UVSS elections are dramatic and nepotistic, and cooperatives won’t change that

Opinions

Less slate-level cooperation led to more confusion in this year’s UVSS elections

Photo by Kyra Bridges

This year, the UVSS revamped their elections policy. Rather than having slates, which loosely resemble political parties, or requiring everyone to run as independent candidates, the UVSS created their own new, confusing hybrid model of those two options in an effort to reduce competition.  

This model is undeniably confusing for voters, candidates, media, and electoral staff. In the past, slates were groups of candidates that could all run together, design nearly identical posters, submit expenses together, and largely just plug their slate’s policy ideas over their own. Now, with slates abolished, candidates can only run as cooperatives or independently, with a slew of new rules.

Under the new policy, candidates cannot mention other candidates in their campaign materials. When they are talking to people face-to-face, they can reference their cooperative and the candidates they’re running with. In written materials, like social media posts and posters, candidates cannot make any mention of their cooperative or other candidates — not even to mention the name of their own cooperative. 

So essentially, candidates are supposed to collaborate on their campaigns behind the scenes, but not openly advertise to anyone that they’re working together. Only in the pages of the Martlet will you see the names of cooperatives and candidates used freely, since UVSS electoral policy has no editorial jurisdiction over us. 

The slate system had its issues. For one, it was nepotistic. Year after year, the previous UVSS board members would tap their friends to step into vacant roles and encourage  them to get more of their friends to join them in a slate. In turn, those friends would energetically engage with other friends to envision themselves on their slate, and on the next UVSS board. Because of this, slate names, campaigning colours, policies, and even some candidates were recycled for years. 

Secondly, the slate system was notorious for fuelling contentious, competitive races. Last year’s elections led to a dozen UVSS elections complaints, which prompted the current board to take a hard look at the slate system. 

Slates almost always swept the elections, allowing for no diversity of people from different slates on the board.

Compared to other universities in B.C., this system is by far the most complicated. In other electoral policies, they either allow formal slates or don’t. UBC, for instance, prohibits slates or anything that would suggest certain candidates are running together. At SFU, 35 candidates are running independently for just 16 positions.

The UVSS board, however, could not decide between independents and slates — as eliminating slates altogether could negatively impact the already low voter turnout — resulting in a muddled combination of the two systems. It’s awkward to have people secretly running together, as if they’re colluding for a spot on the board. 

It’s unfortunate that even at the level of student politics, candidates can’t seem to get along. It’s not that the slate system or the cooperative system that enables this — it’s the nasty nature of politics and the sheer desire to have that “UVSS Director” title on a resume. 

Politics is nasty. In politics, when someone knocks you down, you get up stab that other person in the back, and keep door-knocking. But for the UVSS elections, that’s not worth it. We’ve written about the UVSS for years — we were around when they first incorporated in the 1960s. None of the UVSS boards have changed the campus all that substantively and none of the UVSS board members have gone on to become Prime Minister.

The real problem, and the real reason these elections are laced with nepotism and are always races between the same groups of mostly upper middle class kids with already great resumes, is that the vast majority of UVic students don’t know or care about the UVSS. More needs to be done to engage students that are outside of the political science department and, largely, one group of students. 

Do I miss the old slate system and all the En- slate names the Martlet would inevitably confuse? No. Do I think this cooperative system is a far-fetched attempt and a muddy compromise to make student elections a happy, fun environment when drama is inevitable? Yes. Do I care whether the UVSS goes for an independent or slate system? No, but I do wish they would just pick one. 

The slate system was crashing and burning after years upon years of issues. Instead of burying it in the ground and leaving it there, the UVSS has tried to meld it into the cooperative system. When it comes down to it, it’s not going to change much — politics is going to be cutthroat regardless of whether or not candidates can put each other on their posters.