The STUSU office door, at the St. Thomas University campus this last Tuesday 11th, 2022. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

Low engagement during the St. Thomas University Students’ Union fall by-election on Oct. 7 resulted in only one out of 11 positions being filled.

Fourth-year student Madison LeBlanc was the only person to participate in this year’s election when she put her name forward as grad class president.

Minahil Fatima, STUSU’s vice-president of administration, said the number one factor for the low engagement is the full return of in-person classes and that students need to adapt to what happens on campus.

“A lot of students who are in their second or third years, who might be interested in applying for these positions, have had their majority of university education online, so I think it will take time for things to fully be back in person,” she said.

Alex Nguyen, STUSU’s president, said the students’ union improved its communications so that students were aware beforehand of nomination periods, advertising the by-election two weeks in advance.

“We did a lot of notices this time as well throughout the entire duration of the elections to just make sure everyone knows when we’re running,” she said.

During the general STUSU election last spring, the union was accused of voting irregularities which eventually led to Victoria Young stepping down from her roles as vice-president of student life and valedictorian.

Nguyen doubts the low engagement is a response to that but said STUSU took extra steps to ensure transparency, accountability and accessibility to regain students’ trust, such as instructions for students to reach out to the chief returning officer if they had issues submitting their votes.

“We accept there was an error last year. We know how to react. We know how to respond,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen said the positions that were not filled will have roles taken on by student representative council members. She added STUSU will establish more direct communications with students from specific communities as they had no candidates to represent them. 

“As a union that represents the student body, we’re trying … to connect more to students,” Nguyen said. “[We are] not going to take over per se, but it’s for us to try to isolate more opportunities for students to directly voice their concerns.”

Fatima said she hopes students will talk to STUSU about topics and issues usually covered by the social inclusion representative and the sexuality and gender diversity representative.

“During meetings, things are brought up on the agenda and we all collectively make a decision on it. Everyone has a voice,” she said.