Gavin Nowlan has emerged as the president-elect of the Arts and Science Students’ Union, which caters to over 23,000 full-time undergraduate students and provides funding to about 40 course unions.
“During elections, everyone was there, all the course unions were involved. That’s a big change from last year,” said Nowlan, the union’s current treasurer.
Greater participation is the result of ASSU’s attempt to rebuild itself after last spring’s election, where former president Ryan Hayes, with the help of the union’s CEO and another exec, manipulated election results to win over his opponent, Colum Grove-White.
U of T admin stepped in, pulling the union’s funding and forcing ASSU to hold another election. This time, Grove-White won.
“Coming in, there was so much to do. I wanted to start up all these committees to really get ASSU back on track,” said Grove-White.
He set up five committees examining the budget, constitution, sustainability, social venues, and donations and endorsement funding.
The constitution committee, which will help to improve the union’s transparency, is still working out a clear set of election guidelines, expected to be ratified in September.
“I think the biggest improvement this year has been communication,” said Nowlan, who ran on a slate last year with Grove-White.
“Communication was difficult under the old executive. It was really hard to get funding for events, unless you were their political ally,” said Gabe De Roche, co-president of the International Relations Society.
Political advocacy no longer has a designated spot in ASSU’s budget. That money has been funneled into course unions instead, almost doubling their funding. Now, student groups wanting money for a political cause outside the university have to present their case to a committee.
But, De Roche said, ASSU’s ambitions came at the cost of its focus. “This year, I think the union bit off a little more than it could chew,” he said. “They had some great goals, but I think they should have put all their focus into the constitution to get that passed quickly.”
Nowlan will begin his presidency in May. “One of the things I plan to work on is getting more institutional support so we can improve the academic experience of students,” he said.