If you’re a grad student vote now for the DAGS Presidential By-election. Voting ends at 4pm. There is scant information available and the link to vote is well buried. Sorry for not providing any coverage of this quiet summer turn of events.
Remember when the results for the DSU’s senate race were declared invalid? No? Okay, I forgive you, it was a few weeks ago and since then How I Met Your Mother ended, Game of Thrones started, you had five final papers, several group projects, exams to study for, jobs to apply for, and a few braincells went missing at Last Class Bash. I get it. In any case, the DSU is now accepting applications for Senate and Council Chair, as well as a slew of paid positions. Don’t delay – Senate nominations close on Thursday.
Check the positions out at www.dsu.ca/jobs
I received an interesting email today. It appears that Bonnie Neumann is moving to block the South House levy after the DSU’s crazy election. The five reasons cited by Neumann are weird. The author of the email asked not to be identified, but said there would be a public letter coming in the next few days. The quoted parts are pulled from Neumann’s email. The text outside of quotes was in the email I received. I’ve highlighted a few points in italics.
“Dal claims they explicitly asked to be involved in the process before the questions were voted on by referendum, in order to avoid this type of error.” Unless a behind-the-scenes process exists, this is new to me.
“Do you support the direct levy, of $3.15 per full-time and $1.00 per part time students, to the South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre be increased by $2.85 per full- time student to a total of $6.00 per year ($3 for the fall term and $3 for the winter term), and be increased by $2.00 per part-time student to a total of $3.00 per year ($1.50 for the fall term and $1.50 for the winter term)? This question pertains only to Halifax campuses.”
Here is what the university claims is wrong with the question.
- “There was no disclosure of the part-time fee increases. ” Either Bonnie or I failed grade three reading.
- “There was no disclosure on the current summer fee.” This is correct.
- “The opening statement is not transparent to students regarding whether the fees are annual or per term/semester”. It says “$3 for the fall term and $3 for the winter term. University students should be able to determine that that means you would pay $3 in the fall term and $3 in the winter term.
- “The part-time fee is understated from your actual current feee [sic] by $0.35″. This is correct, but students are still clear on an increase of $2.00 per part-time student per year.
- “Your error in presenting the base amount of the current part-time fee, assuming we accept the final amounts as being correct on your proposal, means that both the base and incremental change that you are asking for are both incorrect”. Would the world end if they accepted the final presented total, $1.50 per semester, as the approved amount?
“This is a question which is asking students to make a decision on a financial commitment. They are basing their decision on two inaccurate pieces of information. The motion information does not fully disclose the current fee information to students. Your vote results were only 52.9% to 47.1% in favour with only a 10.9% participation rate”. We have a pretty clear precedent in the western world which is that participation rate is irrelevant. The vote passed, as written. It is incumbent upon the Board of Governors to approve the spirit of the fee increase approved by students.
Here’s my take:
The DSU elections were a mess. Most of that lies with the DSU. Students had the opportunity to participate in the election and this is the course of action they approved. The only difference between this and the other motions which were approved is the error in the existing rates. Every other referendum question had the same structure and description of fees. Heck, the Gazette didn’t even show their current fee and no one on their side has been contacted about this.
If there’s a silver lining, Dr. Florizone already tweeted that he’d look in to this.
All of the results are in!
We don’t have exact numbers for spoiled ballots, but the candidate and referendum races went as follows (please excuse any unusual math on the losers–the CRO only announced the winners’ percentages, and so I had to calculate in my head as relentlessly revealed them all at once!
Turn out: No official numbers yet, but the Gazette is reporting that an EC member said it was 10.8% .
