Friday, October 3, 2008


So lots of students societies finished their fall voting today, and I thought that it might be interesting to look at how elections are run. Being a Science student, and a SUS Council member for the past 2 years, I can at least comment on the way that SUS campaigns are run, and I would imagine that there are lots of similarities between SUS, AUS, EUS, etc. societies (although I could be fully wrong on this point). So let's take a brief look.

Visiting the SUS website, and looking at all of the candidates, it seems like everyone is essentially focused on the same thing- they're dedicated, passionate about SUS, they want to represent students. The things I've found severely lacking, however, are the actual plans that students have. The way I see it, everyone runs the same campaign every year- so I always wonder, how exactly are people supposed to decide? It seems to me that this sort of system perpetuates voting based on popularity and personality rather than any sort of credentials or something that might be even better- some sort of plans for what they want to accomplish. This is something that's painfully lacking- most campaigns include vapid promises about getting students 'in touch' and representing students at Council. It would all be great, if it weren't for the fact that year upon year students promise to do these things, and year after year, it's still a problem. I think it's getting better, but I still propose that candidates be asked to propose at least one concrete plan each time they run, and actually outline in concrete terms one thing they would like to accomplish, and how. Sure, it requires a little bit more work and more thought, and it might not always be something that's carried out, but I think this solution provides us with two things:
1.) It allows voters to distinguish between those they're electing, and vote on something more concrete than sense of humor or physical appearance of the candidates
2.) It actually forces the candidate to think about the position, what they're doing, and makes them more accountable- people can always ask how the project is going, or can think back to the previous campaign and ask what's been done.

I realize that lots of people run for Society positions to put something on their resume- but what exactly do most people do on when elected? There are certainly lots of very dedicated members, who help run events, who regularly sit on committees and actually do things. But there are also many who skip out on meetings, who don't come to any committee meetings, who I never see around during office hours, etc. So it seems like there needs to be some actual accountability- there's always a Code in place that enables people to be kicked off Council- but how often is the Code used? And why are people so afraid to point out to others that they're not doing their jobs? In an organization that's supposed to help students, it would certainly make people take the positions seriously. Yes, it might be harsh, and yes, I do realize that this is a volunteer position, but when a person volunteers at some organization, do they promise to do things and then don't deliver? Do they bother showing up for their shifts? Why should a Council position be any different, then, from any other volunteer job?

This isn't to say that there aren't always some excellent candidates who don't have a platform or any concrete plans- there certainly are. And there are certainly lots more people getting involved with SUS due to things like our Frosh program, which have been great at recruiting students to help with SUS events. However, I think that it might be best to look at how elections are actually run, and see if we can make student societies even better.