Archive for March, 2011

seven years of voter turnout

March 13th, 2011 4 comments

Turnout over 7 years of DSU Elections

This graph shows cumulative votes over time for seven elections.  Not shown is the 2007 student spaces referendum, which was so good it won’t even fit on this graph.  Also not shown is the 2004 turnout, which similarly makes every other year look bad. The axes are unlabelled (SACRILEGE!) but I believe in context it is fairly obvious what is shown here.  The smoothing is artificial; the number of votes was sampled every hour.  2009 starts so high because there was advanced polling that year.

The past three years ended up clustered closely together, just under the 2500 mark.  This year blew by all three years, falling just shy of the 3,000 mark.  Some things to note:

  • 2007, the best turnout shown, I suspect benefited from the publicity of the 2007 student spaces referendum
  • 2006 is notable for being the closest set of races since the ’02 elections, with every executive position going to multiple ballot rounds to find a winner.
  • 2011, I do not know what the cause is.  The races weren’t particularly close, there was a mildly contentious referendum question but that was a fairly localized show… perhaps the CRO was especially vigorous? Or the candidates especially outgoing?  Any thoughts here?
  • I know 2011 is the best of the past four years, the fourth best over the last 10 years, and am quite convinced it holds fourth at least as far back as 1980 (Dalhousie went from 2,000 to 9,000 students in the 1960-1980 period, and the larger the student body the harder it is to reach. With paper ballots and 14k students, voter turnout was hovering in the 3%-8% range.)
  • You can see the spikes when an email went out to students. Although there was mention of the election in the Dal Sticky Notes on the first day, there is no sharp spike (that might have led to generally higher turnout over the corresponding periods in previous years).  The real spike came when the DSU dispatch went out early on the 3rd day (it was actually sent in the afternoon of the 2nd day but wasn’t approved until the morning of the 3rd). This resulted in the most votes received on the third day since we started keeping track of when people vote.

There are many more observations to be made; add your own!


“Unsuccessful” Candidates – Where Are They Now?

March 12th, 2011 14 comments

I couldn’t agree more with Eric’s comment in yesterday’s post that unsuccessful candidates are often amazing people who go on to do incredible things. It’s absolutely true that the DSU’s “unsuccessful” candidates are anything but.

For Thursday’s winners, your path for the year ahead is at least somewhat clear. The rest of you may not know what you’re going to do now that the results are in, but know that you are in good company.

I’ve heard a common sentiment from these former candidates over the years: “I was sad when I lost, but in the end, I’m glad I did because I was able to [insert cool thing].” I suspect this experience has sparked something inside you that just needs to find the right fuel, be that in the DSU or elsewhere. I wish you all well as you follow in the footsteps of this pack of so-called losers.

Craig Jennex (VPI Candidate 2009)
Jennex received the University Medal for Gender & Women’s Studies when he graduated in 2010. He is currently working toward an MA in Cultural Studies at McMaster. Even more exciting than that school stuff is that Jennex plays drums for a Halifax-based band called Dance Movie whose song “Carjack My Heart” was featured on an episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation (“Purple Pills, Pt. 2″) and has since spawned a number of fan videos on YouTube.

Michael “Fendi” Kovendi (VPI Candidate 2006)
It took a while, but “Fendi” found his way to a DSU Executive office. He has been serving as the Vice President (Finance & Operations) this year.

Ann Elizabeth Beringer (VPEd Candidate 2006)
Now living and working in Edmonton, AEB is now AES, having married founder Mike Smit in August 2010. That’s a pretty good reason to get involved at the DSU: you might just meet your future spouse!

Tara Gault (Presidential Candidate 2008)
After a tight race with fellow 2007-08 exec Courtney Larkin, Gault now works as a researcher for the Nova Scotia Liberal Caucus and devotes countless unpaid hours to both the provincial and federal wings of the party.

John Hillman (Presidential Candidate 2008, 2011)
The year following Hillman’s first bid for DSU President, Hillman was a regular contributor to The Gazette and when the 2009 DSU Elections rolled around, he joined the ranks here at He was slated to start classes at Dal Law that September, but after a lot of self-reflection, decided to follow his true passion and pursue creative writing (I’m sure this comes as no surprise to our readership). Hillman is now finishing the honours class in creative writing, applying to MFA programmes, and hopes to teach in the future.

