Your Students’ Union is not a democracy. No, really. You’ve probably seen posters with alien SU members taunting you to run. You may have been asked to sign a nomination package of some hopeful candidate. Heck, you may even vote in the General Election (see, "From the editors"), but make no mistake, your rights are being trampled upon.
If you have the chance this week, take a pause at the SU offices and check out the posted list of candidates for the SU General Election. For the first time in recent history, vice-presidential positions were acclaimed. Duncan Wojtaszek was acclaimed your VP External (the man who will represent you to the Alberta government, the federal government, etc.) and Matt Lauzon is now in charge of the SU Operations and Finance portfolio–did we mention that’s a $5 million annual budget?
That means these people, just because they handed in five signatures with their nomination package, will earn over $23,000 as vice-presidents next year. The really funny part is that you don’t even get a vote on it. These aren’t the only acclaimed positions. Every year, a few commissioners and Student Academic Assembly representatives are acclaimed as well, but there’s a big difference: they’re not in charge of an entire portfolio.
Now, that’s not to say that we don’t think the candidates are qualified. Really, we have no idea–we haven’t seen their platforms. And while they obviously have enough interest in student politics to want to run in an election, still the student body hasn’t spoken. And really, that should be our right. We should have a say. And wouldn’t those candidates feel better knowing they were actually running in a race? Wouldn’t they work even harder knowing students actually voted them into power?
Before 1997, we still had "yes/no" votes for candidates. And while in all the years we were allowed to exercise this right, only one person ever lost their position, there was an initial accountability measure in place. This is especially critical in a system where you have a yearly turn-over, and you don’t get the chance to re-elect or remove those in power–hardly anyone re-runs.
When the SU made the change-over to acclamations, part of the logic was that it would save money (approximately $2,000 per position) and time, especially since it was so rare that someone would not win a "yes/no" vote. In an organization with loads of money like the SU, it’s not too much to ask they provide its members with a choice of leadership, even if it cost a couple thousand.
Some argue that if students cared, they’d run for the position, but that’s a false logic. Don’t confuse not having enough time or an inability to take a year off school for political office, with a lack of desire to participate in an election.
But, the acclamations have already been settled. We urge you, however, to seek out those acclaimed, read their platforms, and question them on their plans. That is one right no one can take away.