Compass slate sweeps UTSU executive elections

Elections see 25.3 per cent turnout, a significant increase from previous years

Compass slate sweeps UTSU executive elections

UTSU elections results were released shortly after 6:00 pm on March 28, revealing a clean sweep by the Compass slate of all executive positions. Of the 50,405 students eligible to vote, 12,734 did, a 25.3 per cent turnout. The majority of votes in all races were abstentions, with the exception of Nursing Director.

President-elect Anne Boucher received 2,376 votes; her opponent, Michelle Mabira, received 1,191. In this race, 9,167 voters — 72 per cent — abstained.

Boucher said she was “beyond grateful” upon hearing the results. “I’m so excited to begin, especially with the amazing team I’ll have with me. You probably hear this year after year — but expect change, because we’ll work our butts off.”

Vice-President Internal-elect Tyler Biswurm was elected with 1,946 votes; his opponent, 🅱️oundless’ Alyy Patel, received 899. There were 9,889 abstentions, constituting 77.7 per cent of voters.

The VP Campus Life race saw winner Yolanda Alfaro receive 1,668 votes and independent opponent Spencer Robertson take 1,140, with 9,926 abstentions.

VP Professional Faculties-elect Yasmine El Sanyoura received 535 votes to 🅱️oundless’ Gallop Fan’s 310, with 3,280 abstentions.

The three executive positions were uncontested and received over 70 per cent abstentions. VP University Affairs-elect Joshua Grondin won with 2,390 votes for and 422 votes against. VP External-elect Yuli Liu received 2,990 ‘yes’ votes and 693 ‘no’ votes. Ammara Wasim, VP Equity-elect, received 2,597 votes in favour and 936 against.

In addition to sweeping the executive positions, all Compass candidates were elected except Tiffany Tiu. Tiu, who ran for one of two Professional Faculty Director at-large positions, lost to fellow Compass candidate Christopher Dryden and independent candidate Virginia Wong.

Michelle Mabira declined The Varsity‘s request for comment.

Reflections on the second UTSU executive debate

Compass came out strong and independents held up, but 🅱️oundless had difficulty keeping up

Reflections on the second UTSU executive debate

On March 21, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) presented a second round of executive debates on the topic of union operations. Unlike the first day, all positions present — President, Vice-President Internal, VP Campus Life, and VP Professional Faculties — were contested, allowing candidates to discuss weaknesses in one another’s platforms.

Compass emerged strong on the second night of executive debates. Compass candidates’ financial and operational knowledge of the UTSU’s past actions presented them as better prepared than their opponents. Compass also expressed ideas that considered all aspects of the university, including student need and financial support.

Though 🅱️oundless and independent candidates conveyed solid ideas as well, these paled in comparison to their opponents’. 

Independent candidate Spencer Robertson and Compass candidate Yolanda Alfaro presented very similar ideas for VP Campus Life, with Robertson putting an emphasis on the importance of the Student Commons as a central, uniting space, and Alfaro focusing on improving access to on-campus student life for commuter students. This was the friendliest of the debates, with moderator Jaren Kerr making time for questions like whether or not they would book Drake for orientation if they had to brand the show the “Drake Pepsi Concert.”

Compass VP Internal candidate Tyler Biswurm and Compass VP Professional Faculties Yasmine El Sanyoura emerged as clear winners in their respective debates.

“Humanizing” the UTSU was central to Biswurm’s ideas, who presented himself as someone fully aware of the UTSU’s shortcomings and who would be able to use this knowledge to form substantive, realistic goals that aim to increase student engagement. While pointing out the difficulties in creating new bursaries, he noted the need to simplify and centralize applications to make financial aid more accessible.

El Sanyoura supported her ideas with a detailed history of the VP Professional Faculties position, and she proposed policy amendments for faculties beyond her own, indicating that the medicine faculties’ gym fee adjustment rates could set an example for potential future adjustments for other faculties with sessional start and end dates.

In comparison, 🅱️oundless candidates seemed flustered and unprepared as members from the Compass slate revealed inconsistencies and shortcomings within the 🅱️oundless platform.

Specifically, Biswurm noted 🅱️oundless candidate Alyy Patel participated in a $3,000 off-campus retreat in her role as UTSU orientation coordinator, which is hypocritical in light of her platform points in this regard. 

