Another UMSU election has passed and once again the victor should come as no surprise to those of us who regularly follow politics at our university. Although a good campaign was run by the other slates, it was still not enough to overcome the newly elected Working Together slate.
To the average student it may appear that the diversity of this year’s election brought many new viewpoints and ideas to the table, and certainly it gave hope that one of these groups would truly represent the interests of the students. In reality, the same “family” has controlled our student government for the better part of a decade.
It seems this group in power is able to affect future elections in various ways. Most obviously, this would be through the placement of an incumbent executive candidate running with the slate once again. More subtly, the similarities can be seen in a “socially positive” slate name and campaign materials, particularly the style and design of banners put up to represent individual candidates. Often, old campaign promises that were not previously acted upon by predecessors may be rehashed as new material, as it would be forgotten from the collective memory. Such a technique is quite effective, and only a few good promises are ever needed, as they could be cycled through every few years.
This strategy is also quite ingenious because the largest group of likely voters is composed of first year students who have not experienced an election at the U of M before. Enough voter naiveté is present to be taken advantage of, and voter apathy amongst students seeing this happen from year to year is also a major factor.
With the control of a very large budget composed of students’ (your) money, it is no wonder that such an extended group would want to continually hold power over it. They can effectively dictate what is important to students by playing to the minority that continually elects them into office time after time, and hence securing a strong active voter base for the next election. Once again, this creates a great deal of apathy as students who do not benefit from this arrangement — or anything else UMSU does — simply stop caring and often do not have the time to get involved.
The newly elected UMSU executive will claim power being representative of only approximately 1,700 students, or seven per cent of the undergraduate student body, and one has to wonder how they will be able to represent the disparate interests of a majority of students on campus. However, this year’s election also brought hope, as almost an equal amount of students voted against the winning slate (i.e. for other candidates).
Perhaps students are ready for a change in the government after all, one that is not just a superficial change of names and faces, but also an adjustment of policies that will better serve the student body as a whole.
Adam Cousins is currently finishing his second degree at the U of M.