Look for changes of a different kind

Following along with a crowded election via the new elections notice board

There are more candidates than usual for UTMSU’s executive positions. But they’re not the most interesting aspect of, well, yet another election.

But first, two things about them.

One: Three candidates signed up for VP part-time, but two have been disqualified. One, Hassan Chughtai, didn’t have part-time students for all 20 signatures on his nomination form. He asked for time to collect more but the appeal was denied. Interesting—I’d’ve thought he was a favourite. He’s the (hired) clubs coordinator this year and was going to run on the incumbent slate. The other, Minahil Minhas, is not a part-time student at the moment, and she would have to be according to the elections code. Last week, current president Raymond Noronha implied to me that UTMSU meant to lift that requirement earlier in the year but forgot to. The last man standing, Amir Moazzami, is not part of the incumbent slate, but he is on the board and has spoken up for the executive in various comments. At least he wants to improve communication between the union and other students (who wouldn’t?).

Two: Three candidates also signed up for VP equity. One, Saad Alam, withdrew (no publicly available reason). Another is Frishta Amanullah, currently associate VP equity. She’s racked up a few demerit points for the environmentally heinous sin of failing to put “Please pass on to a friend and recycle” on her posters, even after being notified. Maybe she had already printed them and realized that reprinting them would defeat the purpose of recycling anyway? P.S. While we’re nitpicking, the incumbent slate’s posters only advise the reader to recycle them, not pass them on…!

Incidentally, whether or not she is a tree-hater—and whether or not her campaign promises are better than the competition’s—somehow I feel more secure voting for her than the third candidate, the incumbent slate’s Melissa Theodore, who wrote in a public Facebook comment this year that the “root cause” of mental illness among students is high tuition fees that require us to overwork ourselves. Not a great perspective for a VP equity. She also believes she was “racialized” in talks at the Student Societies Summit downtown because her opinions were dismissed by “white non-racialized men”. Reading over her letter that signified UTMSU’s withdrawal from the talks, I have other ideas about why her opinions were dismissed. Actually, the associate of another executive approached me having reached the exact same conclusion and wanting to write a letter about it. But the associate wanted to “check” if it was okay with Theodore herself first, and such a letter never materialized.

But anyway. Yes, more independent candidates. But most of them are out of the running now anyway. What’s of more interest is the large number of students running for the board.

To be specific, 15 candidates want four spots in Division II (the main body of full-time students) and 12 candidates want seven spots in Division III (who represent UTM on the downtown student union’s board).

Why are there so many more this year than usual? Noronha says it reflects the great job UTMSU has done engaging students. Yeah, it could be that. Or it could suggest that people are dissatisfied. The increase doesn’t resolve the question in itself, I think. Clearer, in my mind, is that the reason the bulk of this year’s candidates are running for the board instead of the executive is that the prospect of running against incumbents is hopelessly intimidating.

On the other hand, even though they’re not up against them for executive spots, the incumbents might be the ones intimidated by the number of candidates for the board. Apparently some of them must have wanted to form slates to strengthen their campaign, but were shut down by the Elections and Referenda Committee. The EARC found that as there was no rule about slating across divisions, it was up to them to decide. They forbade slating because “it is important that the board acts in due diligence, makes decisions in the best interest of students, and decisions are free of any biases”. Hmm. I don’t know about you, but I can’t discern any logical connection between the cause and the effect. After all, these problems don’t seem to affect the executive slate. Result: some people benefit from coordination and a fancy name like “UTM Inspire”, and everyone else is an “independent”.

These problems don’t change the fact, though, that an interesting group of mostly untried students will form UTMSU’s board in 2014/15. It could yield changes of a different kind than we usually see from year to year.

Before I sign off, let me dispel the notion that we Medium folk find UTMSU foibles exciting, hence the coverage and editorial. We don’t. What’s inherently exciting to people is change. I think that’s another thing we can draw from the number of candidates.

One positive development is that many of the facts here and in our lead news story have been gleaned from the elections notice board, which this year has been posted on the glass wall of UTMSU’s office. Nice! See, some things do change for the better.


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