When reading the most recent Letter to the Editor, I thought of a time when I was involved in student politics here at STU. I remember the same process of putting my name and my face out there for the STU community to see and to know about me. This was a grand feat, considering that I was a first-year transfer coming out of college and knowing nobody at STU.
Student elections will certainly come and go, but it is truly the impact and passion that candidates place in our minds and in our hearts that make the difference. However, from experience, getting to this point where you have already established your presence is not an easy challenge.
From prior experiences of working and running elections, and seeing all of the posters and pamphlets and brochures across campus, it is certainly evident that the idea of “getting your name out there” can be taken too literally to actually litter campus with posters and such. I do certainly agree that the abundance of campaigning materials across campus is exhausting and should be limited, but to what degree is questionable. Again though, since this can be difficult, the question then lies on who is responsible for the posters around campus.
The candidates of the election? Well, unless you know of the candidate extensively prior to the election and know of their experiences, then how else will they see you? There are certainly other ways in which to campaign, being from events on campus, approaching students, speeches and all of the other ideas possible that could be towards a paperless campaign. Still, how many actual voters will you reach, even with all of those events combined? I mean, during government elections, being federal, provincial or municipal, they use paper and other material campaigns in order to get their messages out there to the voting public. Therefore, how can we expect students to fork out wads of cash on campaigning styles that would be more expensive than traditional paper?
The general election process? For any election, the competition can certainly be fierce. And with opposing posters being placed in centralized, prime locations across campus, such as [Sir James Dunn Hall] or [George Marting Hall], it is no wonder that there can certainly be an excessive amount of posters, handouts and so forth. In all honesty, candidates would, almost in all cases, place their campaigning materials where their opponent has placed theirs, in order for the voting audience to compare and contrast the candidates in question. This is where the cycle truly begins, where one poster leads to two, and then before you know it, all of the candidates have their materials on one wall, one stairwell, one table in JDH. And why does this have to be? Candidates should be able to be unique with their campaigning process, and place materials or have differing styles of campaigning, across the board in order to exhibit variety and innovation.
The STUSU itself? According to the campaign process, there are limits enforced in which candidates can post their posters, but not necessarily their campaign materials. Without a limit in place to begin with, can you possibly imagine the audacity that would fill the halls? Posters hanging from every crevice possible across the STU campus perhaps? There could definitely be lower limits in terms of posters and full-size campaign materials, and a provision concerning loose campaign materials, as the amount of paper used has definitely been plentiful.
The STUdents themselves? Concerning any student election in the past, the highest turnout rate for voting within any given STUSU election has been 33 per cent (where all the prior results of STUSU elections are available online with SimplyVoting). That means then that only one in three students, or even less than that are actually voting in these elections. I do understand that we all came to STU for the purpose of getting a university education, but is that all that we benefit from when we are here? What about our Bus Passes? Emergency Bursaries? Health and Dental Plan? Community Food Smart? Clubs and Societies? Help Desk? Volunteer and Employment Opportunities? Welcome Week? The list is certainly exhaustive, because those are only some of the more popular programs put in place by the STUSU. That $137 that every STUdent spends each year on fees for the STUSU goes to those and so many more programs across campus, and that can only start with your involvement in choosing the right people for your Student Union. Then how else could the candidates reach almost 2,000 students (and keeping in mind that this is one of the smallest public universities in Canada) by not using a traditional paper method of reaching out to STUdents? Certainly, social media such as Facebook, and emails can be possible as well, but will all recipients take their time to read them over?
In essence, there are certainly many aspects of discussion when it comes to elections, whether being on a larger scale, or a smaller scale such as here at St. Thomas. There is definitely a need to change how disastrous campaigning can be for the environment and for sustainability, but that a question this complicated certainly needs a multi-dimensional solution.
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