For those of you who have buried your noses in the books for the past two weeks and are mystified by the wide array of posters plastering the walls of our school, here’s a wake-up call:
An election campaign has been running full-tilt for the past two weeks, as parties and independents compete to fill the executive and councilor positions of Concordia’s Student Union (CSU).
Slates have gone slightly nutty this year in an attempt to engage students and get them out to vote. Below are some moments around campus you may have missed in the frenzied electioneering.
Watching the drama that surrounds our student elections can be a bit like drinking decaffeinated Mountain Dew: momentarily bubbly and euphoric, yet ultimately useless in keeping you awake.
So why watch this election? For one thing, this year’s election promises to be a whole lot more compelling than January’s federal election because a) the results directly affect students, b) you won’t be subjected to polls on the party’s standings, brought to you daily by CanWest and Ipsos-Reid, and c) the CSU decides where your money goes.
The CSU handles about 1.5 million dollars of student fees. Approximately half of the money is already earmarked for clubs and associations such as Le Frigo Vert and the Co-Op Bookstore. Some of the money is used to pay staff salaries, but the rest goes to wherever the CSU sees fit.
Although Concordia has arguably the most politically active university student body in the province, only a small percentage of our undergrads voted.
Of the 26,000 undergraduates who are eligible to vote, 3,336 students cast their ballots last year, down from 4,292 the year before.
The battle over the past three years has been mostly split between the Evolution and Conscious slates.
“Laaadies and Gentlemen! We have Evolution in one corner, loyally representing the right! Aaaannnnd, fiercely opposing them on the left, we have… Conscious!”
So where, exactly can two new slates with big ideas fit in?
Like the proverbial David facing not one, but two, Goliaths, new Presidential candidates Arielle Reid for FOCUS (Forces of Concordia Undergraduate Students), and Kurt Blagden of Justice for Concordia, face considerable hurdles in trying to present a different kind of party to a student body that has long been polarized into two camps. It was a conviction that they could better represent the student body that forced the groups, despite the odds, onto the campaign trail and into the ring.
“[FOCUS] was brought together because we all wanted to see the CSU move foward, not in a left or rightist way, but students together going forward toward a common goal,” explained Reid.
“A lot of the problems I saw on campus stemmed from the lack of CSU presence. If the CSU loses contact with the students, it loses its raison d’etre and becomes obsolete,” she said.
Blagden said the idea for Justice grew out of the way they had seen things being run last year.
“I saw the margin by which [Evolution] won, and have watched as it got narrower every year. Last year, 17 per cent of the student body voted, but it was the politically motivated people; [people] at the protests, and it leaves the other 83 per cent percent unrepresented. [Those students] are tired of the protesting, of global politics, of broken promises. We want to stay away from [making] promises that can be broken and be absolutely 100 per cent truthful.”
Blagden said his team has a lot of life experience to draw upon. A full-time father, Blagden works and goes to school full time. He owned his own contracting company after being a manager for a large international conglomerate. Blagden’s business sense served him well on the Board of Directors at Vanier College when he lobbied them to establish Quebec’s first Muslim prayer room.
Jean-Philippe Roy, running for VP Student Life, said FOCUS came together after he and Reid worked together on last year’s protest for against bursary cuts.
In November, Roy talked Reid into running for President because, as he put it, “she was the only one who likes the ‘lefties’ and the ‘righties’ and could talk to both the executive and CFS-Q and FEUQ. She could talk to anyone about anything; Arielle has ‘le gros bon sense,'” said the francophone Roy.
Reid is a self-described political-junkie, a trait she blames for the fact she has been at school for five years without completing her degree. She served on council in 2003-04 with the Evolution party, and worked full time with FEUQ last year.
Reid knows how to use her voice to good effect, but by Friday of last week she said she had “lost a tonsil” because of all the talking she did. Reid spoke in classes from 8:30 in the morning, at debates in the afternoon and in pubs and caf