By Kristy Koehler, February 1 2021—
The 78th Students’ Legislative Council will have put an end to acclamations if all goes well in an upcoming vote.
While votes of confidence won’t be rolled out right away, if SLC passes the motion, the 2022 SU general election will see the implementation of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. The process may even occur earlier. If there’s a by-election in 2021, there will be confidence votes instead of acclamations, in which candidates running unopposed will need to campaign and earn a majority of ‘yes’ votes.
“Prior to this, if a candidate was acclaimed, that would be it,” said SU vice-president operations and finance (OpFi) Mohammad Ali. “What we wanted to do was change it so the candidate would have to campaign to the students of the University of Calgary and that way the students would be able to decide if that candidate was competent enough for this position.”
Ali said implementing confidence votes for the upcoming general election simply wasn’t feasible with all of the other changes needed in light of COVID-19.
“This pandemic has really affected everyone negatively, from socially to emotionally to financially. There’s many types of traumas that burden not just people but organisations and at the SU, we’re not exempt from those burdens,” he said.
The entire general election has to be moved online due in part to health restrictions and partly because there’s very few people on campus to campaign to, as the vast majority of classes are being held online. Ali said the entire process has been complicated and logistically, adding something else to the mix just wasn’t workable. But, the pandemic may have provided the conditions for the 78th SLC to finally make good on something candidates have promised seemingly every year.
“I was talking previously about how, while COVID-19 really burdened us, in a sense it also made things more possible,” said Ali. “For example some of the goals that previous candidates wanted to implement, they weren’t able to because of how busy a normal school year is, but we were able to implement it this year.”
Significant headway had been made by Ali’s predecessor in the OpFi role, Omer Mansoor. Ali noted that COVID-19 had changed the landscape for last year’s executives, forcing them to shift focus mid-semester in an unprecedented way.
Acclamations have plagued the SU for some time. Since 2015, there have been 162 positions available in student government and just shy of 33 per cent of those positions have either been uncontested or left vacant in the general election.
Every year from 2015 onward, the Faculty of Law representative has been acclaimed in the general election and the Faculty of Social Work, Veterinary Medicine and Werklund School of Education representative has either been vacant or acclaimed. The 2020 General Election marked the first year since 2015 that there was a competition for the Faculty of Nursing representative role.
Executive positions have also seen acclamations. In both the 2015 and 2018 general elections, the president of the Students’ Union ran unopposed and was acclaimed. The only position with competition in every year since 2015 has been the vice-president external.
Since 2015, the only year without an acclamation on the executive team was 2017 and the worst year for acclamations since was 2016 which saw 13 acclamations, two of them at the executive level.
Ali says he thinks ending acclamations will increase voter confidence in the entire process.
“The whole point of this was really to have students more involved in the elections process,” he said. “By showing them that the Students’ Union took a step like this to really involve them and not just continue the trend of acclamations, we hope that students notice and certainly take part in elections much more.”