Will Horne (BoG Candidate 2009)
Following the election, Horne remained a driving force behind sustainability initiatives at Dalhousie and elsewhere, serving as Executive Director of the DSU Sustainability Office and as a workshop coordinator for the East Coast Environmental Law Association. He is about to complete an internship at the Solheimar Eco-village in Iceland, but we haven’t seen the last of him – he will be returning to Dalhousie in September.

Victoria Jones (VPI Candidate 2008)
After losing her bid for the VPI office to Dan Boyle, Jones remained on DSU Council as the Graduate Member at Large. She is now in her second year of law at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK. Victoria will also be returning to Dalhousie in September to complete her MA. Let’s see if she can resist the pull of student politics.

Gregory Debogorski (BoG Candidate 2007, Presidential Candidate 2008, 2009)
Regardless of what you might think of his philosophy, Debogorski’s tenacity is nothing short of admirable. He promised to run in an election every year he was at Dalhousie, and following his first loss, he remained true to his word. I only wish we’d seen more of him between elections.

Eric Snow (Presidential Candidate 2009)
Since a hard-fought campaign, Snow has remained one of the most stalwart members of the DSU I have ever encountered. For many years now I’ve operated on the assumption that he simply does not sleep.

If you know what anyone else is up to, feel free to let us know in the comments.

Thanks to Messrs. Smit, Snow, and Hillman for their assistance.


My Closing Thoughts

March 11th, 2011 4 comments

Well, another election has come to an end. The detailed results can be found here, if you haven’t seen them yet. As we wrap up, I’d like to share some closing thoughts with our loyal readers.

I’ve seen a lot of DSU Elections in my (excessive length of) time at Dalhousie. I’ve been an observer, a failed candidate, a successful candidate, a failed Presidential candidate, a pundit, and official agent and a referendum spokesperson. I can tell you that a tremendous amount of work goes into a campaign, whether you win it or not. I can also tell you from experience that I’ve felt nearly every sentiment that one can from viewing the election results. Lord knows there are a lot of them.

To our newly elected leaders, Saulnier, Bouchard, Kurin, Arron, Griffin, Ma, MaGill and Scrimgeour, I wish you the best of luck. Your hard work (well, mostly) has paid off. There is still more work to come, but hopefully this gauntlet has helped prepare you for the challenges you will face in your respective roles. That goes for you, too, Loaded Ladle volunteers; if anything, you’ve got the biggest challenge of all ahead of you.

Given the high profile roles that all of the successful candidates have had in the DSU this year (respectfully including our new Senate Reps), I’d say there has been a pretty resounding show of support for the current direction of the DSU. That doesn’t mean the status quo is okay; rather, the things you’re talking about for further improving the Union are getting some traction. I’m hopeful and optimistic that you can live up to those commitments.

As for the other candidates, don’t despair. Believe me when I say that some of the most amazing people I know are unsuccessful DSU election candidates who have gone on to do incredible things. You’ve participated in an incredibly valuable learning experience. No doubt you all know much more about our community, our issues and our fellow students than you did before you began (if you don’t, I think you now know why things didn’t pan out :P). I know I did. But don’t worry, most unsuccessful candidates don’t end up like me.

Looking back on it, would we really have been in such bad shape if some of these candidates had won? The passion and effort so many of you have put into this is considerable. Sebastian, I know a lot of people you won over with your charisma and the heart you put into your campaign. John, you’ve injected some much needed light-heartedness into this DSU and reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously. Evan, you’ve accomplished so much and with your dedication and creativity, I have no doubt you’ll continue to go and do amazing things.

Tom, Andrew and Chris R., all of you are still young and have come a long way in a short time. Stay involved and don’t let your great ideas fall to the wayside. Imad, Adam and Chris C., your commitments to the DSU have been considerable and we all owe you thanks for it. I’ve no doubt that you’ll find success in wherever you each decide to go next. Last but not least, Karl, I’ve probably enjoyed our chats on the campaign trail than those I’ve had with any other candidates. Don’t let go of your passion. I hope you’ll be willing to find a continued, valued place in the DSU.

