By Cristina Paolozzi, October 16 2019—
The upcoming SU byelection season sees the faculties of Haskayne, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, Social Work and Engineering seeking a representative position. Out of all of these positions, only the spot for the Faculty of Medicine is contested. The rest of the faculty positions have all been acclaimed. Acclamations guarantee the individual running for a specific position that spot without the need to campaign or publically ask for student support. Not only does this practice not hold candidates accountable to the specific needs of the students, it also allows anybody to step into a position without going through the process most candidates running for Students’ Union positions have to deal with. Acclamations should be automatically replaced with a yes/no vote in which students must still consider each candidate as they see fit for the position, and candidates must receive a majority vote.
This concern isn’t new. I feel like every time the SU elections roll around, the acclamations — if there are any — receive questions concerning the efficacy of a yes/no vote for these positions. It is something that individuals consider, but it never really goes past a causal inquiry. I believe a yes/no vote for positions with single candidates will have potential reps encouraged to participate as if they are running against an opponent, although their opponent is a majority “no” vote. This will allow candidates to interact with their faculties and make connections with students so that students will have the ability to decide for themselves whether the candidate is fit for the position by administering the “no” vote. The most important part of campaigning for student politics is the connections that are made between students. The acclamations automatically allow candidates a free pass to claim their positions. I also don’t want to ignore the candidates that do put in the work to reach out to students. Without the yes/no vote, the incentive to keep working towards the goal of getting elected, even if you’re confident in the outcome, isn’t as powerful. With the community spirit at the University of Calgary not as high as it is at other universities across Canada due to the nature of our commuter campus, ensuring a connection with the students you will represent is crucial.
I also would say that the experience of an individual running against other candidates, and the experience of an individual who already knows the outcome of their vote because of an acclaimed decision are completely different. Every SU election season, I see candidates running around with signs sticking out of their backpacks speaking at the front of huge lecture halls to a room of exhausted students, hustling to try to put their name and their platform out to the campus community. When positions are acclaimed, how motivated do you think these students are to go to the same extent to make their information available? It is much more difficult to run a campaign against another individual than it is against yourself, however, it is still important to give students the choice to openly accept a platform or not.
I’m not trying to tell people how to run a campaign. I know putting yourself out there and opening up to the criticism of your peers is extremely daunting and not for the faint of heart. But it is important to allow students to engage with you even if there is no other candidate running for the same position. A yes/no vote keeps people engaged and keeps candidates accountable to the students they represent.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet‘s editorial board.