Board of Governors:
Taylor Quinn: 43.1%
Rebecca Haworth: 56.9% WINNER
Senate: RACE DECLARED INVALID DUE TO SEVERE EDGAR BURN(s)-ING
VP Student Life:
Danny Shanahan: 85.4% WINNER
Jennifer Nowoselski: 57.4% WINNER
VP Academic External:
Jacqueline Joan Skiptunis: ACCLAIMED
Alexandra Killham: 44.4%
Ramz Aziz: 55.6% WINNER
South House: 52.9 % PASS
Dalhousie Urban Garden: 57.9% PASS
Dalhousie International Students: 32.5% FAIL
CKDU: 38.7% FAIL
Students Nova Scotia: 40.5 % FAIL
Student Union Building Renovations: 34.5% FAIL
Equity and Accessibility Office: 56.2% PASS
Dalhousie Campus Medical Response Team: 64.7% PASS
Dalhousie Bike Center: 56.8% PASS
Dalhousie Gazette: 52% PASS
We at punditry.ca received the following letter from a Sexton student this morning. It makes me sad because of the years that people tried to build bridges to Sexton and that all that work seems to have been lost over the years and it was weak to begin with. In my experience when the Studley students feel disconnected the Carlton and Sexton students feel it even more so. I haven’t included the students name but I will if they want me to. I suggest candidates really consider what it is like to be this student. I am not an idiot, I know the disconnect has always been there but students need to work to remove it, not make it worse. This is why websites are important. This is why talking to students is important.
“Over my four years at Dal, I have been a highly involved student on campus. However, because I am on Sexton Campus, I am at a fairly large disadvantage when it comes to matters with the DSU. Every year I attend the Sexton candidates debate and every year I am provided with lots of promises from students that they will work to make my student experience bigger and better than the year before. I watch this happen every year and I have to say that I have come to the conclusion that the DSU is unable to support the needs of students across multiple campuses.
I saw two executive members of the DSU on my campus once this year and I attend most large-scale events that take place down here. I don’t have time to attend townhalls on the third floor of the SUB at 4pm on a Tuesday because I am in class. I have never seen anyone with a street team on my campus because for the DSU, the street seems to only be University Avenue. Committees that are supposed to meet on Sexton tend not to meet at all. Positions that are supposed to be hired to represent and work for Sexton tend to not be hired at all or tend to be hired too late in the year to effect any real positive change. Levied societies, other than the Loaded Ladle who serve food here on Wednesdays, show no presence for my university life.
There are nearly 2000 students who study on Sexton Campus and there are over 500 students who live in residence on Sexton Campus. I witnessed several DSU candidates come through my study space offering me free food and handbills to try to gain my vote. Most of these candidates, I have not seen since the last election. Most of these candidates, I will not see again.
This week I am working with the engineering society to try to increase voter turnout on Sexton Campus. I have been sitting in the main walk-through on Sexton for four hours now and have convinced a total of 19 students to vote in the election. We have free snacks down here for anyone who wants to vote and we have a polling station set up. When I ask students to vote, the vast majority of them reply to me that the DSU is irrelevant to them. Many students down here seem frustrated or just laugh at the idea that voting in this election will benefit them.
There are no posters for candidates on Sexton Campus. There are no posters that voting is open on Sexton campus. There are no candidates running for the DSU who attend most of their classes on Sexton. Where is the DSU presence on Sexton?
Students need to understand what the DSU does before they are offered an opportunity to run for a position. Students need to understand what the DSU does before they are offered an opportunity to vote for candidates.
Becoming relevant to all students including those that have never even been in the SUB before should be the first step in reducing student apathy and frustration.
While I know that the DSU executive does accomplish some great things throughout the year, I just don’t think that the rest of my classmates know this. I really hate representing this view but I think that something at least needs to be said. I am sure that many of the candidates would do a fair job in running the DSU next year, but there is a greater systemic issue that needs to be addressed first.
Quotes from Students on Sexton:
“I don’t know, I just don’t want to vote because I feel that I will skew the results because none of these people represent me.”
“I don’t know any of these people.”
“I have never been inside the SUB.”
“Why would I vote in an election for an organization whose own president couldn’t even stay in one class this term?”
“These diversity organizations have never represented any of my diverse views.”
“I am an international student, and I have never received an invitation to an international event on Sexton Campus.”
“How do I vote? I can’t figure out this ranking thing.”
“What does it mean to spoil a ballot?”
“Do you know any of these people?”
