The historically low voter turnout for the UTSU elections can be partially attributed to unengaged UTM students who feel that some of the St. George slates don’t consider their campus.
Although UTSU acts on behalf of all full-time undergraduate students on the St. George and UTM campuses, only a fraction of students choose to vote — last year, only 3,358 ballots were cast by approximately 45,000 students.
UTSU’s executive director Amir Bashir said that it’s difficult to determine which faculties are more likely to participate in the elections. However, he said that the number of cast ballots is “dependent on the amount of engagement from candidates.”
Agreeing with Bashir’s observations, some UTM students explained that they are less inclined to vote because some candidates do not campaign on the Mississauga campus.
“I think that students just don’t know who these individuals are who are running. All they see are posters around the campus with faces,” said fourth-year UTM student Kamille Champagnie. “The UTSU candidates are hardly seen around the UTM campus engaging with students.”
“Maybe if there [were more candidates present] on campus engaging with students, letting them know who they are, and what they will be doing, the voter turnout would be higher,” she suggested.
Second-year UTM student Tayo Sofela agreed that the lack of information presented to the Mississauga campus discourages students from voting. He also said that some slates neglect UTM in their platforms, which further deters students.
“In my opinion, the students at UTM are not given priority during campaigning. The candidates don’t seem to focus on UTM and don’t create their platforms based on the needs and wants of UTM students,” he said.
Sofela admitted that out of all the parties, he was only aware of Team Unity’s campaign. He appreciates the slate’s promise to work with UTMSU and address issues affecting UTM students.
Some students also said that they would like to see candidates engage in initiatives that are inclusive of the UTM campus.
Fourth-year UTM student Andrew Ochran said StudentsFirst’s campaign proposal of a St. George campus bar excludes Mississauga students.
“While the campus bar may sound like a good idea, most people from the Mississauga Campus don’t go downtown due to the distance — so I’m not sure how effective it will be [in connecting students],” Ochran said.
Champagnie agreed. “There are many other things that can [be used] to connect students. But considering that it will be mostly St. George students using this service, the majority of the funds should come from the students of St. George campus.”
Instead of a bar, Champagnie suggested the candidates explore opportunities to connect the campuses and join the student bodies.
“There are three U of T campuses and yet it feels like three completely different schools. [UTSU] should look at ways to improve campus unity,” she added.
In addition to collaboration with UTMSU and efforts to unify the campuses, UTM students said they hope candidates will consider better support systems for graduating students in search of employment and career guidance.