Low turnout expected for by-elections meaning every vote is crucial
The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) will hold voting for its by-elections from Oct. 12 to 14. Three candidates for the eight available positions were announced on Oct. 3. The by-elections are being held to fill vacancies in three bodies: the University Senate, UOSU’s Board of Directors (BOD), and UOSU’s Executive Committee.
The lack of candidates means the three positions with candidates will all be put to a vote of approval by the students they seek to represent. The role of equity commissioner will have the largest voting bloc, including all undergraduate students, though past elections suggest there will most likely be a less than 10 per cent turnout of eligible voters.
University Senate — Harneet Cheema running for health science
There is one candidate for the health science representative position on the University Senate, Harneet Cheema. The University Senate operates to oversee the school’s academics and has one student representative from each faculty to give a voice to the faculty’s students’ concerns and ideas regarding academics.
Cheema is a third-year health science student. Her candidate profile highlights three major areas Cheema hopes to improve: mental health support, financial support, and flexible academic regulations.
“I’m on the health science student council and it’s been, I think, a really enriching and great experience to learn,” Cheema shared with the Fulcrum. “I found that I’ve really gotten a chance to hone my leadership skills but also, it’s been a great way to connect with my peers and hear their thoughts.”
“I actually ran for Senate in my first year and I found that I had no idea what I was doing. And to be quite honest with you, when I was running I felt like I didn’t have strong mission statements or things that I wanted to change. And so subsequently I didn’t win but I think that was a good thing because I really learned that I needed to be very clear with my words and state what I wanted to change and what I believed in and I felt like I didn’t do that then.”
“By gaining the experience in the health science student association or with different organizations and clubs, and even just research experience in general, I found I’ve really had a chance to make sure my voice is clear and I’m speaking properly and articulating my words right and I feel like those are very important qualities for someone that wants to represent a student body,” Cheema shared.
“I would encourage students to run next time there are elections. I think it’s an incredible opportunity and it’s really a great way to find a voice that you potentially never knew you had. If you’re upset with the university system in any sense and you want to improve things, run. You can run for a position yourself and try to implement those changes or let those big people up there and know what you know, and communicate your problems. And I think it affects any type of change,” said Cheema.
UOSU BOD — Chloe Bergeron running for Engineering
There is just one candidate running for a position on the UOSU’s Board of Directors (BOD). The BOD currently has five vacant seats.
Chloe Bergeron is the one who’s chosen to run for a seat, she will be on the ballot for one of two available engineering seats.
Bergeron is in her fifth year of studying chemical engineering and computing technology and has lots of experience in student government. “In my second and third year, I was involved in the Chemical Engineering Students Society (ChESS). Last year I was the VP external for ESS which is the Engineering Students’ Society and then this year I am the ESS president.”
“To be fully honest, I decided I wanted to run because I knew that no one else would,” Bergeron stated.
“This year as [ESS] president, I have two round tables, every other week, but they don’t fit in my schedule because of my school schedule,” explained Bergeron. “So I thought, ‘Oh well, instead of interacting with UOSU through the president roundtables, I might join their [BOD]’ and then that way, I’d be able to get all my updates and still have a voice in those meetings.’”
The lack of candidates leaves one vacant seat in the faculties of arts, engineering, common law and education.
The BOD has proportional seats according to the size of each faculty. UOSU’s last BOD meeting included the announcement that two directors from the Telfer School of Management had resigned. These positions will not be up for grabs in the by-elections due to the timing of the resignations.
Following the by-election, any vacant seats on the UOSU’s BOD will be filled by the UOSU executive. The registered student governments (RSGs) of faculties with vacant BOD seats will be contacted/consulted in the selection of an interim director.
UOSU Executive Committee — Sana Almansour running for equity commissioner
The final available position, UOSU’s equity commissioner role, also has just one candidate running: current interim equity commissioner Sana Almansour.
Almansour is in her fourth year studying health science and says she decided to run because she saw a need for equity at the University.
“Being a racialized student, a student of a minority background, I couldn’t understand some of the struggles that our student population face. There’s always been some circumstances of racism on campus, whether it’s overt racism or systemic or even instances where people don’t notice it as much. But last year they were really highlighted and amplified and so that was one of the reasons that kind of made me go into everything,” said Almansour in an interview with the Fulcrum.
Following the string of student deaths that occurred in Almansour’s first and second years at the University, she felt compelled to work towards a more equitable health care system on campus.
“It really made me feel like we have to do something for these students and for all of our students to not get to a stage where they feel like there is nowhere to turn. [Concerns for students’] physical health and mental health work to push me into starting out coming into a role like this,” she said.
Almansour says that getting students to vote will be “really difficult.”
“I feel like the more candidates we have the more turnout we have because of the reach of each candidate towards a certain group of people.”
“Let’s say all the candidates are from a certain faculty, then it’ll be harder to reach a lot of the other faculties, whereas if you have participation from multiple faculties now you have more discourse, and you have people reaching out to their friends and their colleagues in class … I feel like what we can do is [out]reach. We just need to communicate as candidates. I think that’s the most important thing,” said Almansour
Almansour reiterated that she is available to speak and engage with students through email as well as UOSU’s social media accounts, which will direct concerns to the appropriate commissioners.
In the case of Almansour’s election, there will remain a vacancy on the executive due to clubs and services commissioner Amina El Himri’s recent resignation.
The vacancy will be filled by an interim commissioner chosen by the UOSU executive. The next opportunity to run for election to UOSU’s executive or BOD will be in the general election which will be held in the winter semester.
Almansour’s pitch to potential voters is this: “I would like students to know that they should have an interest in who’s representing them, who’s advocating for what they think, and who they should go to in a circumstance of an issue or something like that. It’s really important for them to understand that the union works for them. The Union is there for them, and the Union is supposed to represent their interests.”
Weighing in on student voting, UOSU president Tim Gulliver said in an interview with the Fulcrum “there aren’t that many candidates in this election but we still obviously encourage you to vote. So we encourage you to stay on, and also to consider running in the general election if you’re interested in the democratic process. If you want a way to get involved, go out and vote but also stay tuned. We’ll be knocking on the door in January.”
Students should expect to receive emails in their University of Ottawa inboxes by 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 12 with their electronic ballots and can find more information at UOSU’s by-election page.