The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) 2013 fall by-elections were held last week, with most of the positions going uncontested. The UTSU introduced online voting for the first time this election. The by-elections — held on October 15, 16, and 17 — were for one position on the Executive Committee for VP external and several positions on the Board of Directors. Directors for the transitional year program, the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, and the Faculty of Dentistry went uncontested, and the candidates were acclaimed.
This election was the first time the UTSU had online voting in addition to the usual physical polls located across campus. In September, the UTSU’s board approved online voting with limited hours, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, after more than a year of controversy surrounding online voting. At the time, the board indicated it hoped online voting would increase voter turnout. The turnout has been low in past years, reaching less than 7 per cent in last spring’s election. Unofficial results were announced on Friday evening. Onik Khan, the former VP campus life who ran unopposed for the seat of VP external, won with 1088 voting yes and 268 voting no. Khan’s election was the only one where all undergraduate students were eligible to vote; turnout was less than 4 per cent. There was an unusually high number of spoiled ballots in the VP external election with 253 ballots — approximately one-sixth of all votes cast, declared spoiled.
“I feel great about the results of the past two weeks of talking to students about issues such as the cost of education, transit, and how to make the student community at U of T stronger. My volunteers and I had a lot of great conversations with students in person about these issues, and how students can work together,” said Khan.
Khan went on to say that one of the first things he plans on working towards as VP external is getting students involved in a movement against flat fees. In a recent interview with The Varsity, Brad Duguid, minister of training, colleges and universities, revealed that he plans to alter the flat fees policy. Khan also wants to focus on reducing education costs and pedestrianizing the campus.
Additionally, Khan hopes to addresses broader community issues such as sweatshop working conditions. Khan intends to step down as VP campus life to assume his new position, which will automatically trigger an appointment process to fill the post.
Pierre Harfouche and Sanchit Mathur won the two seats for the faculty of engineering, beating out four other candidates. Despite his lack of campaigning, Harfouche came in first with 145 votes. Mathur, who served on the board last year, came in second with 116.
Harfouche hopes to represent the engineering community, specifically on the issue of diverting fees from the UTSU. Harfouche, who was a prominent anti-union activist last year when he held the position of VP finance on the Engineering Society, said: “Engineers currently express the will to work with the UTSU but not be a part of the UTSU,” he said, while also stating his willingness on “working with the UTSU on issues that the engineers and students agree on.”