This year’s general elections for the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) are shaping up to be different from those in the past, according to chief elections commissioner Jenna Myles.
“There are more diverse personalities running in the elections this year, not just the strict, political type,” she said, adding that the candidates come from a range of educational backgrounds including science and women’s and gender studies.
According to Myles, the changing demographic of students running for both executive and directorship positions is largely a result of the inclusive efforts of the current UWSA executive, who worked hard to reach out to various student groups, increase their presence on campus and encourage general student involvement.
What is also different about this year’s election is that some candidates are running in teams. Jason Syvixay, current UWSA president and presidential candidate for 2010/2011, has joined forces with vice-president student services candidate Lana Hastings and vice-president internal candidate Ava Jerao to strengthen their platforms.
“They feel that as a team they can work better than just a whole bunch of people who don’t know each other,” Myles said, adding that running in teams gives candidates the ability to reach more students on campus.
Although candidates can run in teams, Myles explained that voters must still vote for individual candidates rather than for a team as a whole. Myles hoped that all 18 of the available positions would be filled, but only 16 positions have candidates. The UWSA will thereby not have a full board in the fall. Nonetheless, Myles said the UWSA has increased in popularity this year and has had a stronger presence on campus.
“The UWSA has been doing a really good job of promoting the elections and trying to get people involved,” she said.
Tom Brown, UWSA business manager, said that over the eight-and-a-half years he has worked for the UWSA he has noticed substantial changes.
“It is more organized and more professional,” he said. “I find there is a lot more student interest and a lot more people coming down [into the Bulman].”
Myles expects that this increase in student interest will result in a voter turnout higher than the 12 per cent turnout of last year’s general elections, especially with Syvixay running again.
“It is easy to assume that he himself is going to get so many students involved because he increased the voter turnout last year by an insane amount,” she said. “He is going to have the ability to do it again this year.”
But Brenden Van Wyk, a third-year biochemistry student, said that since the general elections are held at a very busy time of year, students may not be as engaged as they otherwise would be.
“The problem with the general election is that it occurs when a lot of term tests are going on,” he said.
But despite his hectic schedule, Van Wyk intends to take the time to learn about the candidates and make an educated vote.
Brown stressed the importance of learning about the candidates’ platforms rather than merely casting an uninformed vote.
“Hopefully a lot more students will participate and not just vote, but learn about the candidates before they vote,” he said.
Candidate speeches will take place Wednesday, March 10 and Friday, March 12 at 12:30 p.m. in Riddell Cafeteria.
Voting runs Monday, March 15 to Thursday, March 18.
Published in Volume 64, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 11, 2010)