Though she noted that she “wasn’t the only orientation leader” who took part in the retreat, she didn’t own up to her choice or explain how and why her opinions may have changed since.

In addition, Biswurm criticized the idea of running a pub within the student commons, calling it unrealistic considering the deficits experienced by other student union-run pubs around the country.  

To their credit, 🅱️oundless candidates seem to be trying to reach out to students who don’t have much knowledge of the UTSU’s operations. However, though this accessibility is an important aspect of student outreach, their ideas seemed to be stagnated by this perspective, as candidates chose to focus on making the UTSU seem fun and relatable rather than constructively educating students and providing services.

This was painfully clear when🅱️oundless VP Professional Faculties candidate Gallop Fan responded to a question about whether the engineering faculty should have a fall reading week with the statement, “I want other people to make my decisions for me.”

🅱️oundless’ numerous slip-ups support the statement made by Fan during the introduction of his slate on the first night: “Let’s be honest, we’re running for the trolls.”

All in all, 🅱️oundless candidates seemed unprepared to debate topics unrelated to the few mentioned on their slate, which became apparent in contrast to Compass candidates’ overall better preparation and knowledge of the UTSU.

The presidents’ debate between Compass candidate Anne Boucher and independent candidate Michelle Mabira covered a range of topics, from the Hudson lawsuit settlement to clubs funding.

Like other Compass members, Boucher had a strong focus on specific, administrative changes that could be made to improve student relations with administration and the UTSU, emphasizing the need to balance student services with financial realities and making it clear that meeting with the UTSU does not fill a student consultation quota.

Boucher clearly has a good understanding of the UTSU’s faults, such as the absence of direct communication with students about finances and the lack of student support in running advocacy campaigns. To both ideas, she suggested making the budget more “readable” and hiring part-time student employees to run campaigns.

Mabira likewise suggested improving the “readability” of the budget, but went further by suggesting social media posts that actively inform students about their finances. Both candidates did a great job presenting their ideas, many of which overlapped.

Ultimately, the second night of debates was one of the best opportunities for candidates to make their intentions known and, overall, candidates took advantage.

Compass candidates showed their preparedness in terms of knowledge of the UTSU. Independent candidates Robertson and Mabira were able to bring in dimensions of passion and personal investment that made up for their inexperience within the UTSU itself. And even 🅱️oundless candidates effectively communicated their desire to improve the UTSU, however implausible their ideas may seem.

Angela Feng is a second-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Anthropology and Cinema Studies. She is The Varsity’s Campus Politics Columnist.

Documents reveal “tentative platform” of UTSU elections slate

“Reboot U of T” plans to cut salaries, dissolve executive positions

View this document on Scribd

Documents obtained by The Varsity from a confidential source comprise a portion of the campaign plan of an apparent UTSU elections slate by the name of Reboot UofT, which reveals a “tentative” eight-point platform plan to overhaul the union.

One document appears to be a list of candidates to run with Reboot UofT. The executive candidates listed are: Micah Ryu for President, Jessica Leung for Vice President Internal and Services, Keelie-Shay Eaid for Vice President Equity, Micael Thompson for Vice President University Affairs, Nadine Aboud for Vice President External, Abdul Dau for Vice President Campus Life, and Jenny Yue for Vice President Professional Faculties.

The Varsity reached out to Ryu for confirmation on this list; he said that he could not comment due to elections rules that prohibit him from campaigning prior to the official campaign period, however he added that, based on the names of the executives listed, he thought that The Varsity had obtained a recent copy of the candidates document.

None of the apparent executive candidates listed have previously been on the UTSU executive or board of directors. UTSU elections have recently featured two slates — one backed by college student societies and another backed by Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)-connected individuals. There is no evidence to suggest that Reboot UofT matches either of these descriptions.

A document called “Reboot UofT — Tentative Platform” refers to the slate as “a group of establishment outsiders” that is “uniquely equipped to tackle the issues that insiders have turned a blind eye to.” Ryu stated that the term “establishment” has since been edited out of the document. It contains eight platform points.

The first point calls for full-time staff of the UTSU to be “cut” and for their roles to be replaced by part-time student jobs. “The collective agreement negotiated by the UTSU with its staff in 2015 will be up for renewal in the next school year, and we will take this opportunity to cut down on excess staff,” a portion of the document reads.

