In some ways, students’ union executive elections in Sackville are as much about the incumbents as the candidates. This year was no different, with current and former MASU executive members weighing in publicly, offering students their opinions and advice through social media.
Current and former students’ union executives were vocal throughout the campaign, readily offering their opinions about candidates and their platforms on Twitter and a blog founded by a former MASU president, MTApathy.
“In-depth Mount Allison Students’ Union election coverage, opinions, and editorials on Mount Allison campus politics from those who know them best” is the tagline on the MTApathy blog, which was started as a way for then-MASU president Pat Joyce to comment on executive elections in 2013.
When Joyce was partway through his second term as MASU president, he started MTApathy to share some of the opinions he had about the candidates and issues. Inspired by similar blogs at Dalhousie and the University of British Columbia, Joyce wanted to start an accessible conversation about student politics.
After nearly two years of radio silence, Joyce partnered with current MASU president Heather Webster to write analysis-type blog posts about the election. Webster and Joyce focused largely on the presidential candidates Piper Riley Thompson and Dylan Wooley-Berry.
“With regard to election platforms: overall, I have been underwhelmed. There is little innovation and nothing particularly exciting for students,” Webster wrote in a blog post. Webster gave an outline of the various campaigning techniques that candidates have used “Loving the Snapchat account from Piper and the Popcorn Distribution earlier this week,” Webster wrote. “Shout out to Dylan for his consultation sessions. Although I take issue with the fact that the platform wasn’t built ahead of time.”
Wooley-Berry said he did, in fact, work on his platform ahead of the election. “[Webster] knows very well I built a platform ahead of time,” said Wooley-Berry. “She’s been giving advice to myself and Piper.”
Executives were also active on Twitter, especially during the question period following Thursday’s MASU speeches. The @MASUOfficial Twitter account, run by MASU’s Vice-President Communications, Ryan Harley, encouraged spectators at the speeches to tweet with the hashtag ‘#masuvotes.’ Webster and Harley themselves were active tweeters. “I noticed that Heather and I were the most active tweeters during the debate,” said Harley. “But, I also think you’d be hard pressed to find two people in this community that care more about the future of the MASU than Heather Webster and I.”
Harley and Webster were also active with in-person questions during the event. Both used their personal twitter accounts – not their official MASU accounts – and made posts critiquing the responses from candidates. “If my questions and contributions shape how members vote, then that’s great,” said Harley.
The current vice-president external, Annie Sherry, has publicly favoured one candidate in the presidential race. Sherry, who is running unopposed, publicly endorsed Riley Thompson, with the two running on a so-called slate together. The two candidates posted a picture on their social media accounts with the #PiperandAnnie2015 with the slogan “Stronger Together,” on Jan 19. On the last day of campaigning, Jan. 25, Sherry posted to Facebook, reiterating her support for Riley Thompson. “If you are placing your vote with me again this year, I ask that you place your trust in me in supporting Piper,” said Sherry’s post.
Webster further involved herself in candidate proceedings by joining Riley Thompson in her interview withThe Argosy on Friday, Jan. 23 concerning the #Piper2015 Mansbridge picture in which Riley Thompson admitted to misquoting Mt. A chancellor Peter Mansbridge. Webster initially spoke on behalf of Riley Thompson, and said she had advised her not to answer any questions from The Argosy. After Riley Thompson agreed to answer questions, Webster sat beside her for the duration of the 20-minute interview and interjected on two occasions. Riley Thompson had identified Webster as her “campaign manager,” a label Webster later denied, but said she understood why it could be perceived that way.
Joyce, who currently works as the executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance, said it’s not abnormal for sitting executives to be involved in elections. “I think it varies from year to year. I think you’ll get some executives who will take a very hard line position that they’re neutral and won’t speak about any candidates, and I think a lot of the reason for that is because executives know, when they’re outgoing, that they’ll be responsible for transitioning in new people,” said Joyce.
“I think you’ll also get student leaders who will publicly voice their opinions and there are student leaders who I’m sure have endorsed candidates in the past, as well.”
From Jan. 22 to 25, MTApathy received several hundred visitors, spiking with 344 views on Jan. 25.
Joyce doesn’t think he’s stepping on anyone’s toes, though.
“I tried to qualify what I said, with respect to the two presidential candidates whose platforms I analyzed, as best I could, and I certainly hope that wouldn’t lead to any tension in a working relationship, but I expect that it probably wouldn’t.”