By: Esra Bengizi, Wes Kerfoot & Rina Muramatsu
Whether the Vice Presidents of the McMaster Students Union should be elected “at-large” is an item that will be on this year’s Presidential election ballot. Voting yes on the referendum gives us the opportunity to create positive change in their electoral system. In at-large elections students are given the opportunity to elect their vice presidents directly.
Under the current system, the Vice-Presidents are elected by the student representative assembly (SRA). The SRA consists of 35 members, who are themselves elected to represent student interests from each faculty at McMaster. The selection of VPs is unfair to individuals who are outsiders to the fairly insular groups involved in student government. Anyone in the SRA is allowed to run for VP positions, but the current culture of in-groups does not allow for this in practice. This can result in unfair appointments because of how students tend to conform to the opinions of their peers.
McMaster students pay $124 out of their tuition each year into the MSU, but have absolutely no say in the VP elections. The MSU is a multi-million dollar non-profit organization and students should have the opportunity to choose who their money is going to be managed by and spent on. They should be able to choose people who purportedly represent their interests. These VP positions are full-time jobs that are paid for with the students’ money, and this is no small portion of the budget, amounting to more than one hundred thousand dollars in total.
This current system is unsustainable and needs to change. VPs have previously been responsible for policies such as the HSR bus pass that required students to pay a fee of $130 to replace their lost passes. We can’t ignore the ramifications of their actions. Furthermore, VP elections take a considerable amount of time away from the SRA, with the most recent elections lasting over 22 hours. The VP election process itself is also heavily flawed, as it allows for members to ask questions of the candidates that require them to already possess detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the MSU. This is unfair to candidates who may possess all of the required skills, but do not know small details about how the MSU operates, which can easily be learned. This occurred frequently at the last election, and prevents regular students from running for VP positions. Since the SRA is made up of 35 students, this introduces another problem. While the SRA may genuinely want to do an unbiased job of electing their VPs, the simple fact that they mostly interact with each other in such a small group introduces a conformity bias. This bias is unavoidable and it means that they will only elect a certain type of candidate. Allowing the elections to be at-large would sidestep the problem of conformity.
VP elections take a considerable amount of time away from the SRA, with the most recent elections lasting over 22 hours.
The at-large system has been successful in numerous student unions across Canada. Currently, McMaster is only one of two schools in Ontario where students are unable to vote for their Vice President. We believe in fair student representation, and this is why you should vote YES to the VP At-Large Referendum because this is your voice and your choice.
Photo Credit: Yellow Hammer News