In a phone conversation with The Varsity Tuesday, Ryu clarified that some of the full-time UTSU staff positions, such as the Health and Dental Coordinator, would remain in place.

The second point calls for the removal of the UTSU executive positions, to be replaced by committees.

Points three through five call for increased transparency regarding clubs funding, and the provision of “accurate representation” of the UTSU membership’s wants and needs. Part of point four declares: “We will also require the UTSU to support political stances supported by a majority of students.”

Point six proposes lobbying Governing Council to abolish breadth requirements. Points seven and eight call for splitting the UTSU into the UTSU and the SGSU, and finding “a way to deal with the Student Commons catastrophe within the year,” respectively.

Ryu stated that a more current version of the platform includes a ninth platform point that pertains to fee diversion for professional students.

This story is developing. More to follow.

With files from Mubashir Baweja and Jaren Kerr.

Reflecting on the 2016 UTSU elections

Real change or more of the same?

Reflecting on the 2016 UTSU elections

The results are in and the Hello UofT slate has taken all but one of the executive positions in this year’s elections for the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU). As someone who has previously written about the dubious influence of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) on our union’s politics, I can’t say I’m unhappy with these results. Even the campaign season itself was relatively lacking in scandal, which was a relief in light of previous years’ shenanigans. 

Some have raised questions about the appropriateness of slate campaigning in UTSU elections. Although it’s fair to say that slate politicking discourages independent candidates from running, that hardly seems reason enough to stop a team of people who share similar goals from aligning themselves under an umbrella platform. The fact that this year’s election was very much a contest between two slates, however, does raise very interesting questions about the results. 

There was a great deal of variation in the votes for executive positions. Jasmine Wong Denike, president-elect; Shahin Imtiaz, vice president, campus life-elect; and Farah Noori, vice president, equity-elect, all received over 400 more votes than their 1UofT counterparts. Meanwhile, the race for vice president, external saw Hello’s Lucinda Qu win by a mere 18 votes.

Hello’s candidate for vice president, internal and services, Mathias Memmel, lost to 1UofT’s Carina Zhang by a similarly slim margin of 37 votes, resulting in what might be termed a mixed executive. It might be assumed that the executive candidates of a slate would receive relatively similar votes, so it’s interesting to see this degree of variance.   

In any case, the election procedure reforms that came into effect this year were certainly a welcome change. In previous elections, staff of the York Federation of Students and the Ryerson Students’ Union could be seen campaigning for their CFS-backed counterparts. Under the new Election Procedures Code, the use of external campaigners is prohibited.

The 1UofT slate was investigated for its campaigning on an Instagram account managed by Guled Arale, who was found to not be a fee-paying member of the UTSU. In fact, Arale is the former vice president, external of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union. Unfortunately, a lack of transparency is still prevalent in our student politics. 

Other peculiar violations of campaign procedure were investigated by the CRO, including a blog entry that was circulated on a Chinese social media website called WeChat, which appeared to be an endorsement of the 1UofT slate. According to The Varsity’s translation of this post, the blog contained “bizarre” descriptions of the candidates’ physical appearance, comparing Lera Nwineh, vice president, campus life candidate to American president Barack Obama, as well as describing vice president, external candidate Andre Fast as the “hot guy.”

Of course, discussion of a candidate’s physical appearance has absolutely no relevance to what they promise to do for the students of this university. It also showcases nauseating pandering to Chinese students that’s reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s recent attempt to show Hispanic voters why she’s just like your abuela. 

I’m almost reluctant to mention the abysmal turnout of this year’s elections, which was 9.7 per cent. What is perhaps more worrying is the abstention rate of many of the votes. The abstention rate in each of the executive races was between 27.3 and 37.7 percent, demonstrating that even many of those students who take the time to vote do not have a preference of candidates or platforms. 

As the slogan goes, we’ll be saying “hello” to a new UTSU next year, but whether or not this represents real change in the health of student democracy remains to be seen.

Disclosure: Shahin Imtiaz is a former associate science editor for The Varsity.

Reut Cohen is a first-year student studying international relations at Trinity College. She is The Varsity’s associate arts and culture editor.

