As of March 10, the McMaster Students Union has elected their new Student Representative Assembly for the 2017-2018 term. Although the SRA serves as the main legislative body within the MSU, 10 of the 31 seats available were acclaimed. This contrasts last year’s SRA race, where nearly all caucuses saw a race, save for nursing.
Although a peculiarity, such a phenomenon is seen on other university campuses and indicates a decline in interest in student politics overall in Ontario. Common threads throughout many Ontario campuses include low voter turnout, low attendance at general assemblies and low student engagement with student politics.
Different universities have different structures of government, making exact comparisons difficult. But of the many universities in Ontario, a notable few have had a paltry number of candidates, despite the size of the school.
University of Waterloo Undergraduate population: 31,380
The University of Waterloo’s student union, or the Federation of Students, had over half of the seats on their council acclaimed, with 16 of the 25 possible seats with only one contender. These positions are mainly their faculty councillors. Entire caucuses, such as the math caucus and science caucus, faced no opposition. In addition, much of their senate was acclaimed, with two of the three senate member listed facing no opposition.
Wilfrid Laurier University Undergraduate population: 19,000
The Wilfrid Laurier University Students Union uses multiple bodies to make up their governance, with a president, board of directors, senate and board of governors. Of the five seats open on their senate, three seats were acclaimed.
Brock University Undergraduate population: 18,000
Brock University Students Union includes a faculty council and a board of directors, the latter being voted in on one or two year terms. In their February executive election, where their president, vice president and board chairs are elected, one of the board chairs faced no opposition. It should be noted that the board chair is not a paid position in the BUSU.
University of Guelph Undergraduate population: 18,697
The Central Student Association runs at-large elections for all of their executive positions, which include president, vice presidents and representatives from different seven faculties. In the CSA’s last election, six of the eight faculty representatives elected had their seats acclaimed.
Carleton University Undergraduate population: 20,471
Carleton University Students Association holds an annual at-large election for both the council and board of directors who make up their governing bodies. In their February election, six of the 24 available councillor seats were acclaimed.
Western University Undergraduate population: 23, 500
The Western University Student Council has a complex structure due to its affiliate colleges, such as Huron and Brescia, which have their own elections separately. The Western USC’s voting members include the presidents of their affiliate colleges’ councils and faculty councils. Huron College’s presidential elections happened with little fanfare, as there was only one contender. There is currently a vacancy in their dentistry council.
Although many Ontario universities struggle with garnering interest in student politics, other schools thrive. The York Federation of Students, the University of Toronto Students Union and the Ryerson Students Union all have contentious elections, with upwards of 10 candidates for each position.
Despite the lack of races this year, MSU elections have maintained the highest voter turnout in Ontario. Although this year’s SRA raises questions concerning student engagement in union politics, such a phenomenon is not exclusive to our campus, nor is it impossible to come back from.