The victors of student union elections at the University of British Columbia and Carleton University will not, pending appeals, be taking office despite winning the majority of votes in their elections.
Both candidates have been disqualified by their student unions respective elections committees. The similarities end there.
In this post, I’m going to discuss the situation at UBC.
The winner of Alma Mater Society – University of British Columbia election, Blake Frederick, was disqualified for “exhibiting ‘slate’ behaviour,” according to an email sent by AMS elections administrator.
The AMS banned slates in 2004 in the hope that it would create a more non-partisan environment at the student union. A good write-up on the factors leading to the banning of slates is available from The Ubyssey here.
UBC student politics is extensively covered by great student bloggers who have great insight and analysis of the decision. Instead of repeating what they’ve already said, I’m telling you to click the following hyperlinks (in no particular order):
- thoughts on the gathering shitstorm…, The Radical Beer Tribune (former AMS VPX Matthew Naylor)
- The Recent Disqualification and why it hurts the AMS, Maria Jogova, UBC Insiders
- The Perfect Storm, Justin Yang, The UBC Spectator
At the present time, there has not been a full airing of the evidence against or defense for Frederick in this manner. I’m not in a position to assess the validity or lack thereof in the decision by the Elections Committee to disqualify Frederick.
Based upon my experience watching AMS student politics over the past couple of years, and my knowledge of the current players, I can state there does not seem to be any partisanship in the disqualification.
The elections committee and the AMS elections administrator appear to be clean of any partisan agenda. This is important to note since Frederick is seen to be part of the vocal UBC activist community; a community which has often been seen to clash with the more centralist student body and government at UBC.
Let me be clear, Frederick is not “let’s stick it to the man and burn down society” activist. He is more pragmatic and works within the system to effect change. Frankly, if I were a student at UBC, I would have likely voted for him.
While I understand and sympathize with the motivation behind the slate ban at UBC, I do not agree with it. The slate ban attempts to address two issues that plague student politics: partisanship and the overwhelming advantage of running in a slate.
Fixing partisanship in politics? Good luck, as long as there are limited resources (and power) to be allocated in the political process, there will be partisanship. Partisanship wasn’t created by party politics and it cannot be ended by removing parties from the process.
Correcting the imbalance caused by slates in student politics is an admirable goal, but does not require a draconian ban on slates.
Instead of banning slates, the AMS should limit the amount that individual members of a slate can spend. Giving them less resources than independent candidates will help balance the playing field. The name recognition and mutual support of a slate will be counter-balanced by a lower spending limit (less posters, buttons, and other items.) for each slate candidate.
Barring that, the AMS must clarify what constitutes “slate-like” behaviour.