The results are in for the Graduate Student Association election, and they show that apathy seems to have played an important role in this election: prospective candidates did not run, and voter turnout was just a small fraction of the graduate student community.
“What elections?” said graduate student Brett Bundale when asked to comment on the elections held between September 26 and 28.
According to Patrice Blais, interim president of the GSA, only 10 to 12 per cent of students had voted as of the last day the voting booths were open.
“The turnout is lower because there is no contest for the executive,” he said, and added that the timing of the elections may be a factor as well.
“It is the end of September; new students don’t know and the profile of the GSA has not been out there that much,” said Blais.
All executive positions were filled by default or “acclamation” – since the first day of elections – the winning slate ran unopposed.
The new GSA executive is composed of Mousa Bani Baker, president; Mabruk Gheryani, VP finance; Bijan Derisi, VP internal; Majid Behbahani, VP president external; and Rajpal Singh, VP academic.
For council, the only real competition was for Engineering and Computer Science and for the John Molson School of Business.
Jinzi Huang and Ahmed Ali Abumazwed took the ENCS council with 127 votes and 100 votes respectively, while Karim Saliba and Michelle Jabra took the JMSC council with 24 and 20 votes respectively.
Ethan Cox, Deputy Returning Officer, said that acclamation – the slate running for and winning the executive positions unopposed – is not an issue.
“Students don’t have a choice since nobody [else] ran,” he said.
Electoral posters did not make their regular appearance during this election because there was no competition.
Blais said the alternative of delaying the election to allow more candidates to enter was not considered.
“There was a deadline to apply. The rules are the rules. I am a lawyer and I follow the rules,” said Blais.
He also said he does not believe the lack of choice in candidates was a problem.
Roger Cote, acting Dean of Students, said that they would be concerned if due process had not been followed.
“Acclamation is fine by us. It’s part of the process,” he said.
“We are not here to judge the wisdom of having enough candidates.”
During the last election in March 2007, a number of candidates expressed concerns about the integrity of the electoral process.
According to Cote, the allegations included “potential intimidation” between opposing candidates and that they did not follow the proper guidelines of the GSA elections.
The Dean of students subsequently annulled the results of the election.
While the GSA council stayed in place until new elections were carried out, Blais was hired as interim president by the council to help with the GSA’s administration because there had been no executive in place since last March.
“Council gave me a mandate to fix the association,” Blais said. “There was poor management in last year’s executive. They were inexperienced and unwilling to learn.”
Blais said the new executive would be trained to ensure they know their responsibilities, and will take over the GSA by Oct. 10.
Apart from the elections, graduate students were asked to vote on three referendum questions on the ballot; they voted “no” on all three.
One asked students if they would accept a fee to join The Link Publication Society, which would have allowed graduate students “to vote in general assemblies, the right to have letters published, eligibility in board of directors’ elections and the opportunity to become staff members and editors” at The Link. This would have come at a cost of $5.70 per year for each graduate student, amounting close to a $30,000 contribution to the publication.
The second question asked whether voters would accept a $3 fee per student to join the Concordia Student Broadcasting Corporation (CSBC) which includes CJLO, CUTV, and the Concordia Amateur Radio Club. However, the proposed fee would have been refundable in accordance with Concordia University’s tuition and refund policy if graduate students chose to do so. The ballot did not specify what the CSBC would do for graduate students.
The third referendum question asked whether students would ratify bylaw 2007-1, which was intended to ratify GSA’s bylaws so that they would be in accordance with the Quebec’s Company’s Act, an act which non-profit organizations are based on.
A few graduate students were asked about the GSA, and they seemed to be either oblivious or apathetic to the elections.
“I didn’t vote and know nothing about the candidates,” said Nancy Hebert, who is pursuing a masters in Public Policy and Public Administration.
Some were receptive of the student association, but claimed that it never presented itself to students, explaining why they stayed away from the voting booths.
“I didn’t pay too much attention because I don’t really know exactly what the GSA does,” said Nadia Hausfather, a student pursuing a graduate diploma in journalism. “It would have been good to have an orientation presentation from the GSA at the beginning of the year to understand exactly what they do and what their role is,” she said.
“I didn’t vote but was aware of the election,” said another grad student, Mike Burns, who is studying for his masters in sociology.
For Dan Hadad, another interviewee in the journalism graduate program, how the election turned out was no surprise to him based on what he has seen in the past.
“I heard about it, but truthfully GSA elections have always been a joke and there was talk to ensure the reputation is reversed.” I guess it wasn’t the case,” he said.