Students Head to the Polls for UWSA By-Election

Mohammad Akbar (right) explains his campaign platform for a position on the Board of Governors to a mostly empty room at CAW Commons, November 24, while Chief Returning Officer April Adams looks on. [Photo by // Alex Denonville]

by Alex Denonville
The Lance- News Editor

After months of turmoil, withheld funds and an unelected governing body, students will be heading to the polls this week to choose, or refuse, a new slate of students hoping to represent them on the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance.

Full time undergraduate students will be able to vote online from their own electronic devices or through computers provided at a number of buildings throughout  the university campus between 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 27 and 28. There are over 11,200 eligible voters. Votes will be cast through a system provided by the university at uwindsor.ca/uwsavote.

Chief Returning Officer April Adams said they are also trying to have a voting station in as many buildings as possible. UWSA volunteers will be available to assist students through the voting process.

“It’s for accessibility of all members, so if you’re close and don’t have computer, there are people there to help,” said Adam, adding students will be asked to provide a valid student card to ensure they are eligible to vote.

Adams said they hope to have the election results available by Friday night. Under UWSA policy, unofficial results must be released within 24 hours, with official results made public within two weeks.

When asked about past election controversy around the eligibility of winning candidates, Adams said she confirmed candidate eligibility through the nomination process which included double-checking with the registrar’s office.

“I’m really trying to focus on this election and I’m not going to be clouded by past performances and elections. If I follow the process, then everything should be kosher,” she said, adding all candidates “friended” a CRO Facebook account to ensure their social media campaigning was appropriate.

Many positions are going uncontested. On the executive, the vice president positions of student advocacy and finance have only one candidate. The president and VP of student services positions have three and five candidates respectively. The race for senate has eight candidates running for six available positions.

Of the 24 board of director positions, eight have no candidates running, which means the faculties of business, drama, law, nursing, science, social work and visual arts will have no direct representative in the new year. All other director positions have either too few, or just enough candidates to fill their available positions.

In uncontested races, students will still be able to vote “no” for the candidates. In the case of a successful “no” vote, the positions will remain vacant.

UWSA general manager, Nicole Morrell, said a lack of candidates is nothing new, pointing to a few factors working against the late election.

“We have had many elections where positions were acclaimed, and it can be for many reasons,” she said, indicating the late by-election paired with busy exam schedules can make for lower turnout. “We’re still really excited about the candidates we have. It’s always better to have some representation than none.”

Candidates were given ten days to make themselves known. Posters have been strewn about campus since the start of the campaign period and many candidates have pushed their presence on social media.

Students had the opportunity to engage with candidates at a forum hosted at the CAW Commons Nov. 24. While a number of students stood to pose questions, there was a majority of empty seats. Adams stepped up a number of times to ask the candidates to expand upon the platforms they provided her.

The UWSA was left without an elected student government after a protest vote, in the form of a “None of the Above” campaign, swept the polls during the spring election. The vote left all possible positions vacant. Those on the board remained in their seats in accordance with the Ontario Corporations Act and worked with the staff at the UWSA over the summer to create new bylaws and election policies. Those new policies and bylaws were officially adopted at a special general meeting Oct. 30 which saw an overall turnout of approximately 300 full-time undergraduate students.

Prior to the referendum on the new policies and bylaws, University of Windsor President Alan Wildeman indicated in a letter the university would withhold funds until the UWSA had an elected body and addressed concerns over how they would deal with the large transfers of student fees that usually take place.

Dean of students, Clayton Smith, said the university has maintained the flow of money to a number of groups and programs normally funded through the UWSA. He said two-thirds of the money held since April has been transferred directly to those groups. In question is the money collected during the fall semester, some of which has already been funneled to groups like student societies and health insurance providers.

“But clearly there are a host of UWSA agencies that aren’t seeing money that would usually flow through UWSA,” Smith said.

He added the university has three expectations of the UWSA moving forward into the second semester. The first two, new bylaws and policies, as well as a democratically elected body, are already underway.

The third piece is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the UWSA and University, discussions about which have already been taking place between the two bodies’ legal representatives.

“The transfer of funds is pretty clear, the issue really is the university needs to have confidence that the UWSA will act with good financial responsibility associated with the funds that we transfer to them, that’s why we need some sort of agreement as to how that will happen,” Smith said, adding he expects the conversation around the MOU to take place quickly once the new council is elected, hopefully early in the new year.

“What’s important here is that we’re almost here.”

Read more about the candidates here.

 

First year computer science student Alaa Bondok listens from above during the all candidates forum at CAW Commons, Nov. 24.
[Photo by // Alex Denonville]

 

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