Slates take divergent marketing paths

Hello goes for online, 1UofT prioritizes physical campaign materials

Slates take divergent marketing paths

Promotional material costs a good deal of money; in order to pay for these advertisements, the UTSU reimburses candidates for their expenses up to a maximum amount dependent on the proportion of votes the candidates receive.

Setting the caps

The UTSU determines the allotment of funds according to the percentage of votes a candidate wins. Candidates who obtain between 15 and 100 per cent of the vote are eligible to claim money based on the highest funding bracket.

Executive candidates, of whom there are seven, may claim up to $1,200 each. The five academic director candidates, eight college director candidates, and eight professional faculties director candidates are allotted $100 each, with at-large candidates permitted up to $300 each. 

The maximum possible combined total for the team is $11,100.

“We have to acknowledge the fact that many students feel disengaged with the UTSU. It’s been a recurring theme this past week and a half. Many students don’t know what the UTSU is or what it does,” said Jasmine Wong Denike, president-elect from the Hello UofT slate.

“Elections aren’t just about the candidates running, we are also creating awareness and points of engagement with the UTSU. In elections, students can have a voice in how the UTSU is run and, by voting, can create a UTSU that they would actually want to see,” Denike added.

Overall campaign expenses

“We’ve been conservative in our spending and have only spent what we believe was necessary to create awareness about Hello UofT while informing students about the 2016 Elections,” said Denike. “We have exclusively spent our available funds on promotional materials. In total we estimate that we have spend about 60 per cent of our ‘available maximum funds’ on the campaign in total.”

Denike claims that Hello UofT stayed “well under [their] maximum available funds” and have saved money on the campaign, spending a total of $7,361. 

According to 1UofT presidential candidate Madina Siddiqui, her slate spent “just over $3,000 on their campaign.”

“We were well below the campaign expense limit,” Siddiqui said. “We need financial accommodation and we didn’t want to risk not qualifying for reimbursement so we spent a lot less than the limit.”

Where did the money go?

Both slates used online promotion strategies that included videos, websites, and social media platforms.

“As all of us are full-time students, we really didn’t have much of a budget for promotional materials,” said Siddiqui, who added that her team spent the “bare minimum” on their campaign website in order to conserve funds.

Denike said that Hello UofT put most of their energy into Facebook and Instagram advertisements. “Our online presence was crucial in engaging students, as our Hello UofT Facebook page garnered over 1,300 likes by the end of the campaign,” she said.

Hello UofT’s promotional videos included shots of UTM and St. George, several seconds of which were shot using a drone. There was also a scene filmed in a subway station, which, if classified as a commercial project, would result in Hello UofT needing to apply for a permit to film. 

Denike does not consider the videos to be commercial projects in a monetary sense.  She clarified that Hello UofT asked a TTC supervisor if they could film inside the station. “They allowed us to film briefly,” Denike said.

Denike declined to give the name of Hello UofT’s videographer, nor to reveal the exact cost of the video, citing respect for the privacy of their freelance work.

Despite the quality of their videos, Denike stated that Hello UofT did not sacrifice anything to accommodate the expense of the videos. “We re-channeled most of our resources to online campaigning because of the removal of in-person campaigning to students during voting days,” Denike explained.

1UofT took a different approach, preferring to build their website and shoot their videos with volunteers. “Our video was filmed by fellow U of T students and I love them! We didn’t have access to a production team or equipment but I think our videos are personal and show all of us for who we are in real life,” said Siddiqui.

Unlike Hello UofT, 1UofT used most of its funds to expand its physical presence. “Most of the money was spent on print materials, like banners, posters and flyers which help make the election accessible to students on campus,” said Siddiqui.

279 demerit points issued during UTSU elections

123 points repealed

279 demerit points issued during UTSU elections

Both Hello UofT and 1UofT slates received multiple demerit points throughout the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) election campaign before appeals. 1UofT garnered 188 demerit points and Hello UofT received 91.

Demerit points are a possible consequence of violations of the Elections Procedures Code (EPC). Students may file a grievance with the chief returning officer (CRO) if they believe a candidate has broken the election procedure.

The CRO, Daniel Gladstone, reviews the validity of the complaints and issues rulings. If a candidate is found to have broken election procedure, the CRO will issue a number of demerit points depending on the severity of the violation.

If an executive candidate reaches 35 demerit points, they are disqualified from participating in the election. This maximum is 30 for at-large director candidates and 20 for all other director candidates.

