Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Illustration by Tricia Lim

Why acclamations are destroying the Students’ Union

By Aymen Sherwani, March 3 2021—

Pandemic aside — acclamations in the Students’ Union general election have always been problematic for students at the University of Calgary. An acclaimed seat ensures that the candidate running has already secured said seat, and effectively will not even need a platform that’s in line with public approval to be able to serve a full term in office. The rising number of acclaimed candidates over the years, combined with a voter turnout that barely reflects the student body, presents the campus with an ineffectual Students’ Legislative Council (SLC) that poses the threat of being apathetic towards the concerns of students. Prior to the pandemic, this was more of a nuisance rather than a serious issue — but then again, a lot has changed in a year. 

Conversations about students dropping out in relation to rising tuition rates, racial discrimination in academia and sweeping mental health issues are dominating the discourse of the UCalgary student body. Many students can no longer afford to go to school anymore, let alone be able to pay rent or put food on the table. Taking these new and unprecedented realities of students into account, the 16 acclamations in the 2021 Students’ Union general election paint a grim picture of the year that’s to come for students at the University of Calgary. 

Allowing acclamations, in this election in particular, is completely and utterly tone-deaf to the realities of the student body, given the running history of ineptitude present within acclaimed candidates. The confidence vote set to for the 2022 SU general election might have better addressed the problem for this election and served as a reminder to acclaimed candidates that their position is that of public service to students, rather than another line on their resume. But the failure to establish a simple yes/no vote for public approval really speaks volumes than the near-deafening silence that follows many acclaimed candidates into office. While some acclaimed candidates this year are clearly dedicated and have very articulate platforms addressing how they plan to improve the lives of students, they are joined at the SLC by others who serve as a hindrance to the positive work this team of representatives has potential to achieve. Progress simply cannot be achieved when a sizable chunk of the SLC doesn’t have the same level of awareness in understanding the concerns of students. 

The election campaigning process alone gives students a clear indication of which candidates are well fit for office, and whose dedication to the people makes it evident that they deserve a seat at the table. I imagine that there are no sleepless nights of campaign preparation, or even an incentive to put forward a serious platform as an acclaimed candidate because there is simply no motivation to do so. I suppose it’s not that big of an issue when it comes to having an acclaimed faculty representative, but things get a little more nerve-wracking when the seats that are up for grabs are those that actually have the potential to change the lives of students, but are wasted potential because they’re held by candidates that want to factor funding for BSD 2022 in the middle of a pandemic, for example. 

It’s even more concerning to read when you learn that this is a platform point of an acclaimed executive who has a lot more say in the potential the SLC could achieve. I wish them the best of luck in attempting to be more aware of the pressing concerns of the student body and hope that they can be the exception, not another example, of why acclamations are destroying the Students’ Union.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.



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