Let’s take our elected bodies seriously

Devan C. Tasa, News Editor Ω

One body makes the major financial decisions of the university; the other, academic ones. Both TRU’s board of governors and senate have elected student members, elected by their peers.

As a part of the board of governors, student members can vote whether or not tuition fees will change. As a part of the senate, they can vote to add, modify and delete entire degrees.

With this type of power, one would think that both students and the university’s administration would take the elections for student members seriously.

It seems not.

First of all, let’s look at the Winter 2011 joint board of governors-senate elections that were held online.

A problem with the voters’ list was found and the registrar’s office, which runs the elections, decided it would be better to restart the process rather than continue with the original election dates taking place from Nov. 22 to Dec. 5.

However, the election rules were so rigid they required the elections take place from Dec. 8 to Dec. 22, right smack in the middle of exams and holiday break. There was no ability to delay the election until January when students returned to school.

The results: voter turnout for the elections was approximately 2.2 per cent. 13,689 eligible voters cast 304 votes to elect one representative on the board and 414 votes to elect four representatives for the senate.

The less that is said about the media frenzy caused when a controversial figure suing the school was elected to both the board and senate, the better.

Nor did things get better. In the spring board elections that took place Mar. 20 to Apr. 2, only 0.85 per cent of voters chose to participate.

Now the nominations for the Winter 2012 joint board of governors-senate elections ended Oct. 22 – and there are only two students running for the senate’s four seats.

That’s correct: there were less students running for a position than there were seats.

In the face of all of this evidence, the need for some type of change to the election rules is apparent. Yet there’s no sign of willingness from the university senate’s steering committee to change them.

It’s not like there has been any lack of suggestions to fix the problems. For instance, one common suggestion has been instead of having an online vote than could be missed by students, the elections use the old technology of pencil and paper that’s physically present and in your face.

TRUSU has gone one step further, suggesting that the university contract the elections out to it so that all student elections, TRUSU, board and senate are held together at the same time, unavoidable to miss.

It would even be nice, if none of those actions are possible, if there was an all-candidates forum held for those running for election, so the candidates can answer to the students before getting election. It may also show students that an election is happening.

But students shouldn’t be blameless in this. There has to be some responsibility to keep an eye on the university at which we learn, some responsibility to find out about, vote and even run in these elections.

Either way, we should all take the board of governors and senate seriously.