer, poster, make classroom announcements.

getting ready for a huge postering spree

We solicited the support from clubs, informal support from undergraduate society execs, and shook hands with sorority presidents. The campus was painted red - there were balloons tied to trees, patches, posters everywhere legal (and illegal?), we even had people flyering at the Broadway Skytrain station out in East Vancouver.

Our campaign schedule started at 8am, and ended at 8pm on an early day. There were events to be attended thereafter: beer gardens, concerts, anywhere where we would expect UBC students to be.

I'm NOT saying that it's impossible put on a similar campaign without a slate. It just takes a heck of a lot more work and a larger support group for one individual. The learning curve is ten times higher as there is no advice passed on in an institutional manner. Spencer Keys' presidential race is a prime example of a well coordinated campaign - it was realised through the strong support of his peers. But then again, Spencer Keys had been trained by a slate prior, when he ran for VP Admin in 2003 and the next year for VP External with Students for Students (SFS). Either way, everyone knew his name. People who I didn't know were interested in politics talked about Spencer Keys.

So it doesn't feel like there's a real election going on. There is no buzz in the air, and the energy seen in other years seems lost in antiquity. Where is the movement?