By Rosa Saba. File photo.
Have you ever been to a Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) election debate?
Given student voter-turnout percentages, probably not. But if you have, you’ll know that there’s not much debating that goes on there. It’s more like a pep rally: loud, punctuated with chanting and cheers.
I think this style describes most of the current election process at Carleton. Candidates for CUSA run in slates, with slogans, logos, colour-coordinated posters, and matching election promises. They run as a team, promising their visions only if students will vote for them across the board, not as individual candidates.
What many students don’t realize is that they don’t have to vote across the board. They can vote for each position separately, based on each candidate’s promises and their own beliefs. But the slates make this hard to do. It often feels more like you’re voting for a catchy brand rather than an actual candidate, and most students vote for an entire slate instead of considering the candidates for each position separately.
Voter turnout is low for CUSA executive elections. And as evidenced by the results of the Student Union Building referendum and backlash leading up to it, a large portion of the student body does not trust CUSA. More specifically, they don’t trust the A Better Carleton/Your Carleton slate that has swept the board year after year, especially after last year’s post-election fiasco that saw Ashley Courchene, the only member not from the winning slate to get a position on the executive, disqualified and eventually reinstated. Between its struggle to keep the 2016-17 executive monochrome and the untimely push for a project that many students felt was vague and unnecessary, students no longer have faith in CUSA.
As current CUSA president Fahd Alhattab said in a Facebook post following the election results, many students have said they don’t feel CUSA represents students. I think that the current election process, with its focus on branded slates instead of individual visions, is one of the reasons students feel this way.
Alhattab wants a legacy, and the Student Union Building meant to fulfil this wish fell through. He wanted students to put their trust in CUSA, enough to vote for a project they may never use during their time at Carleton. If he wants both of these things so badly, changing the campaigning process may be a way to achieve each of them.
The current process is messy and unfair, and has led to a huge lack of trust among the student body of CUSA, especially after last year’s election. This was exemplified during the building referendum. Students should vote candidate by candidate, issue by issue, and know that their decisions will result in a multifaceted executive that truly represent their values and will work together to achieve them. Voting should be about ideas, visions, and beliefs, not a team of executives with matching T-shirts.
Get rid of slates. Let students run on their individual promises, and let the elected team be one that students have voted for one by one, instead of a brand that the student body doesn’t trust. This is a legacy worth patrolling the halls for—a legacy students will appreciate and remember.