Elections were held last week to fill five positions on the UTMSU board of directors.
The election, which commenced with a nomination period on September 15 and campaign period stretching from September 22 to October 2, ended last Thursday after three days of voting. The by-election was held to fill positions on Divisions 1, 4, and 5.
A total of 13 candidates competed for the two positions on the Division 1 tier, which is intended for the representation of first-year students. The original candidates list released last week underwent changes because candidates dropped out of the race before polls opened.
According to Ashley Toste, UTMSU’s chief returning officer, the ballots only reflected the listing of candidates who maintained their candidacy—which has not always been the case in student union elections.
“As for the two to three candidates who dropped out during the campaign period last week, their names were not represented on the ballots,” said Toste. Farah Noori, a candidate running in Division 1, terminated her candidacy after The Medium published the candidates list last week.
The candidates vying for the two Division 1 positions campaigned on a broad range of issues, the most prevalent being campus food options and fees.
“Exam deferrals cost students from $70 up to $100, which absolutely makes no sense if no other campus is enforcing their students to pay,” said Mohamed Dine, a Division 1 candidate who pledged to advocate for the removal of the fees and to improve food on campus and implement an additional reading week in the fall term.
“I plan to lobby for a fall reading week, improved Wi-Fi on campus, better entertainment and computing services in the Student Centre, more and affordable food options on campus, [and the] regulation of international and deregulated tuition,” said Vaibhav Narang, another Division 1 candidate.
Like Narang, Vibhuti Razdan also pledged to advocate on a wide range of issues.
“I will fight to drop the tuition fees, eliminate the missed examination fees, the variety and pricing of food options on campus, as well as find out ways to help decrease the cost of books,” said Razdan.
Qiongwen Xu, a visual culture and communication student, pledged to advocate for “more interactions between UTM students and UTMSU members”, and planned to establish a club on campus.
Fellow Division 1 candidate Maheen Farrukh spoke about two objectives she would pursue if elected.
“The first one is equity: there should be no discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, et cetera,” said Farrukh. “Secondly, we as students should have a greater say in decisions that affect our lives.” Farrukh went on to enumerate her aims to reduce fees, improve campus study space, enhance campus Wi-Fi, and increase the duration of library hours.
The candidates observed that many students were unaware of the by-elections.
“Many students were not aware that UTMSU by-elections were taking place until I had started to campaign,” said Razdan. “Social media for me was a big part in helping me to reach out to the student population at UTM.”
Dine also faced similar challenges. “I have noticed little awareness due to the lack of promotion of the position itself,” said the first-year political science and CCIT student. “Also, usually small campaigns like this tend to get [little] attraction, since midterms just started.”
Farrukh also alluded to confusion at the polls. “I believe most first-years [know about the election] but the upper-year students don’t,” she said. “The ones that actually do know mostly believe that they cannot vote since it’s a Division 1 election.”
According to the UTMSU election policy, all part time and full time undergraduate students are able to vote for Divisions 1, 2, and 3 on the union’s board. Voting for Division 4 is restricted to part-time students and Division 5 to students in professional studies.
For the two positions vacant in Division 4, only Salem Aboghodieh was running. According to Toste, the other position will remain vacant for the school year. The UTMSU Constitution and Bylaws state that vacancies occurring after November 1 for positions in Divisions 1 to 4 are subject to “an interim election at the Board”. The document states that any student who is both a member of UTMSU and of the constituency in which the vacancy exists can fill the vacancy.
Division 5 candidate Simon Feng also ran unopposed. The unopposed candidates for both Divisions 4 and 5 underwent a verification vote allowing students to vote either in favour of or against the two candidates. In the event that more votes are cast against the candidate than are cast in favour, the position will remain vacant.
The election results are to be announced today.