With the annual Student Association’s election fresh in our minds and a new president at the helm, some may be thinking – Wait, what? There was an election?
The election in mid-March saw the lowest voter turnout in the last three years with only 6.3 per cent turnout for presidential votes. That’s 1,346 votes on a campus with a combined student population of 21,105. This was a decline of about 3.5 per cent from the previous two years.
Not only was the voter turnout low, the majority of votes went to UOIT candidates.
With the college and university having nearly equal student populations, it begs the questions, are there more voters from UOIT than DC, and is it time for a change?
The Student Association (SA) is a student run government that represents and advocates the needs of students from both Durham College and UOIT.
It’s those representatives job to make sure students have the best experience possible, socially and academically, while at the college and university.
UOIT student and president-elect, Jesse Cullen, is responsible for ensuring just that.
Over the past three elections every president has been a UOIT student, despite there being Durham College candidates in the running.
This is not the only position that lacks DC representation. This year, four of nine college positions were left vacant because no one ran for them.
In the 2014 elections, the position of assistant vice-president, the person who acts as a representative for DC’s Whitby campus, went unfilled as well.
Adding to this, the most recent two presidents, LePage and now Cullen, are part of the same Students Unite slate.
Herein lies the problem: consecutive years of UOIT presidents running on the same platform makes it difficult for an individual that isn’t part of the status quo to break through and make an impression. Voters get comfortable.
So is it time for a change?
In a straw poll conducted outside the computer commons on the day of the election – where the voting was taking place – ten students were asked whether or not they thought DC and UOIT should have separate student associations.
Sixty per cent thought they should, saying the schools are separate institutions.
During the poll many people declined to answer the question because they didn’t feel informed enough about what the SA is or what it does.
With voter turnout at an all-time low, it’s clear that students are simply not engaged.
If there were two separate SAs, it would allow the college and university a better opportunity to promote engagement, as they would be speaking to smaller audiences. It would also give DC the opportunity to concentrate on connecting with the admittedly disconnected Whitby campus.
That’s not to say a split SA would create a perfect world. There are obvious issues that would surface.
Under the SA, the college and university share several services, such as Outreach Services, RIOT Radio and the health plan to name a few.
To split these services would certainly not only split the SA, but also split the unity UOIT and DC pride themselves in having.
An entire separation would be challenging, and no doubt, costly.
Here’s an alternative solution to think about. What if, instead of a complete separation, the SA created another presidential position? So there would be two presidents: one representing DC and the other UOIT.
This would allow both presidents the freedom to govern their respective institutions, allowing them to concentrate on more specific issues. The university would be able to focus on Drop Tuition UOIT, for example, and the college on connecting with the Whitby campus.
This is not the first time an idea like this has been brought up. In 2013, then vice-president of college affairs and Durham College student, Josh Bickle, and UOIT student, Tyler Pattenden, proposed a structural change within the SA.
The proposal called for separate SA presidents.
It also recommended two advocacy boards, one for DC and the other for UOIT, which would be comprised of all directors elected from each school and faculty at their respective institutions.
Under the UOIT president, there would be two vice-presidents of university affairs, one for the north and the other for the downtown campus.
Under the DC president, there would also be two vice-presidents of college affairs, one for the north and the other for the Whitby campus.
But the motion never went anywhere. At the SA’s 2013 AGM, Cullen, former vp of university affairs, said the proposal would be a lot of work, and the motion failed on a vote.
It’s difficult to imagine anything beyond our short time here at DC and UOIT. Change is a lot of work and at times it’s hard enough to stay on top of schoolwork. How can one possibly think of anything larger than that?
Here are some things students should be asking themselves: Am I happy with the way the SA is being run right now? Do I even know what the SA does? And if I don’t, why not?
Think of what could be done to make the difference for you.
As someone once said, “Change is a slow process, but quitting won’t speed it up.”