In the last two years, student elections at Concordia have been anything but smooth; the last year’s contested results have not been put to rest; student newspapers were taken off the stands twice during election periods; a fired CEO went public to implicate the CSU in influencing this year’s election.
To get the bigger picture, The Concordian sat down with current Chief Electoral Officer Jason Druker and the CEO of the 2003 elections, Tara Tavender, for their thoughts on this year’s election process.
“The biggest challenge for me was to control the childish attitude the parties had against each other,” said Druker. He was quick to point out he was annoyed at being interrupted from his work by complaints and quarrels between competing slates.
“Ideally, [the CEO] is not a political position, but the fact is you come into this job, it’s really hard, there’s a lot of stuff to know, a lot of stuff to do, a lot of things to consider and the only people you’ve got to ask are political people,” surmised Tavender.
Needed: CEO with experience
Dealing with slates isn’t the only thing to take into account. Tavender was Deputy Election Officer (DEO) for a year before she was named CEO. Although she doesn’t believe CEOs should be chosen from a pool of DEOs, she believes that the position should be taken by someone with more experience.
Druker said his only knowledge of what his job entailed came from an 80 – 100 page manual. He felt confident before the elections regardless of this limited training: ” My office read the entire thing and we got things done,” Druker said.
He said he thought he has done a good job and added he was interested at running for the position next year.
Tavender cited the fact that election staff only has a year’s mandate, making it difficult for the CEO to know how to organize an election.
“They could institute something so that the CEO stays longer,” said Tavender. “Because [in] one year is an election and maybe a by-election, so by the time you figure out how to run the election, either you hate the job and don’t want to do it anymore or you become the target of political attacks. Or you graduate.” Tavender described the position as a “thankless job.”
Seeking improvement with a capital “I”
Druker suggested the nomination period should be changed. “The nomination period ends at midnight and poster night starts at midnight, it’s really difficult to get everything organized at that point. But if nomination period ended a week earlier, then the office of the CEO would be able to have things organized and do things properly instead of in a rush.”
Tavender also had suggestions of her own: “The CEO should be keeping more records then they are right now and I think it should be changed in the legislation so the CEO would have to keep records about the whole electoral process, all the statements that they issued, copies of all the ballot so that there’s something to reference after the elections,” she said.
Media coverage – help or hindrance?
The media coverage of the elections was a point of debate as the CSU standing regulations don’t offer guidelines on how the elections should be covered by the student media.
Druker believes the elections should be covered by the student media to generate interest and motivate people to vote. Tavender said it was important for the media to offer an insight into student politics.
“The papers should be reporting on student politics. The student union governs [a million dollars] a year so it’s important that somebody is getting students engaged, give them an opportunity of being informed,” said Tavender.