“Who was the girl who gave me apples? I want to vote for her. Lol.”
“What is a townhall? What is a street team? What is Students Nova Scotia? <Rips up handbill and throws it on the floor>”
“Is this election happening because the president dropped his class?”
“How do I skip voting for the DSU elections and jump to the levy votes?”
“Students Nova Scotia? Alliance of Nova Scotia Students Association? Is that like the allies during WWII? I like that idea.”
“Can I have a free cookie without voting?”
“Maybe I’ll go ask my friend who they voted for and come back later.”
“I am graduating this year, voting is a problem for next year’s students.”
“How come this candidate doesn’t have a website.”
“Were any of these people not on council this year?”
“If I had the time, I might be more informed.”
“The less money I give to the DSU, the better.”
“We don’t need all of these extra things.”"
If the Elections Committee (EC) can enforce the Elections Policy on all candidates in the election, then I think we should be able enforce the Elections Policy on the EC.
I’ve decided to do so. And I’m fining them for $340. Why?
1. The Chief Returning Officer (CRO) is supposed to appoint an Elections Committee no later than one month after their election (Section 6.a.b). The CRO was appointed on August 21st. On February 24th, there was a Facebook post looking for people interested in being on the EC. Their first meeting was on March 1st.
2. The Elections Committee is subject to ratification by Council (Section 6.b). That just flat out never happened. No official body has actually given these people the right to run this election.
3. The CRO is supposed to be selected by no later than May 1st (Section 6.b.b). See: August 21st. I actually think this date is a terrible idea, because it would mean we were hiring a new CRO while the current CRO is finishing up their job, but hey. Policy is policy.
4. The CRO is supposed to a appoint a Deputy Returning Officer of Faculty Level Society Elections (Section 6.b.f.xiiv). That doesn’t exist.
5. The Call for Nominations, wording of referenda, names of candidates, URL of voting website, etc, are supposed to be publicized using all reasonable means (Section 6.e.a). “All reasonable means” may be up for interpretation, but my interpretation indicates a lot more work should have been done here.
6. The call for nominations should go out no less than five school days before the commencement of the nominations period (Section 6.e.a.i). Nominations opened on Feb. 26th. Because of Reading Week, this means the call should have gone out by Feb. 12th at the latest. The first elections related tweet that I can find was sent Feb. 18th, and nothing was posted on Facebook until the cover photo was changed on Feb. 21st. An email was never sent.
7. The wording of any referendum questions is supposed to be publicized no less than five school days before nominations open (Section 6.e.a.ii). Not only were these questions not passed by council until about 5 minutes before nominations began, but they didn’t appear on the elections website until after campaigning began. No one was given any opportunity to run a “no” campaign.
8. Contact information for each registered referendum campaign should be posted no less than 24 hours before the start of campaigning (Section 6.e.a.iii). The election is now almost over, and this information STILL isn’t available. Even though I’ve asked for it.
9. The CRO is supposed to present the elections timeline to Council for approval no later than November 1st (Section 7.a). That date’s not important here, because it never happened at all. That’s probably a partial explanation for the rule infractions that follow.
10. Depending on which section of policy you’re reading, nominations are supposed to close no less than two school days before campaigning begins, or no less than five calendar days before campaigning begins (Section 7.b.a; Section 7.c.a). While the fact that elections policy itself is flawed is clearly a problem, it doesn’t really matter in this case. Because we only waited one day.
11. Campaigning is supposed to close at 8pm on the day before voting starts, but we gave them an extra 4 hours, ending campaigning at midnight (Section 7.c.a).
12. Since there were 3 senate candidates, and 3 senate positions, senate candidates were essentially running unopposed (Section 10b). Voters should have been given a yes/no option, not preferential voting. Based on the current ballot, no matter how you voted, all 3 senate candidates had a guaranteed spot. Democracy at it’s finest!
13. The Elections Committee is responsible for securing poster space in as many university buildings as possible (Section 13b.i). How many buildings did you see posters in?
