Candidates are still human beings with emotions, fears and anxieties
The Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) election period concluded this week with the ‘Ravens United’ slate winning all available seats on the executive committee. This was CUSA’s first attempt at a fully online election and it was rocky, to say the least.
Lasting just over a week, the campaign period was halted two days after it began.
According to a call of action written by current CUSA councillors Emily Sowa and Jordan Vecchio, a candidate allegedly faced online harassment which included being told to harm themselves, as well as the use of a derogatory homophobic slur.
“It is our priority to safeguard the integrity of the elections, but more importantly to ensure the safety and mental well-being of all candidates,” wrote CUSA’s Elections Office on their Instagram page.
U of O students often sneer at their crosstown rivals, however, a similar situation could easily arise within our student body.
We may not have experienced an identical situation such as the one which took place during the CUSA elections, but in our past, there have been incidents of harassment and bullying in our student government.
During the 2014 Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) election, the then female president of the federation received screenshots of a group chat where five male students had sexually violent discussions about her. Four of them were elected student officials at the U of O.
A week later, the images of the chat were leaked online and all four student officials resigned.
Although there have not been such horrific instances of harassment and bullying with the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU), that does not mean that it cannot happen in the future.
In about a month from now, the UOSU will be holding their general elections to elect a new executive and new Board of Directors for the 2021-22 academic year.
This election period promises to get heated — as it always does. There must, however, be a clear understanding between students running in the elections and voters to not engage in discourse that may lead to harassment or cyberbullying.
It takes courage to get involved in student politics as election campaigns are stressful for all those involved. It is important to remember that candidates are also human beings with emotions, fears and anxieties. If they are to be criticized let it be on their policies, decisions and actions.
The situations that occurred with CUSA and the SFUO deter students from participating in student politics for fear that they could be the target of such horrible incidents.
As U of O students, we owe it to each other to not partake in such repulsive behaviour.
The last thing candidates should be subjected to is harassment or bullying.
— With files from Adam Feibel and Raghad Khalil
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