The first time I voted in a Student Union Society election was during my second year at UFV. I don’t remember why I didn’t vote during my first but it probably had something to do with either not caring or not knowing there even was an election. Regardless of what it was, I wasn’t a very engaged student and it’s likely that my ignorance on the operations of SUS was self-induced.
This year, the last year that I’ll be able to vote in a SUS election, I find myself in the almost exact same position, almost unaware that the election is even happening.
But the difference between first-year me and fourth-year me is that I now care and want to know more about the elections. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
On Tuesday, the first of the all-candidates debates was held in the atrium of the Student Union Building, for a small handful of students that attended (I remember a much larger crowd last year). This could have been a result of the debate being on a Tuesday evening, or that it’s the busiest point in the semester and attending a SUS debate doesn’t seem like the best way to spend time. But I think it was because no one had any idea that there was even a debate happening.
Because all-candidates debates are part of the SUS election process, I just assumed that they would be happening this year. But I only heard from someone who heard from someone else who heard from one of the candidates that it was on Tuesday. And none of us knew what time it was going to be at. Checking SUS’ website and Facebook page and the events page on UFV’s website didn’t help either.
Last year was the opposite, almost to the point where I was slightly sick of hearing about the elections. Anyone following SUS’ social media had no problem knowing when and where the debates were, and regular posts were made during campaign period with candidates statements.
I believe this directly correlated with the record voter turnout of last year’s elections: 1350 people voted, compared to 473 in 2015, 315 in 2014, and 388 in 2013.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that this year will be another topper, or even a close call. Instead of building on the involvement and interest of last year, SUS has once again returned to the dark age of hoping and praying that students will remember to vote, while forgetting to tell them that they can.
The lack of student engagement is something that is over-discussed at UFV, and even in the interviews The Cascade completed in this issue for the upcoming elections, nearly every candidate mentioned engaging with more students on campus in the hopes of having more get involved. Coincidentally, it’s something that all of SUS’ current executive addressed while they were campaigning last year as well. Normally these conversations tend to feel redundant; I have yet to hear someone at UFV say that they’re content with the amount of student involvement on campus. But it’s even more depressing when in this situation there’s an obvious solution that’s being ignored.
I don’t know why this strange drop in advertisement for the elections has happened, and I really hope there’s some reason behind it rather than that SUS simply didn’t feel like it or just forgot. Whatever reason they have, it’s still questionable and likely going to impact the amount of involvement.
Not only is this unfair to students, who are not being reminded of one of few opportunities they have to have a say in how their fees are spent, but it’s just as unfair to the candidates.
When you’re looking at only a few hundred votes cast, it’s not hard to assume that a lot of those are coming directly from people the candidates already know and coerced into voting for them. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s part of running in any election, but when those are the only votes cast it turns the election into more of a popularity contest than an actual representation of who students want to represent them.
I think I heard from someone that there’s another all-candidates debate on Friday, but I can’t say for sure, and I definitely can’t say where it’ll be or what time it’ll be at.
But I can say that voting is from March 21-24 — just in case no one else tells you.