Board rejects serious reform for WLUSU elections

After a month hiatus, the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union board of directors met last Friday and among other things discussed several election reforms for the 2010 election.

The subject of heated debate revolved around policies proposed by the elections policy review committee and the recommendations they made to the board.

“This year I kind of just wanted to transform [the election] and do something new,” said this year’s chief returning officer (CRO) Nicole Rabry.

Although a few minor changes were made to the elections policy, the board rejected the majority of the recommendations put forth by the committee.

These included: no campaigning on election day, reducing the number of signatures for candidates to two, acclaiming people to positions if there are not enough candidates and removing the policy that states that WLUSU is not allowed to offer their opinion on referendum questions.

“Some of the policies that weren’t passed I thought would get passed,” said committee chair and director Christopher Oberle.

Board chair Saad Aslam noted that although the committee puts an immense amount of research into their recommendations, the board has the final say.

“The board can either take it or leave it and in this instance the board decided that they didn’t want to take all the advice that the elections policy review committee suggested.”

Throughout the nearly four-hour meeting, election policy was the topic that drew the most debate, with many divisions amongst directors.

The tension in the room was obvious; at one point the conversation escalated to director Andrew Fryer telling Aslam to “slow the fuck down.”

“When you’ve got 14,000 thoughts of students on your shoulders people are going to get heated about their opinions,” commented director Greg Evans about the atmosphere in the boardroom.
Re-evaluating elections

Last year at the board level, a number of significant alterations were made to the election process following a disqualification of a presidential candidate in 2008.

Fryer, who sat on the review committee in 2008-09, explained that last year’s policy changes focused on “ironing out the ambiguities” of policy that left the board unclear of what to do in certain situations.

Major changes last year included changing the demeriting system, increasing the number of signatures that each candidate had to have and recommending that in the next few years the election switch to a ranked balloting system to be administered online.

“Last year’s election ran very well. I was pretty confident that with this year’s committee there wouldn’t have been a lot [of policy] to change,” said director Jackie Dobson, who was on last year’s election review committee.

Noting that last year’s chair had a summer project to examine other university’s elections policy, Dobson was confident that last year’s policy recommendations were thoroughly researched.

“I can’t imagine as much work being done at all,” said Dobson in comparing it to this year’s committee. “Since there was no report like that done this summer I can’t imagine as much work went into it.”

Following the 2009 election, a post-election committee met to suggest policy improvements.

Oberle explained that a lot of the recommendations brought forth on Friday reflected policy changes discussed in the post-election review committee that “weren’t actually presented to the board last year.”

Looking forward

With election season about two months away, the elections team is already working on promoting voter turnout.

“I’m really excited. I know [Rabry’s] been working really hard, and her team as well,” said Aslam.
With the theme of “Rock the Vote,” since early November, the elections team has been engaging in market research about voter turnout and how to better engage students at large.

A common conception on campus is that people who tend to participate and vote in the election are already heavily involved in the union.

However, Rabry wants to work to change this.

“[Elections are] for the entire school, not just people in the union,” she said.
With new policies passed at the board level, directors are confident that the next election will be a success.

“The decisions were in the best interest of everyone who’s going to be in the elections … or for those who are voting,” said director Jordan Hyde.

With Rabry aiming to get election packages out this week, students will soon get an idea of who will be vying for WLUSU’s next representative roles.

“It’s going to be an interesting election,” said Oberle. “Just around some names that I have heard. It’s going to be very interesting.”

Proposals passed

Proposed: 100 per cent reimbursement for candidates
Explanation: Each student who runs for election should be reimbursed by WLUSU for the set amount of money spent on their campaign.
Discussion: Directors felt it was essential that financial barriers should not play a role in who can declare candidacy.

“Should the barrier be effort or finances?”
–2008-09 director Griffin Carpenter

Proposed: Assistant vice-presidents should not be allowed to campaign for a specific candidate during an election.
Explanation: Since AVPs are a new position this year as the result of last year’s restructuring, policy had to be altered. It was also recommended that other positions affecting the Brantford campus would not be allowed to campaign, but this was rejected.
Discussion: Since AVPs are a salaried position, it was felt that it should be consistent with VPs who are not allowed to campaign on behalf of candidates.

“Once you add in new positions you have to update the policies.”
–Jackie Dobson

Proposals denied

Proposed: Campaigning on Election Day to be banned.
Explanation: Although common at many universities and at the federal and provincial levels, if this policy had passed, no candidates would be able to actively campaign on Election Day. Only “get out and vote” tactics unrelated to candidates could be employed.
Discussion: Directors expressed concern about low voter turnout, that it would be a nightmare to monitor and that campaigning on Election Day is crucial to some candidate’s success.

“Quorum is difficult to get at the best of times. Campaign teams are an advertisement for themselves but also for the election itself.”
–Andrew Fryer

Proposed: Candidates only need two signatures to enter the election.
Explanation: Instead of an incremented scale of signatures needed for presidential, board, senate and board of governors, all potential candidates would only need two signatories.
Discussion: Directors expressed concern that many “joke candidates” would enter the race because it would require little effort on their part to do so.

“The big issue with accepting that would have been not being able to weed out people that were serious and weren’t serious about it.”
–Greg Evans

Proposed: Removal of policy that states that WLUSU corporate cannot have a stance on referendum questions.
Explanation: WLUSU corporate would be able to provide information and opinions about if passing a referendum would be in the best interest of the student body.
Discussion: Concern was raised about WLUSU telling its members how they should vote on an issue when the purpose of a referendum is to garner students’ input.

“I think it’s ridiculous that WLUSU corporate would tell the students what they want.”
–2006-07 director Bryn Ossington

Notes of importance

Other policies that passed included removing one student at large from the appeals committee.

Other policies that failed included acclaiming candidates if there were not enough applicants (current policy reads that they will re-open applications).