Nearly 70 per cent of voters defeated the CSU’s proposed student centre fee-levy increase in last week’s referendum.
“The students spoke and I respect it,” said Adrien Severyns, the CSU’s VP external and projects, in the minutes following the release of the results. “I’m here to serve them, not command them, and they’ve expressed their will and I’ll respect it.”
Severyns attributed the proposal’s failure largely to the current financial climate. Sibona MaDewa, an organizer for the victorious “no” campaign, agreed.
“For one, people, if you talk about reaching in their wallets, they will react,” she said. “And secondly, if you want to reach into their wallets without a clear product to give them it just makes it worse.” MaDewa, who said she was “ecstatic” with the results of the referendum, also believes that the proposal failed because many students felt they were being misled or misinformed by the CSU.
Results of the referendum were made public on Friday afternoon. Despite only 2,397 students voting, representing around eight per cent of Concordia’s approximately 30,000 undergraduate students, the turnout was well beyond the 2.5 per cent quorum and actually much higher than previous fall by-elections. A year earlier, in November of 2009, only 1,201 students, or about four per cent of undergrads, voted on three fee-levy questions in the CSU’s by-election.
Severyns called the turn-out “unprecedented for a by-election,” adding that despite the proposal’s failure, he was happy the CSU “really created an interest in the project.”
“It’s a project students are already paying for, if anything this just slows it down a bit,” Severyns reiterated. He also said that the CSU was “going to be analyzing the outcomes of the vote, what went right, what went wrong,” and confirmed that a similar fee-levy increase would not be proposed for the spring election.
The proposal’s defeat ended a slightly controversial campaign which saw an unregistered group of individuals pushing the “no” side of the issue, unrestricted by electoral rules.
“A lot of rules were broken and we could not find who was responsible because there was no one to blame,” Severyns said, adding that this referendum definitely indicated that the CSU should perhaps try to “look more deeply into how to reform electoral rules.”
MaDewa agreed that the decision made by CSU chief electoral officer Oliver Cohen to not register their “no” campaign had the potential to hurt the “yes” side.
“In retrospect maybe it would have been a good idea to do so,” she said. “In this case if people did break rules there would be no one to hold accountable. I don’t think we intentionally broke any rules, but we weren’t bound by then.”
But despite being refused registration, MaDewa said that the current registration requirements are a necessary element that she doesn’t believe can be reformed. For her, it is the date of these referendums that need reformation.
“November 20-something is a horrible time of year. We’re obviously not going to be very aware of what’s going on and the rules and so forth,” she said, explaining that if the by-election was held earlier in the semester, people would not be so stressed with final papers and exams, and would consequently be more involved and more aware of all the rules.
The CSU’s “yes” campaign was also called into question by one of its own councillors, Lex Gill, who filed a contestation with Cohen, citing multiple postering issues, among other violations. But in light of the referendum results, Gill said she would be willing to let the contestation go, though the final decision is Cohen’s.
Despite Severyns’ own complaints about the broken regulations, he said the CSU would not contest the elections.
Cohen, again, could not be reached for comment.