SU General Election report

By Patrick Boyle

The Students’ Union’s Chief Returning Officer delivered a post-mortem speech to members of the Students’ Legislative Council on Tue., Mar 18. In his discourse, aptly titled “Democracy is not a Spectator Sport”, CRO Shuv Majumdar reflected on the election and offered both words of advice and words of warning to the campus politicians, especially those who won positions on next year’s council.

After inviting meeting attendants to “warm themselves by the democratic fire of this chamber,” Majumdar offered his thoughts on a wide variety of issues, from the analysis of election results to the growing issue of sexual harassment of female SU employees.

The discourse was kicked off with a discussion of the nomination process. One of Majumdar’s accomplishments was facilitating a much-needed overhaul of the SU nomination package, a piece of literature that details the implications, rules and procedures of candidacy.

“This was the first serious upgrade to the nomination package in 11 years,” said Majumdar. “The result is both candidate-friendly and CRO-friendly. This will no doubt substantially decrease the workload for future administrators of SU general elections.”

The next topic tackled in the speech was the campaign process. Majumdar commended the candidates for races that he considered to be very clean, in general; however, he emphasized that candidates who held council positions during their campaigns must remain conscious of the fact that, while “on the clock,” their primary job is to perform the duties of their elected positions, not to win votes. One race was singled by the CRO out as a superb example of how political campaigns should run.

“Candidates [Lawrence] Bailey, [Richard] Bergen, and [Anant] Patel, in the race for VP events, were exemplary in their sportsmanship and their desire to run a clean, friendly campaign,” he said.

There was an audible buzz in the council chamber when the CRO raised the issue of the Gauntlet’s “monopoly” in the publication of SU election candidate endorsements, in which editorial staff print a short piece about each candidate accompanied by a statement indicating whether or not they believe that individual is qualified for the position. Citing the notable absence of alternative media outlets that offer editorial opinions about the SU candidates, Majumdar encouraged SU executive members to initiate a dialogue between their organization and the Gauntlet editorial staff in order to determine a mutually beneficial form of involvement of the newspaper in SU general elections.

“This [current] policy is a wet blanket that smothers the fire of democracy in this chamber,” said Majumdar. “A monopoly should simply not endorse candidacy. This is an issue that the SU and the Gauntlet should approach together to find an optimal solution, whether it involves the availability of other publications or the publication of a daily campaign diary.”

Before delivering his closing remarks to the council, the CRO raised something of a controversial topic–the treatment of women at the SU. Majumdar was clearly enraged by the rampant undermining of women by members of the SU and by election candidates.

“I find it appalling that a university which consistently produces some of the brightest and most sought-after graduates in the country is home to politics that espouse attitudes that were common in the 1950s,” said Majumdar, his audience listening attentively. “This is a glaring threat to the democratic discourse at the U of C. To wholly engage an apathetic campus, these dark policies of perversion must come to an end. I urge you to make yourselves relevant by blasting open the doors of this democracy- the students will respond.”

In spite of the discussion of such serious issues and the presence of negative overtones, Majumdar’s speech spoke largely of a successful, smoothly run election. The CRO was effusive in thanking the other members of his election team as well as the SU employees who facilitated their work. Further, he was pleased to reveal that the voter turnout was second highest in the country, trailing only the University of Alberta. Ultimately, his message to the council was one of hope: that they are the first layer of democracy and that they are most certainly not spectators.

Leave a comment