Where’d the second slate go?

Oligarchies, death threats, and car accidents: why only one slate ran in the 2018 UVSS election

Haichuan Zhang and David Stevanovic, acclaimed UVSS Directors-at-large with the Envision UVic Slate.

Haichuan Zhang and David Stevanovic, acclaimed UVSS Directors-at-large with the Envision UVic Slate. Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor.

Although there’s nothing new about a single slate sweeping the UVSS elections, this year was the first time in recent history that a second full slate failed to materialize in time to run. Before the campaigning even started, the two-person Purple Party slate was reduced to a single member, leaving a total of three unopposed Lead Directors and 11 unopposed Directors at Large running in the election.

In the wake of this, students are left wondering — why was there no second slate?

To answer this, you have to look back to last fall. Although strict pre-campaigning regulations prevent students from officially discussing intentions to run prior to the UVSS elections, prospective candidates typically start to recruit friends for slates in October and early November.

Jonathan Granirer, a second year political science student with no prior experience running in UVSS elections, began to form a slate in early October 2017.

“I felt that progressive values were not at the forefront of UVSS politics,” said Granirer, speaking over Facebook. “So I decided to recruit some of my fellow students that felt the same way to form a slate with me in an effort to change that.”

After a number of meetings with potential candidates, Granirer approached the group that would become Envision UVic with an offer to merge their slates; he perceived both had similar values and would together have enough candidates to form a full slate. Envision turned down Granirer’s offer without disclosing any explicit reason, leaving him with only unconfirmed speculations that he did not wish to disclose.

At its peak, there were 12 people seriously considering running on Granirer’s slate. Although the slate discussed possible platform points — among which was eliminating gendered floors in student residences and fighting against CARSA’s controversial dress code — they had not decided on a name prior to dissolving.

In December, it became clear that Granirer’s slate would not be moving forward due to a lack of interested students. Without a full slate, many potential candidates did not feel it was worth running, even as independents. Though Granirer still planned to run as an independent for the Director of Outreach & University Relations position, a concussion suffered in a car accident this past winter eventually prevented him from doing so.

“You really gotta get a full [slate] in there or it really digs into your chances,” said Hannah Koning, a fourth year writing major and member of Granirer’s slate. In the 2017 UVSS election, Koning ran with Connect UVic and was elected to her current position as student senator for Fine Arts.

Many potential candidates had personal reasons for dropping from the slate, such as commitment conflicts and mental health issues. Granirer also cited a reluctance among his fellow slate members to damage relationships with members of Envision, many of whom take part in the same extracurricular activities.

“Due to the close personal relations many people had on my slate to people on Envision UVic, we decided it was more toxic than it would be worth,” said Granirer. “We knew going into this that UVSS elections are often very toxic—but this was something else entirely, and we didn’t think it was worth the repercussions that would arise.”

Koning noted that residual misgivings regarding the 2017 election also contributed to apprehension among potential candidates. “Numbers were hard to get — a lot of people that ran with Connect didn’t want to run again, [they] had a pretty bad experience.”

 

“I don’t see how a slate running virtually unopposed won’t have issues with accountability,” said Koning.
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“In fact, I would argue it is more of a reason to be accountable because we are seen as the big bad slate,” said Chasib.

 

According to Koning, last year’s winning slate, Energize, participated in “dirty tactics” during the UVSS campaigning period, such as writing statements on chalkboards around campus that were perceived as slanderous about the opposition. Although the Chief Electoral Officer was briefly shown photographic evidence of this, the 2017 UVSS Electoral Report states that the issue was not investigated further since a formal complaint was never filed.

Politics are gonna get messy, they’re gonna get toxic, but it got to a place where people were taking hits to their mental health,” said Koning. “It drains you when you feel like you’re getting personally attacked, you feel like that shouldn’t be part of the deal.”

Noor Chasib, a third year student in biochemistry, successfully ran for his position as UVSS Director of Events on both the Energize and Envision slates. “When you put differing opinions, passion, and the drive to secure votes together, there will inevitably be some strong feelings on either side,” said Chasib. “Toxicity shouldn’t be tolerated, however—that is not good for anyone running or the student body who has to deal with it.”

Toxicity in UVSS elections isn’t new — Koning recounted that in 2016, the Unite slate received death threats over Yik-Yak, an anonymous-Twitter-esque app.

The “En-slate” dynasty — Encompass, Energize, and Envision — is made up of slates from consecutive elections with similar participants and policy values. For potential members of opposing slates, this continuity comes off as “vaguely oligarchic,” according to Koning.

However, Chasib stated that this was “not intentional at all.” To him, the connection between the slates is accidental, as he initially pitched the name before the last UVSS election cycle and brought it up again due to the potential for a catchy tagline.

“Many of us are connected in some way, whether through friends of friends or same program or same year,” Chasib said. “But this is a new group with new ideas.”

Apart from inter-slate tensions, other issues persist, particularly in light of the most recent UVSS election. After an election dominated by a single full slate, engagement and accountability are at the forefront of discussions on the newly elected board and future elections.

“People don’t know there’s elections happening when there’s posters on the walls; like, clearly we have an engagement issue,” said Koning. “So far, the boards that I’ve been witness to have not done a great job of promoting it.”

Chasib remained confident that accountability will not be an issue, as he believes that a single slate is subjected to a larger degree of scrutiny, which should prevent Lead Directors and Directors at Large from becoming complacent.

“In fact, I would argue it is more of a reason to be accountable because we are seen as the big bad slate,” said Chasib.

“I don’t see how a slate running virtually unopposed won’t have issues with accountability,” said Koning. “I think that would be true in any case.”

Any changes to the slate system or the distribution of information on how to run for the UVSS board will have to be made by the current board.

“[That] freaks me out,” Koning said. “Because, if you’re a board that’s continually sort of just morphing year by year into a slightly new one, where’s your incentive?”

Interim Director of Outreach and University Relations Pierre-Paul Angelblazer claimed to have written a policy that would discontinue slates at UVic, but said the UVSS would first need to reform their structure of governance for it to work. Chasib confirmed that there are no current plans to change the system.

Granirer hopes that students won’t be disillusioned by the lack of diversity in this year’s election. 

“It furthers the idea that the UVSS doesn’t matter and that nobody cares about it, which I find very upsetting,” said Granirer. “It breaks my heart that I couldn’t run in [the election] in order to give [students] a variety of choices on the ballot.”

For Koning, the UVSS elections should be about so much more than toxic competition.

“It should be about things that [people are] passionate about changing, helping with. You should want to do it to support your fellow students and hey, if you get a job out of it, that’s pretty cool too.”

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