The Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) held its fall election speeches on Wednesday, October 10 in the Hobbs Memorial Library at Sadleir House. Each year, the student union holds elections during the month of October to fill any board or executive positions that remain unclaimed from the preceding spring elections or are vacated through resignation or impeachment over the summer months.
The fall speeches, while not as prominent or scrutinized as those in the spring, are a chance for prospective directors or executives to outline their platforms and to introduce themselves to the full-time undergraduate and consecutive education student body who will cast their ballots at the end of this week.
The elections this fall are actually quite significant for the student union, as of the ten equity commissioner positions only three are currently filled. The executive position of Vice-President Campus Life is also vacant following the resignation of former VP Aladdin Hasmani earlier this fall.
Attendance is a seemingly perennial problem for student elections and unfortunately Wednesday’s speeches did nothing to buck that trend. Candidates spoke to a largely empty hall as the audience comprised of the candidates themselves, the moderators and barely a handful of students and student media representatives. Another more disturbing issue relating to attendance was the fact that of the nine candidates who submitted nomination packages only five were on hand to present or had sent in their speeches ahead of time to be read by the moderator.
The first candidate to take the microphone was Abhudaya Poudyal, a third-year Business and Economics student running for the position of Anti-Racism Commissioner. Mr. Poudyal stressed that Trent is a diverse institution with “people from 110 countries and all of the provinces of Canada.” His goal, he said, would be to make the university a “zero-tolerance place for racism.” Under his platform, Mr. Poudyal explained that events would be his main priority so that students could “come together and get a concept of other cultures.” One idea he mentioned was introducing a lecture series on global issues “so that people from different cultures could get together and listen to various topics that are related worldwide.”
Following Mr. Poudyal, TCSA President Brea Hutchinson, who held the position of moderator for the evening, recited the speech for Clarissa Rueckwart-McCorma, one of two candidates vying for the position of Students with Disabilities Commissioner. In her speech Ms. Rueckwart-McCorma stated that she views the role of commissioner as “more than just a position or a job, [but as] an opportunity to really make a difference for students with disabilities.” She mentioned that one of her priorities would be to “develop a program that would allow students with disabilities to get together and…support each other.” She explained that this program would help disabled students manage aspects of university that can seem intimidating or scary.
The second candidate, Allison O’Neill, stressed that if she were to be elected her focus would be on “breaking down the stigma that is attached to students with disabilities and students affiliated with the Disabilities Services Office (DSO).” She outlined her idea to “form an alliance between non-disabled and disabled students” that would involve the facilitation of small information sessions and “provide an inclusive space and could lead to something more.” Building on that concept, Ms. O’Neill said that the sessions could also provide a place to open a broader discussion on how media and popular culture view those who are disabled. She offered up HBO’s Game of Thrones and ABC’s Switched at Birth as examples of programs that could be analysed.
After the speeches concluded both Ms. Rueckwart-McCorma and Ms. O’Neill indicated that they would be willing to work together on the Students with Disabilities portfolio no matter the electoral outcome.
The final candidates to take the microphone Wednesday evening were two students vying for the recently vacated executive position of Vice-President Campus Life. The candidates had differing reasons for running, one marketed his experience in Trent student politics while the other portrayed himself as a fresh face with new ideas, and portrayed two very different visions for the VP position.
Ben Perry, a fourth year Environmental Studies and Geography student, was elected in the spring elections as Gzowski College Commissioner but was appointed interim VP Campus Life following Mr. Hasmani’s resignation in early September. Mr. Perry presented a platform that focused on long-term service expansion for the TCSA. As one example, he expressed desire to consult with College Cabinets and other student leaders on the prospective Student’s Centre that features as part of the administration’s upcoming Draft Development Plan. The Student’s Centre proposal was brought to students last year by the TCSA as an administration-union partnership but was defeated in the spring levy referendum. Mr. Perry also expressed his interest in exploring avenues leading towards a TCSA take over of The Ceilie, Trent’s campus pub, from Conference Services and hinted that the issue has been a recent topic of discussion among the TCSA Executive.
In contrast to Mr. Perry, Samier Kamar, a first-year Biochemistry and Molecular Biology student, presented a social-centric platform that focused on introducing new large-scale events to Trent students. Mr. Kamar’s ideas included importing a campus-wide social-networking game (somewhat similar to large-scale, more complex game of Tag) from the University of Western Ontario and having Trent University partake in a Guinness World Record breaking event. He also noted that he would push for a redistribution of the Campus Life Budget towards having more smaller events throughout the year rather several large events at the beginning and end.
When the speeches concluded, all of the candidates succeeded in expressing thoughtful and worthy ideas in their presentations, and though it was disappointing that more students did not come out to hear what their prospective representatives had to say, it was more disappointing that so many candidates opted not to participate themselves.
The speeches exist so that students can make an informed choice about who they want representing their interests, handling their levy money and running their services and events. Wednesday’s turnout (or lack thereof) brought into sharp relief the question of whether or not the current electoral process is working as effectively as it should be. Given the seemingly frequent nature of the issues, perhaps it is time for the TCSA to re-examine its election process to see if there is a more effective way of engaging the student body.
Wednesday’s speeches will also be broadcast on Trent Radio this week at a time to be determined. Keep an eye on the Arthur website and Twitterfeed for an update. Voting will occur October 17, 18 and 19 on Symons Campus.