The CRO issued 16 rulings on complaints made throughout the campaign period, six of which were appealed and sent to the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC). The ERC has the power to hear appeals and uphold or overturn the CRO’s decisions as it sees fit.

Alessia Rodríguez, independent candidate for vice president, campus life, was not the subject of any complaints and did not receive any demerit points at during the campaign.

1UofT received significantly more demerit points than Hello UofT; each executive candidate for 1UofT was awarded between 22 and 28 points.

Non-English promotion

Circulating online campaign materials in a language other than English without a translation was a violation that the 1UofT slate committed. The EPC requires any campaign materials not in English to have an “accurate English translation that appears in equal stature and size.” The EPC also requires the translation to be notarized.

The CRO issued a total of 12 demerit points to 1UofT as a result of three different rulings involving non-English campaign materials. During the campaign period, The Varsity reported on one such blog in simplified Chinese, urging students to vote for 1UofT candidates.

Additionally, the CRO found that 1UofT had violated electoral procedure by having an “unauthorized campaigner” managing their Instagram account. The account belonged to Guled Arale, an employee of the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students, former vice president, external at the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union, and the treasurer of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. An investigation determined that Arale is not a UTSU member; each member of 1UofT received three demerit points.

The slate appealed the decision and the ERC overturned the CRO’s ruling, revoking the demerit points on the grounds that “the events established show an unintentional error not made with the intent to break the elections code.” Madina Siddiqui, presidential candidate for 1UofT, did not respond to requests for comment.

With the exception of Jasmine Wong Denike, president-elect, and Ryan Gomes, vice president, professional faculties-elect, Hello UofT’s executive candidates ultimately received zero demerit points.

Denike and Gomes obtained one and six points, respectively.

Denike, Andre Fast — vice president, external candidate with the 1UofT — and Malkeet Sandhu — vice president, equity candidate with 1UofT — each received a handful of demerit points relating to improper placement of campaign materials. Among these violations were posters placed on top of another candidate’s poster, or within one foot of another’s posters.

Fast received the highest number of demerit points — 27 by the end of the campaign. This figure was reduced to 25 after the appeals process. Fast did not respond to a request for comment.

Appeals heard

There was one significant violation which affected all members of the Hello UofT slate. The CRO issued each candidate with three demerit points for pre-campaigning, which is forbidden under the EPC. The pre-campaigning allegedly took place in the form of Hello UofT’s Facebook page. The CRO ruled that “having these material present before the campaign period afforded the Hello UofT an unfair advantage.”

Hello UofT appealed the CRO’s decision. Given that the online content was invisible to anyone who was not a page administrator  the ruling was overturned.

Individually, Gomes received six demerit points for “intentional misrepresentation of fact.” In a recorded conversation between Gomes and a volunteer campaigning for 1UofT, Gomes allegedly suggested that he was unaffiliated with the Hello UofT slate. The CRO penalized Gomes for noncompliance with the “spirit of [the] elections.”

Gomes appealed the CRO’s decision to the ERC, which upheld the ruling.

The recording was used as evidence in support of the allegation that the 1UofT slate participated in an act of “gross misrepresentation of fact.” In his ruling, the CRO issued eight demerit points to the entire slate, but declined to state which facts were misrepresented.

“The severity of these charges warranted much consideration on the part of the CRO. Because the CRO does not wish to further propagate these misrepresentations of fact, the CRO is omitting the details of this conversation,” read part of the CRO’s ruling.

“I believe that Hello UofT campaigned very fairly and followed the rules set by the [EPC],” said Denike. “I’m incredibly proud of my team and I don’t think I would have done anything any differently.”

When asked about some of the potential primary causes for procedure violations, Denike suggested that many violations “are due to small errors made during postering or campaigning.”

“The demerit point system exists to maintain a clean atmosphere during campaigning, and not there to be abused,” Denike commented. “The system is also in place to avoid people spreading lies, rumors or other malicious behaviors to tarnish the reputation of other candidate’s.”

“It’s important that people remember that although this system exists, people still get hurt, and that has a much more lasting impact than any number would,” she added.