After all, the game’s not over yet. We still need a Vice President (Finance and Operations), two more Senators, Members-at-Large, seats on the Board, Commissioners and numerous others who are willing to participate and keep the DSU active and vibrant. Many of you have demonstrated that potential. Just because things didn’t pan out how you initially hoped doesn’t mean you don’t have reason to be proud. After all, each and every one of you managed to get at least ~200 students behind your cause. That is no small feat. Don’t take that for granted.

Thank you to you all. I wish all of our candidates the best and I look forward to hearing about all of your student leadership successes and exciting new opportunities in the coming year.


the results

March 10th, 2011 24 comments

The CRO is planning to release the results in batches throughout the evening, starting roughly at 9 and drawing it out for an hour or two.  @ersnow will be live-tweeting the results; if you aren’t following him, we’ll copy the results to a page here for your enjoyment.

Update: Submission to tipline reports turnout of 18.3%. Nice!

Grad Student Referendum: Yes [83%]

Loaded ladle: Yes [71%]

Senators: Yes and Yes

BoG: Ma [33%] & Griffin [32%]

VP Internal: Kayla Kurin [51%]

VP Student Life: Jamie Arron [56%]

VP Academic & External: Sarah Bouchard [53%]

President: Chris Saulnier [57%]

SAN Theme: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory


On a quiet Elections Results Eve…

March 10th, 2011 10 comments

When I first dreamt of my debut post to, I envisioned an earth shattering, gripping, story laced with controversy and coated with witty, piercing insight. However, it is to mine (and probably your) despair that my maiden contribution is perhaps a testament to the relative lack of noteworthy events. Not that this election campaign has been particularly uninteresting, as there are numerous competitive races and a rather heated and politicized referendum to follow. It may seem enthralling to those of us here are glued to our online election sources, but apparently those within the voting wider community are slightly less tuned in.

In years previous, we have shrewdly observed this phase of the campaign week for last minute, game changing events that might sway voters one way or another. In particular, it is a period that usually consists of society endorsements, of which this years campaign has witnessed few of major significance. Some may recall last years notable endorsements of Glenn Blake by the Dalhousie Women’s Centre, SustainDal getting behind Leforte, Kurin, Bailey and Lovett (among others), DSEUS supported their fellow Sexton candidates Ben Wedge and Chris Saulnier, and most notable was the endorsement of Gregory Debogorski by one John Hillman.

So far this year we are yet to hear many official shout-outs from any major societies, or for many positions. Even the most political groups on campus are remaining relatively silent, despite those who may have the most to gain from a successful candidate. There may be a few reasons for this, which I will address in time. As of now, these are the most significant endorsements.

Jamie Arron, from I.D.E.A.S

“On that note, the I.D.E.A.S society is pleased to announce our official endorsement of Jamie Arron for the VP Student Life position. His race is going to be super close so its essential that you vote online at, and pass the word onto your friends.Jamie is taking up critical issues such as food services, engagement of international students, and transparency of the DSU as a whole (see for an overview of the race). Jamie is a 4th year IDS Honours student and will certainly be a friend for advancing critical perspectives within the union”

Not terribly surprising, or much of a game changer if you ask me. Jamie has run his campaign very effectively, channeling plenty of his personal values, which are clearly shared by many groups on campus, and he has effectively communicated the ways in which he will incorporate them into his portfolio if elected. Members of the Loaded Ladle facebook group also listed Jamie as a strong preference, however these are highly unofficial. Not insignificantly, a message sent by Arron to the Muslim Students Association, in which he nicely articulated his unique ideas for engaging international students and Muslim students specifically, was then circulated to their mailing list along with instructions on how to vote, however without an explicit endorsement.

Also accompanying Arron in an unofficial list found on the Loaded Ladle facebook group were Saulnier, Bouchard, Mekhail, Ma and Scrimegeour. Former presidential candidate Neil Bailey has made public his support for Evan Price for VP Academic & External, and crafted a lengthy statement on the Loaded Ladle’s facebook, explaining the reasoning behind his support.

