The next McMaster Students Union president is a man.
At press time, we didn’t know which man. But we knew this: out of the seven candidates for CEO of the MSU this year, there were no females.
Last year, only one of the five candidates, Siobhan Stewart, was a woman. The ratio was the same in the year before. And the year before that.
At Tuesday’s debate, the moderator asked Jacob Brodka, David Campbell, James Dowdall, Adrian Emmanuel, Dan Fahey, Haman Man and Rory Yendt to comment on the election’s lopsided gender balance. Not surprisingly, they didn’t have much to say.
Not any one of those guys could reasonably be blamed. They had each made an independent decision to run against whatever competitors, male or female, would emerge.
But none of them were in a position to adequately address the issue, either.
Kim Campbell, who still holds the title of being Canada’s only female prime minister, wrote an editorial for the Globe and Mail this week about Kathleen Wynne’s replacement of Dalton McGuinty as Ontario’s premier.
“Why should we care about the representation of women?” she wrote. “Women’s lives reflect a different set of experiences that need to be represented in our democratic deliberations.”
We can’t reasonably control who chooses to run for MSU president. But there is something over which we can, and currently do, exert control: the structure of our Student Representative Assembly.
Many successful presidential candidates begin their student political careers with the SRA. And it’s the SRA that elects the three vice-presidents every year.
But the way we divide seats (by faculty) is archaic. A committee of the Assembly has been seeking to remake representatives-per-faculty ratios to make the proportions more consistent across academic divisions. But that overlooks a larger question: Aren’t there other ways than faculty that a student can be represented?
As hard as it might be to take the advice of a British exchange student on how to make McMaster students feel like they’ve got a say in student government, maybe MSU presidential candidate Dan Fahey had a point. As Kim Campbell pointed out, gender – and, for that matter, race, religion, sexual orientation and other traits – meaningfully influence a person’s experiences, and are therefore worthy of representation.
And maybe off-campus or international students need seats, too.
It’s a problem that not one female ran for MSU president this year. But it’s no use blaming McMaster’s men for producing seven candidates, or McMaster’s women for producing none.
But maybe the MSU’s next leader can find a way, something structural, to make more students feel involved.