14. When creating poster displays, posters are supposed to be grouped by position (Section 13b.ii). The posters around the chalkboard inside the SUB, and the posters on the chalkboard outside the SUB, were not. In fact, when I walked by, the chalkboard outside the SUB didn’t even have a poster up for Ramz.
15. Candidates and campaigns are not allowed to use Union or University facilities not available to all candidates (Section 13c.f). Yet, the DSU themselves put their referendum campaign poster on the TV screen behind the Info Desk, and on the slider on their webpage (it came right after the slider advertising the election…). You may think this is just an infraction by the DSU referendum campaign team, but they were actually given permission by the Elections Committee. Yeah. No.
16. Candidates and campaigns are forbidden to use society resources (Section 13c.g). Yet the Elections Committee chose to allow the use of NSPRIG’s button-maker, the DASSS office, South House space, the Dal Bike Centre, and possibly more. Admittedly, this may be partially my fault, because I suggested, based on the fact that candidates ALWAYS use the button-maker, that if a resource is widely available to all candidates, and that fact is publicized, we should let them use it. Of course, you have to make sure that this doesn’t give anyone an advantage, and therefore resources belonging to a society a candidate is President of, or a society running a referendum question, should NOT be allowed.
17. All of the referendum questions state that they pertain only to Halifax campuses. And yet, a med school student at the New Brunswick campus voted on them all. Don’t you love knowing someone who will never have to pay these fees is getting a say in whether YOU pay them?
For most infractions that policy dictates a fine for, the amount is $20. So for each infraction, I’ve decided to levy a $20 fine. That means the Elections Committee is being handed a $340 fine, and they’ve most definitely just been disqualified.
To be completely fair, many of the problems with this year’s election aren’t really the Election Committee’s fault. They kind of pulled together an entire election on the spot. The CRO became CRO pretty much the day nominations opened, so kudos to her for making anything happen.
But if it isn’t entirely the Election Committee’s fault, then whose fault is it? Well, the election is under the jurisdiction of Council. Shouldn’t they have been aware that an Elections Committee hadn’t been ratified? Shouldn’t they have known they never voted on a timeline? Shouldn’t they have maybe passed the referendum questions on time? If Council had been properly paying attention, 8 of these infraction should never have occurred. There’s a $160 fine for Council. I guess they’re disqualified too.
And where have the DSU executive been throughout all of this? Why haven’t they been paying attention? Last year’s election was no well-oiled machine, and they all voiced complaints at the time. I would have thought they’d have wanted to make sure this year’s election went smoothly. But recent events seem to indicate that they’re more interested in their own pet projects then the proper running of the union. I’d disqualify them too, but, well, one is already up for impeachment.
The purpose of elections policy is to ensure elections function fairly and democratically. When your policy isn’t followed, that quickly becomes called into question.
Shape up, guys.
The DSU elections voting period was not yet open three hours before we heard our first complaint about potential problems with the voting system.
Thursday morning, former DSU VP Finance Edgar Burns tweeted his frustration with the Tiger Society voting system and had the following exchange with the official DSU Twitter account:
Edgar appears to be referencing the fact that when you attempt to vote for the Senate positions, you are met with the following options:
There is no clear option to vote “no” available on the ballot. Typically, when there are three candidates and three positions, students vote “yes” or “no” on each candidate rather than simply acclaiming them. In the “senate” section on Tiger Society, students can either vote for a candidate, spoil their ballot, or take no action. One would assume that spoiling a ballot would simply result in the system disregarding that ballot in the counting process. It remains unclear whether taking no action with a candidate will be treated as a “no” vote.
I go to law school with Edgar. I ran into him in the hallway this afternoon, and he made it clear that he is genuinely frustrated that more people haven’t expressed concern over this issue. He wonders if we should expect to see Aaron Beale, Ali Calladine, and Dylan Letendre stun the world by winning their respective contests with Kim Jong-un-esque 100% “yes” mandates.
Have you experienced any issues with the voting system? What do you think about the apparent inability to vote “no” in the senate race? Familiar with the system and willing to suggest a plausible explanation? Let us know in the comments!