Motions to alter SFUO election system rejected

Jesse Mellott | Fulcrum Staff

ON MARCH 24, Ethan Plato, president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) put forth three motions to change the SFUO election system that were later rejected by the Board of Administrators (BOA).

Plato’s first motion concerned stopping the placement of party names next to candidate names on the ballot. He believes the inclusion of party names can sway results and is unfair to candidates who run without party affiliation. The motion would thereby force candidates to campaign on an individual basis, rather than relying on a party. Plato acknowledged that some federations were not happy with affiliations appearing on the ballot in this year’s election

“What I did was, I wrote these motions in conjunction with PIDSSA,” said Plato. “I then asked all [federated bodies] to take it to their executive and discuss it with their executive for a vote, and then bring it to the board.”

Vp student affairs Kate Hudson supported the motion, in part because she was elected as an independent candidate. Hudson believes the party system can be intimidating and that eliminating party affiliations on the ballots could prompt independent candidates to run in future elections.

The motion was defeated by other executives, the majority of which expressed the belief that voters would prefer to know which candidates are working together.

Plato also proposed a change to the voting system; instead of voting for one candidate, voters would rank candidates based on an order of preference, or what is called a single transferable vote system. It was also the motion that most federated bodies voted for or abstained from. Vp finance Adam Gilani wasn’t against the idea, but ultimately voted against the motion as he believes it would be too big of an overhaul to the elections system at this time and could potentially lead to a lower voter turnout.

The third motion put forward would have barred members of the executive of the SFUO from openly supporting a candidate. It was argued that because members of the executive have influence on campus, their affiliation with candidates could affect voters’ decisions. Plato stated that this motion is already in place in the constitutions of many federated bodies.

“A lot of them have similar rules, in that the outgoing executive stays impartial and neutral as much as possible throughout the election,” he said. “It’s that open support and those open endorsements that were at hand there.”

Not all motions were shot down, however; the BOA agreed on the separation of the Students’ Association of the Faculty of Arts and student associations representing the Institute of Canadian Studies, following a referendum on the subject in 2012. A new federated body will be created for the Indigenous and Canadian Studies Student Association (ICSSA).

The board also approved a motion calling for the creation of a student experience committee that would be tasked with introducing new students to activities put on by the SFUO, as well as exploring new ways to improve student life on campus. While this motion passed, vp university affairs Liz Kessler noted that creating a new committee for every issue on campus isn’t the answer and said she’d like the incoming SFUO members to research the effectiveness of such committees.

As Plato indicated, any possible future  changes to the electoral process of the SFUO must pass with a two thirds majority.