Jennifer Hassum & Co. seem poised for a win at the polls that would mirror the election sweep by the “Progress” slate-some members who are running again this year, including chairperson Paul Bretscher-last year.
Full-time undergraduate students began voting yesterday at 9 a.m. for a new SAC executive and board of directors, as well as for the two student members of the Governing Council. For positions that are uncontested, students will be limited to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ ratification vote.
Executive candidates struggled to answer nagging questions about the absence of opponents in the SAC election, questions which dominated what was supposed to be a debate about equity and social justice issues at the Women’s Centre on Tuesday.
“The irony is there was more advertising done this year than any other year,” asserted Hassum. They said that the SAC elections committee postered the entire campus-“hundreds upon hundreds of big colour posters,” said Bretscher-as well as sending repeated messages out on SAC’s listserv and posting messages on the SAC website.
Hassum, who is running for the chairperson (“formerly known as president”) position, pointed to her “modest gains” as VP External this year, mainly regarding transit developments such as freezing the SAC metropass price and getting a higher quantity of passes.
“We’re a commuter student university and so saving student money and student transit is actually an accessibility issue,” she said.
VP Equity candidate Ausma Malik, VP Internal & Services candidate Andrea Armborst, VP External candidate Bretscher, and the two Governing Council student candidates Saswati Deb and Coralie D’Souza, the latter of whom is running for re-election, also gave run-downs of their achievements.
Of all the candidates, Deb, who has been endorsed by several student groups, displayed the most dazzling campaign promises. She pledged to fight to drop the lowest mark on graduating students’ transcripts.
“Other peer institutions have already done this,” she said, though she didn’t mention which ones.
She also pledged to reduce the price of food on campus.
Indeed, if the students have their way, it seems that the picture of food services on campus will be going through some impressive changes.
“Because of what we’ve discussed on the [GC] committee, I am fairly certain that Sodexho won’t be [U of T’s] food vendor next year,” she said, citing both the end of the corporation’s contract and their poor treatment of employees and bad food quality.
As with the previous debates, chairperson candidate Marc Fernandez did not show, but Hassum cautioned against underestimating him.
“He’s running his own campaign, going around to different clubs,” she said.
Multiple questions about the lack of an opposing slate-which were submitted to the debate anonymously-had candidates rushing to defend this year’s election process. One anonymous student asked whether they thought it was “undemocratic” to be running so many candidates uncontested. Hassum countered this view.
“SAC is actually more democratic since our decision over the summer, when we actually made it so no executives could be acclaimed, so it’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote now,” she said.
Hassum emphasized that because of her candidacy, she has not formally been a part of the committee that handles election advertising and outreach. She said that she had informally mentioned the upcoming election to many people.
“Personally, people have come up to me saying that they were thinking of running but they decided not to. They felt that because I was running this year, that they wouldn’t be likely to win.”