The two-week old reforms to the Students’ Administrative Council (SAC) of the Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU) faced their first test this week. Following changes to the election schedule, voters in this year’s MASU spring elections will elect candidates to fill nineteen positions on Council. However, despite recent cuts to the number of elected positions on the SAC, a lack of candidates forced the SAC’s Chief Returning Officer (CRO) to extend the nomination period for some positions over the weekend, and changes to the timing of elections has led to students running in constituencies they do not yet live in.
In an email to candidates, SAC CRO David Summerby-Murray wrote that the number of candidates did not “give [MASU] a full compliment [sic] for some of our elections,” and thus nomination period was extended for the positions of north side councillor, south side councillor, and arts senator until March 18. The MASU Bylaws dictate that three north side councillors, three south side councillors, and two arts senators should be elected to sit as members of the SAC, but only four students filed nomination papers for those positions before the close of the nomination period Friday afternoon.
Many councillors, whether supporting or opposing the restructuring of Council, viewed the reduction in elected SAC positions as a way to increase competition for those positions, one that would hopefully yield more dedicated and competent candidates. However, some felt that the timing of the changes to the election schedule, which went into effect the day nominations opened, contributed to the lack of candidates.
“Because it is being implemented so fast, I can foresee that we are not going to get the same numbers that we usually would because there are a smaller number of positions, so the number of people running is also going to go down,” said Councillor Andrew Johnston. Councillor Seth Pickard-Tattrie held a similar view. “I’m guessing [that] because of the timing of the changes, there are fewer candidates than we would normally have,” Pickard-Tattrie said, noting that prospective candidates were given only a week and a half to decide whether or not to run.
In addition to the lower-than-expected number of candidates, some students are questioning whether the candidates running for off-campus councillor have the experience necessary to represent their constituents. Nick Sleptov, a third-year student living off-campus, said he was uncomfortable voting for a candidate for off-campus councillor if the candidate had never lived off-campus. “Have they had to deal with landlords, or truly experienced the concerns of off-campus students? The only way they could get my vote is if they lived off-campus before living in residence,” said Sleptov.
Others feel that the differences between on- and off-campus issues are marginal, and that the amount of time a student has spent living on- or off-campus is irrelevant. “Plenty of off-campus councillors used to run in the fall elections when they’d only lived off-campus for a few weeks. I’m not sure the amount of time spent living off-campus is relevant to their candidacy. Plus, I don’t feel the issues are all that different between on- and off-campus,” said Ethan Duffany, a fourth-year student living off-campus, who elaborated that academic issues and a willingness to work with university administration were more important to him than housing issues.
MASU members will vote March 27 and 28.