With files from Rachel Chen & Tom Yun

Correction (March 29, 2016, 5:59 pm): An earlier version of this article stated that Ryan Gomes was found guilty of gross misrepresentation of facts. He was actually found guilty of intentional misrepresentation of facts, which is a different and less serious offence. The Varsity regrets the error.

UTSU members say ‘Hello’ to new executive

Hello UofT wins all executive positions except for vice president, internal & services

UTSU members say ‘Hello’ to new executive

Hello UofT took all but one of the executive positions in the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) spring elections. Competing against them were the 1UofT slate and one independent candidate for vice president, campus life.

Both slates campaigned for improvements to services such as the UTSU’s health and dental plan and U of T’s health and wellness services. All candidates agreed that they would work towards creating a safer and more inclusive campus should they be elected. According to president-elect Jasmine Wong Denike from Hello UofT, her immediate goal is to spearhead tuition fee caps, as the deadline for their expiration in 2017 nears.

Election results and statistics

Of the 50,113 eligible voters, a total of 4,871 votes were cast. Voter turnout was 9.7 per cent, which was a 3.3 per cent drop from last year’s 13 per cent turnout.

Denike is currently the union’s vice president, external. She emerged victorious with 2,000 votes, while 1UofT’s Madina Siddiqui received 1,540 votes.

Shawn Williams ran for vice president, university affairs with Hello UofT and was elected to the position with 1,822 votes. 1UofT’s Andy Edem, who was formerly an independent candidate, received 1,432 votes.

Hello UofT’s Farah Noori will fill the vice president, equity role. Noori received 1,728 votes to 1UofT’s Malkeet Sandhu’s 1,307 votes.

Shahin Imtiaz of Hello UofT will serve as the next vice president, campus life, with 1,489 voters ranking her as their first choice. 1UofT’s Lera Nwineh placed second and received 1,070 votes, while independent candidate and current vice president, campus life Alessia Rodríguez placed third with 834 votes. This is the first time that the vice president, campus life has been an elected position.

Ryan Gomes, the current UTSU vice president, internal & services, ran with Hello UofT to be the first-ever president, professional faculties. Gomes’ 553 votes put him ahead of Charlotte Mengxi Shen, who managed to secure 319 votes.

The contest for the position of vice president, external was the closest of any of the races. Hello UofT’s Lucinda Qu narrowly defeated Andre Fast of 1UofT by a margin of 18 votes, winning 1,648 votes to Fast’s 1,630.

1UofT candidate Carina Zhang won vice president, internal & services by 37 votes over Hello UofT’s Mathias Memmel. Zhang received 1,777 votes to Memmel’s 1,740 votes and was the only 1UofT member to win an executive position.

The UTSU’s Elections Procedures Code (EPC) states executive candidate elections that result in a victory by a margin of up to 50 votes will automatically be recounted.

The abstention rate for executive candidate elections ranged between 27 and 38 per cent.

Voting methods

Only three paper ballots were cast; two of those ballots were test ballots. Online voting was offered in person at a polling station, meaning paper ballots had to be specifically requested.

Vere-Marie Khan, chair of the Elections & Referenda Committee, stated that paper ballots were heavily underused due to the advent of online voting.

“[We] made every effort to ensure that laptops at our polling stations were as accessible as possible,” Khan said. “I think the future of paper ballots is that there is none.”
Khan hopes that paper ballots will become obsolete. “Personally, I am glad for this step as paper ballots are sustainably not feasible and are an additional cost factor to the union (therefore students as well),” she said.

This was also the first time that the UTSU elections were conducted using the single-transferable vote, a voting system in which voters rank candidates by order of preference. Prior to this year, the elections used the first-past-the-post system.

The campaign period

The 10 day campaign period saw numerous controversies and a spate of demerit points issued to both slates, much the same as in previous UTSU elections. The in-person campaign period was shorter this year than in previous years, and reforms to the EPC banned in-person campaigning on voting days. Candidates were still permitted to campaign online.

There were a total of 16 rulings by the chief returning officer (CRO) and six rulings by the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC).

During the executive debate, Edem misgendered Williams. Edem immediately offered an apology, which Williams found to be unsatisfactory, calling it “long and mostly devoid of substance” in a public Facebook post. Four days after the debate, 1UofT released a statement in response.

Moving forward

Despite the mixed executive, Denike does not believe the election of Zhang will be an issue for the new team.

