Where are the candidates? Where are the voters?

If students weren’t engaged before the candidates for the TCSA’s Spring Election were announced, they definitely weren’t afterwards.

Two out of three executive positions are running unopposed this year, including the position of President.

This is the second year in a row this has been the case for that position.

Three equity commissioners are running unopposed as well.

Half of the equity commissioner positions don’t have a single candidate running for them, and will sit vacant until at least the fall by-election, provided those positions still exist at that time.

It hasn’t always been like this at Trent. In the 2011 election all executive positions saw at least two candidates run. At the time there were four positions to go for, making it even more impressive.

In 2009 there were three candidates for President and a now-impossible sounding five for Vice President Student Issues.

This year students won’t get a choice as to who their TCSA President or Vice President University & College Affairs will be.

This isn’t exclusively a Trent problem either. At Lakehead University this year only one of four executive positions had multiple candidates run in their spring elections.

It’s not a problem exclusive to Ontario’s small universities either. Mount Allison in New Brunswick also saw only one out of four executive positions contested this year.

I can’t speak for those universities, but at Trent we have an apparent culture where the TCSA is just “that thing over there” that isn’t really a huge part of the student experience.

Students seem to accept that there’s little impact they can have on the union and that there’s little impact the union can have on the university.

Perhaps the fact that they don’t do a whole lot is what makes students think that they can’t do a whole lot. But nothing could be farther than the truth.

No student-led organization has as much power or influence on Trent as the TCSA. No other student-led organization provides as many services.

The TCSA shouldn’t be some mystical group that throws the odd major party; they should be an active and present voice on Trent’s campus.

There also seems to be a view that only people with previous TCSA experience can run for the President or Vice President positions.

That’s actually not the case at all. Any full-time undergraduate student can run for executive positions if they want to, they just need the support of 100 other TCSA members.

That sounds like a big number, but if you sit there in a cafeteria with a list for a few hours, of if you pass it around one or two of your larger classes, you can get the support no problem.

It’s just not the case that students want to be involved at the executive level of the TCSA. Students don’t care about being on the board, and the TCSA seems to be just fine with that.

Student disinterest in the TCSA is further evidenced by dwindling voter turnouts.

While the 2011 election saw nearly 1300 students vote and 2012 saw nearly 1200, 2013 saw less than 1000.

There are numerous initiatives trying to get students out to vote, but almost nothing in the way of giving students something to vote for.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that turnouts are low when we know today, before voting begins, who two out of three executives will be. Few people would go out of their way to vote when the decision has already effectively been made.

If the TCSA wants to increase voter turnout they should work very hard in the 2014-15 academic year to ensure that every executive position has multiple candidates.

They should make these jobs attractive to prospective candidates and they should make them matter in the eyes of the student body as a whole.

However, even with only one candidate, voting in the 2014 General Election is not a waste of time, nor is it a totally futile exercise.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re eligible to vote this week is that even when there is only one candidate the “No” option still exists. If you don’t feel that a candidate would be a good fit for the job, slap an X in that “No” box.

I by no means want to endorse a No vote for any position, but it is a good thing to keep in mind if you’re unimpressed by what seems like the only option you have. It makes a larger statement than you might think it does, even if it’s the most unlikely possibility.

At any rate, it would certainly make the election seem more interesting to the multitude of students who won’t be voting this spring.

About Pat Reddick 84 Articles
Pat was co-editor of Volume 49, along with Matt Rappolt. He's primarily interested in arts coverage, often editorializing on arts issues. He graduated from Trent with a Bachelor's degree in English Lit. Pat hosts or co-hosts several programs at Trent Radio, such as Media Are Plural. You can follow him on Twitter, or watch him eat through his kitchen window. In his spare time Pat reads a lot (q.v. English major), plays video games, and writes fiction. He has a blog or something but I couldn't find out too much about that.