As I was typing this post, I also received the following message from one of the architects of the “No Loaded Levy” Campaign, Mr. Mike Kennedy:

“The No Loaded Levy campaign endorsed three candidates: Karl Dempsey, John Hillman and Andrew Mecke. They all say NO to the Loaded Levy!”

Hardly shocking, but I’m sure important nonetheless. I just can’t decide whether it’s more beneficial to the candidates or the “No” campaign.

A DSU Election would never be complete with the input of the our infamously beloved, treasured former candidate Mr. Gregory Deborski. The language of the most notable endorsement of this campaign is as follows:

“I, Gregory Debogorski, hereby endorse John Hillman for president of
the Dalhousie Student Union.

Don’t make me some back for a fifth election. Elect Hillman.”

I have known Mr. Hillman for four years. I give the following five
reasons for this endorsement:

1. John Hillman has closely witnessed student elections for five
years, and knows the students’ issues

2. He doesn’t bullshit unless he’s telling a joke

3. He’s a fair and honourable man

4. He has a fun-loving nature that would cure student apathy

5. He is the best candidate to represent students because he welcomes criticism

This heart warming reciprocation of last years affection from Hillman bring’s a smile to my face, and I await with great anticipation to see if the “Debogorski Bump” will render Hillman to topple Debo’s best election results.

As far as I am aware, this rookie pundit may be the first and only to publicize endorsements. They may not hold much weight for the majority of our voting community, but I’m sure they might raise a few questions. In case they have gone unnoticed, I will lay them on you here. For a few I was torn, for instance between English Tom Dobbyne and Jamie Arron for VPSL, and I’ll admit it was a last minute decision for me, on which I went with my gut. I was also extremely impressed by the absolute perseverance, dedication and passion of Evan Price this time around, and it kills me that I could not choose both he and Sarah for VP A&E, but I sincerely hope he gets deeply involved in another capacity. Anyway, here’s my pick of sweethearts, note how they differ from my predictions: Saulnier, Mekhail, Bouchard, Dobbyne, Ma, Magill and a “No” on the Loaded Levy. It was extremely difficult coming to a few of these decisions, but I thoroughly believe that these candidates have exhibited a plethora of qualities, skills, and incredible leadership that I hope will guide the DSU to new heights in the upcoming year.

As for the topic of endorsements, I have failed to see a significant correlation between electoral victory and the quantity of endorsements received or the weight that the endorsement may be perceived to hold. That being said, it is unlikely to be harmful to any candidate to publicly gain the support of any student group, small or large, when running for an executive position. It is also easy to imagine societies hesitancy to endorse candidates in order to avoid future alienation if their candidate is not elected. Perhaps only those with particularly vested interests in an election issue really stand to gain from the endorsement of a candidate, or conversely some may be uncertain of the benefits supporting a candidate may prove to be. Of course it will be interesting to see if any flow in over the course of the final voting day, at which time I think it is safe to assume their impact may be minimal.

That being said, it is not too late to weigh in! Societies wishing to make their preferences known should hurry online and email us, or send us your statements through the Submit News tab at the top of the page if you have made your decisions and would like to publicly announce them!

Of course everyone, don’t forget to vote, and I will see you all at the Grawood for the results!


Musical Interlude

March 8th, 2011 4 comments

Well, it’s that time again. There’s nothing left for candidates to do but hope that their years of work on campus and a frantic week of campaigning will be enough to cause some faint glimmer of recognition as voters skim over the photos on the ballot before they click on buttons randomly in hopes of winning a Samsung Captivate on which to play Angry Birds.

It’s also time to listen to some music from a simpler place and time -  Dalhousie, circa 1947.


An Experiment

March 8th, 2011 47 comments

Finish the following phrase. Limit it to one sentence. People who write run-on sentences will receive scowls and scorn.

“I’m voting for _____ because…”

Feel free to be anonymous. Also, feel free to substitute “would vote for” if you can’t, or “voted for” if you already did. Let’s be inclusive. :)