“Carina, like the rest of us, ran because she wants to make U of T better,” Denike said. “Anyone putting themselves forward for a position like this, on a student union executive, needs to be prepared to work under any circumstance… I hope to get the chance to talk with her about what she wants to accomplish and hopefully find ways to incorporate that into our vision as well.”

“I also want to ensure that all of the executives are comfortable and ready to get to work. This would include having a proper transition from their predecessors, being prepared for the kind of year they have ahead, and knowing that we’re a team,” said Denike.

“We’re all so proud of Carina! She worked so hard and we could not imagine anyone better for the role of VP internal,” said Siddiqui. “I look forward to working with her in this new role and all of the great things that she will do this year,” she added.

This is not the first time that the UTSU elections have produced a mixed executive. In 2014, Pierre Harfouche, who ran for vice president, university affairs, was the only elected executive candidate from team Unite. Harfouche ultimately resigned in the following November.

“Slates don’t exist anymore,” Denike said. “We’re here because students voted for us to be here, and that’s what matters. We should be listening to what they have to say — if we’re doing a good or awful job — and being prepared to prioritize the representation of marginalized groups on campus who may feel ostracized by not only their peers, but the UTSU. Mending that relationship is one of my top priorities.”

It’s your responsibility to vote in student elections

The UTSU has benefits for all of us, let's keep them accountable

It’s your responsibility to vote in student elections

TO say that the University of Toronto Student’s Union (UTSU) has had a rocky year would be an understatement. In an exercise of volcano management, the UTSU impeached its vice president, campus life in December, held a rather turbulent Annual General Meeting (AGM), and is currently negotiating an ongoing lawsuit that began in September. Even for the disengaged, this year’s student politics have been difficult to ignore.

Starting Tuesday, March 22, students begin casting ballots to elect a new executive team for the UTSU. Voting will remain open until the following Thursday at 6:30pm.

Voter turnout for these elections have traditionally been uncomfortably low. Last year, only 13 per cent of students voted, and prior to that, voting turnout has been as low as seven per cent. Regardless of the importance of issues — like rising tuition cost, deferred maintenance, and equity — that the candidates are expected to take heed of, the stances taken on these issues will not be representative of the students’ will as long as nobody participates.

Students need to engage in the democratic system through which our student government functions. While the UTSU’s presence isn’t exactly profound, it’s vital that our voices be heard through voting. The UTSU operates on a multi-million dollar budget and, voting is the most direct way to ensure that those funds are properly spent.

While the UTSU may engage in theatrics at its AGMs, their jurisdiction extends to medical coverage, the student dental plan, and formation of a Student Commons building. By voting, students get to select representatives who they want to dispense funding to campus clubs, organize orientation week activities, and oversee the food and clothing bank. The UTSU is also expected to lobby on our behalf; those who are elected to the UTSU executive are responsible for, among other things, fighting for lower tuition, improving resources for students with mental illnesses, and combatting sexual assault on campus.

At the very least, every full-time student — no matter how invested in student politics — paid the UTSU $190 in student fees this year. To who that money will go to, and how that money will be managed, is up to us to decide.

Political science suggests that the more people that vote in an election increases the likelihood of reaching a ‘correct’ decision. Yet if our current voting habits then only a minor fraction of students will be deciding which candidates are worthy of these positions.

Often, these minor fractions are comprised of hyper-partisan voters whose support stems from their personal relationships. It is sobering that people who are elected by these small percentages of students are receiving, according to Macleans, an average salary of $26,171.

It’s understandable that in the face of scandal and dubious governance practices the electorate may choose to distance itself from a seemingly dysfunctional system. In fact, this scenario would be somewhat of a déja-vu for the UTSU. Controversy surrounding an opposing slate in the 2011 election manifested itself in boycots and book burning (no, really). This and consequently resulted in a seven per cent voter turnout at the polls.

Yet, the times when people have minimal faith in governance are the times when it’s most important to establish good governance. Rather than removing ourselves from the political system, we should engage with it and demand change. If we want to avoid our student union’s theatrical tendencies in the future, and if we intend on selecting a team that is representative of our student body’s wants and needs, it is vital that a broad range of students select the candidates who represent us. Regardless of whether or not you think the UTSU impacts your university experience, 13 per cent of the student body should rarely be deciding for the other 87 percent.