SU acclamations criticized

By Natalie Sit

Having trouble making decisions? Come Mar. 15, your life will be much easier.

When the nominations for the Students’ Union General Election closed Fri., Mar. 3, both the Vice-presidents External and Operations & Finance were acclaimed, meaning only one person applied for each position. Duncan Wojtaszek was acclaimed VP External and Matthew Lauzon was acclaimed VP Op-Fi. Positions in the Events and Op-Fi commisions were also acclaimed.

Not so long ago, students could still cast ‘yes’ or ‘no’ votes for each candidate. That changed in 1996 when the Students’ Legislative Council approved a move to acclamations in the election bylaws.

SU Policy Analyst Hamish MacAulay explained the SU conducted research of the bylaws of student and municipal governments, especially those in Alberta.

"[The yes/no vote] wasn’t used in other jurisdictions," said MacAulay. "No one lost a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. Students didn’t vote ‘no’, they voted ‘yes’."

Canada West Foundation President and U of C Political Science Professor Dr. Roger Gibbins believes acclamations are unhealthy, even in student governments. He added that the demands of pursuing an education and employment dry up the pool of motivation.

"Acclamations seldom indicate candidates of overwhelming credentials," said Gibbins. "There is a need for competition, a clash of ideas and proposals."

Acclamations also pose a problem for the candidates themselves. According VP External-elect Duncan Wojtaszek, it decreases students’ awareness about his ideas.

"[When you vote], people know who the next vice-president is, instead of [learning it from] a sign on the Students’ Union [office] door," said Wojtaszek. "When you’re elected, you have their trust in a quantitative form."

Other reasons come into play as well.

"Rationales for bylaw changes are not recorded in the bylaws," said SU President Rob South. "Their [the SLC’s] main motivation was saving money."

"I believe there was also some mention of a race several years ago in which a student lost a yes/no vote because a very vicious slander campaign was launched against her," he added.

Gibbins emphasized that acclamations leads to serious problems.

"It leads to reduced interest in student politics," stated Gibbins. "[There is] less productive debate about issues student government is facing."

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