The Students' Union is allowing joke candidates to run in the upcoming SU election in an effort to raise awareness and provide an opportunity for more students to engage in the electoral process.
"If a joke candidate wins, they will not take office, rather the purpose of a joke candidate is to make a point about something and raise awareness about student issues and the election itself," said Alastair MacKinnon, a senate representative for the SU and chief returning officer. "It's a fun way to inject a little levity into the campaigns. The key thing is under no circumstance can a joke candidate be elected to office."
Typically joke candidates run as fictional characters, in many cases highlighting important student issues such as debt, explained MacKinnon.
"Generally, the idea behind the joke candidate is that you don't run as yourself," said MacKinnon "It's a way to allow more people to engage in the process and raise more awareness."
In the past chemical-engineering student Jeremy Zhao ran a few seemingly joke campaigns. MacKinnon explained that the move to officially allow joke candidates means it's easier for students who want to follow in Zhao's footsteps to run in the election.
"This allows people like Jeremy Zhao . . . to really get out there and engage with people," said MacKinnon.
Zhao is infamous within the SU for his antics, including running under the nickname "Optimus Prime," trying to run with a 128-word nickname and pledging only to change a single regular light bulb to a low energy one if elected.
Furthermore, last year Zhao ran a ridiculous-as-possible campaign for SU president, promising he would resign during his acceptance speech.
MacKinnon said now that the SU has officially allowed joke candidates, people who want to run a silly or satirical campaign, but who don't want to take office, can do just that.
"This allows people who want to run as a completely different person to do that and have fun, to engage with the Students' Union and engage with students."
Zhao, who described his previous election attempts as theatrical displays, said he saw the point of running a joke campaign in the past as two-fold.
"A) for my own amusement and for my friend's amusement at times and B) there's a certain message that no one ever gets and that is, yeah you have serious candidates but they're going to be just as effective as I am," said Zhao.Â
Zhao said he doesn't think the SU's decision to allow joke candidates in the upcoming election will have any big impact.
"I don't think it will change anything. I don't even think people even know about this."
MacKinnon said the move to allow joke candidates is a recent decision.
"It was admittedly something that was introduced late in the game," he said.
The move to allow joke candidates has been "thought about internally for quite a while," explained MacKinnon.
An ongoing governance review allowed the SU to rethink and allow joke candidates to run.
Joke candidates will be permitted on a trial basis and will be expected to abide by the same regulations and campaign procedures as non-joke candidates. They will be eligible for up to $100 of funding. More information regarding rules, regulations and which positions joke candidates can run for can be found in student nomination packages, on the SU website.