After the springtime primary election period left vacancies on the Senate and University Planning Committee, a secondary round of elections is now underway. Up for representation are the undergraduate and graduate Social Sciences Senate positions, a graduate DeGroote School of Business Senate seat, and an undergraduate student (any faculty) seat for UPC.

McMaster’s Senate, Board of Governors and University Planning Committee are governing bodies that make critical decisions for the academic and financial future of the institution. They are largely comprised of faculty members but all have student seats – seats that are arguably too-frequently left unoccupied given their importance.

“Senate is where all the decisions are ultimately made about your education,” Tamara Bates of the University Secretariat’s office (which facilitates these bodies) said. “That’s where the decisions about new academic programs, changes to academic programs, what is approved and where all the policies are upheld. Senate also approves whether you graduate or not,” she continued.

While Senate actions have the most obvious impact on students, the BoG is critical for its complete trust of McMaster’s finances, while UPC works as a joint Senate-BoG committee for significant long-term big-picture planning.

Despite only one undergraduate and one graduate representative per faculty (Arts & Science only has observer status), electoral rounds are not always successful at getting students in seats; hence, the current autumn secondary election.

“Going back in the records, there will be one or two years where some faculties aren’t represented because no one steps forward,” Bates said. The spring of 2011 was one particularly bad example: half of the eight open seats remained vacant post-election, and two of the four seats that were actually filled were won by acclamation (there was only one eligible candidate).

Student interest in elections “seems to go up and down,” said Bates, despite the Secretariat’s outreach. The call for nominations is advertised in The Silhouette, in the Daily News, on the Secretariat’s website, as a banner on Avenue to Learn, and as a mass email notice to students.

Bates partly attributes student disinterest to the electronic advertising and election processes. “The fact that things can go by email and electronically is great but there’s so much that comes into your inbox that it’s also more easily forgotten about or dismissed,” she said.

“There used to be polling stations in the student centre and all across campus. So as much as electronic balloting and voting are a lot more convenient… they’re not as in your face as they could be.”

In an effort to educate interested students about what to expect, new this year will be an information session for students. “This year I’m having a mandatory session for the approved candidates, which is partly to [act as an] introduction to Senate… and [to go over] campaign rules and how to campaign and things like that,” Bates said.

Nominations opened on Monday, Sept. 16 and will close at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 2. Interest from candidates – and voters – remains to be seen.

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