MSU President Giancarlo Da-Ré discusses election “what ifs?”, advice and engagement

The McMaster Students Union Elections department announced a one-week extension of the MSU Presidentials nomination period from Jan. 14 to Jan. 21, 2021. The extension was announced the morning of Jan. 13 via social media — one day before nominations were set to close. The reason for the extension was unclear; however, it was likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nomination period opened on Dec. 2, 2020 and ended at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 21, 2021. The extended nomination period would delay the start of the campaigning period. Campaigning was supposed to be from Jan. 24 and end on Feb. 4 at 4:30pm, while the voting period would be from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4 at 4:30pm. 

However, MSU Elections announced on Jan. 22 that at the end of the nomination period one nomination had been received. Denver Della-Vedova has been acclaimed MSU President-Elect for the 2021/2022 term. 

In an interview with the Silhouette prior to the acclamation, current MSU President Giancarlo Da-Ré discussed his experiences with running for MSU president, offered advice to candidates and shared insight on how the campaign period may play out.

“We want students to know about all of our services, all of our offerings and benefits that they have as a part of the MSU. But also we’re not trying to contribute to that stress and that Zoom fatigue,” said Da-Ré.

“We want students to know about all of our services, all of our offerings and benefits that they have as a part of the MSU. But also we’re not trying to contribute to that stress and that Zoom fatigue,” said Da-Ré.

As the MSU Elections department operates with a degree of impartiality from the MSU elected officials, including the Board of Directors, they made the decision to extend the nomination period. Da-Ré noted that earlier this year, he discussed electoral engagement with his counterparts at student unions across the country and noted that they shared concerns of lowered engagement due to a virtual learning environment. 

“All the options to engage with friends and with MSU services are online. I don’t blame students for wanting a break from all that. And so we’ve naturally had to take that in consideration from the MSU, where obviously we want students to know about all of our services, all of our offerings and benefits that they have as a part of the MSU. But also we’re not trying to contribute to that stress and that Zoom fatigue,” said Da-Ré.

However, Da-Ré remained hopeful that even with potentially fewer candidates, the election could see an increase in voter engagement from previous years. When asked what he hoped to see from the candidates, Da-Ré was interested to see how candidates would find new ways to campaign. 

“I think it’s up to candidates to ensure that they’re creating opportunities to engage with voters and for voters to engage with candidates how those voters will want to engage with candidates,” said Da-Ré. 

An entirely online MSU presidential election has never happened before — a stark contrast to the typical in-person tabling that many candidates do within the McMaster University Student Centre.

Da-Ré was also curious to see candidate ideas for supporting students through the pandemic. He acknowledged that students have been struggling with the pandemic and online learning, while noting how ideal supports differ among students.

He expected that candidates would discuss student supports as a key issue of the campaign, similar to how the Student Choice Initiative was an issue of importance during his run for office in 2020.

“What is your overall reasoning for running for MSU president?” said Da-Ré.

“What is your overall reasoning for running for MSU president?” said Da-Ré.

Da-Ré reflected on his experience running for MSU president. He noted that it was challenging at first but that he ultimately enjoyed the experience, especially interacting with students and understanding their priorities. 

“I had a lot of fun with it, chatting with folks, but you do feel like you are under a microscope for the duration of the campaign period. So it takes a little bit of time to get used to that level of scrutiny and then ideally, if you can kind of get past that a little bit or get used to it, then it starts to be lots of fun,” said Da-Ré.

When asked to offer advice to candidates or those who hoped to run, Da-Ré shared that he sought advice and reflected a lot before his campaign.

“One of the most important things for folks, just when you’re thinking about running or when you’re building your campaign or your vision, is why you want to run. What is your overall reasoning for running for MSU president? If you can really solidify your vision for campus and your reason for wanting to run for MSU President, ideally have that vision and that reasoning, that “why” is reflected in everything that you’re trying to do,” said Da-Ré.

“That “why” is reflected in everything that you’re trying to do,” said Da-Ré.

Da-Ré also expressed gratitude to the potential candidates for stepping outside of their comfort zones and supporting students. 

“Thank you to all these candidates for committing their time during school and for trying to build a better MSU community for students. Students need a little support right now and we’re doing what we can do to try and leave the MSU in a better place than we found it. I want to thank the candidates for looking forward to continuing that work and supporting students during some difficult times of tribulation,” said Da-Ré.

Due to a lack of engagement seen during COVID-19, questions surrounding how many students would run for MSU president arose. If no candidates were to come forward by the end of the campaign period, Da-Ré hesitated to speculate but believed that the nomination period would likely be extended; however, the decision would be up to the MSU Elections department.

If only one candidate ran MSU president, according to Da-Ré, the MSU bylaw states that the candidate would be acclaimed MSU President-Elect.

“3.3.1 If the number of valid nomination forms submitted is fewer than or equal to the number of available positions, the CRO shall declare all nominees duly elected by acclamation.”

“3.3.1 If the number of valid nomination forms submitted is fewer than or equal to the number of available positions, the CRO shall declare all nominees duly elected by acclamation.”

On Jan. 22, the MSU Elections Department announced on social media that one presidential candidate application had been received. Denver Della-Vedova has been acclaimed as MSU President-Elect for the 2021/2022 term. 

Da-Ré took to social media to congratulate Della-Vedova. “Very excited to start the transition process and to watch Denver strengthen the undergraduate experience at McMaster,” wrote Da-Ré.

The Silhouette will be posting more MSU presidential elections 2021 coverage in our annual Presidentials issue on Feb. 1, 2021 available on Issuu.

Image courtesy of Graphic by Esra Rakab

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