From Monday, Oct. 28 to Wednesday, Oct. 30, University of Winnipeg (U of W) students will have the chance to vote in the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) byelection.
The following positions are on the ballot: community liaison director, education director, director of student living, LGBT* director, PACE director, part-time/mature students’ director, women and non-binary students’ director and board of regents representative.
Elections such as these are one of the many ways students can get involved in campus life.
Leia Patterson is vice-president of the U of W Political Science Students Society (PSSS). This registered student group organizes events and advocates for its students. Patterson believes that participation in campus elections is how students make their concerns heard.
“Participating in elections is how we let governments and universities know what we as students need and want to be addressed,” she says in an email to The Uniter. Patterson is an undergraduate student studying political science and rhetoric, writing and communications.
Like many students, Patterson can name specific issues she would like to see addressed.
“I think the climate emergency should continue to be at the top of the agenda,” she says.
Gord Mackintosh, a U of W instructor and former MLA, says he always encourages students to get involved in the university political process.
“Student elections and, later, working with others on a council teach many lifelong leadership skills,” he says in an email to The Uniter, specifically “problem-solving, forging relationships for a common cause and the importance of strong communications.”
In recent elections, however, voter turnout has been extremely low. In the 2018 UWSA byelection, only 4.15 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot.
Patterson explains why she thinks turnout is so low.
“Whether it’s from disinterest or being unaware, I’ve found that people aren’t aware of UWSA elections until they’re over, if they notice at all,” she says.
For her, “being aware of elections and student events comes with being more engaged on campus through student groups and initiatives.”
“Either as a voter or a candidate, participating in student government is a way to have our voices heard and make sure student issues are being brought to the table,” she says.
“Having an active student body shows that students are taking initiative, want to be included in the conversation, and are listening to what’s happening in the world around them,” she says, noting that “university life is more than just coming to class.”
Mackintosh agrees with Patterson. He encourages all students to get involved on campus.
“Service to others is a high calling,” he says, “and I know many student leaders who went on to serve in politics.”
“Go for it.”
Polls for the UWSA byelection will be open from Oct. 28 to 30 in Centennial Hall (right in front of the escalators), the Richardson Centre and the Buhler Centre from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will also be voting at the Wii Chiiwaakanak Centre on Oct. 29 from noon to 4 p.m. and at Merchant’s Corner on Oct. 30 from noon to 4 p.m. For more information on the UWSA byelection, visit theuwsa.ca.