The first president of UOIT’s new Student Union is Jessica Nguyen.
Nguyen, a student at UOIT for three years and former president of the Health Science Society, went uncontested in the race for the top job, but under election rules, still had to garner more votes than a ‘none of the above’ option.
Due to UOIT Student Union policy she was not acclaimed to the executive position and had to beat a vote of non-confidence, which she did. Nguyen tallied 891 votes, while the non-confidence vote was 232.
“For president that is unusual,” said Conner Doherty, the chief returning officer for the UOIT Student Union and is the main administrator of the election
Doherty explained it is the policy of the Student Union not to acclaim someone to the position simply because they’re running unopposed.
If Nguyen had lost the election “there would be no president,” Doherty said.
In her platform statement Nguyen said she ran for president “because this school has given me so much and what I want to do is give back to you – the students. I feel that it is time for us to work together to build a cohesive community.”
This marked the first year for UOIT where the voting process was entirely online. It was also the first election following the split of student government between UOIT and Durham College.
Students received an email with instructions of how to vote and who was running.
Results of the election were released two days after voting ended, on Feb. 16.
Nguyen said it is time for the university “to be placed on the map, and to finally be the UOIT that we are meant to be.” Attempts by the Chronicle to interview Nguyen following the election have gone unanswered.
Doherty believes the president position had only one applicant – compared to several candidates for vice-president – because of flexibility.
“We at the Student Union tried something different this year for the first time,” said Doherty. “In previous years, both vice-president and the president were full-time positions for one year. This year we have moved the vice-president to be part time during the fall and winter semesters of the school year and full time during the summer semester.”
Doherty said this change may explain the lack of interest in the presidential position.
The president’s position is full time and pays $20 per hour. Vice-presidents are part time, work up to 10 hours a week and are also paid $20 per hour. Directors work as volunteers and don’t get paid.
In the other races, Abel Shimeles won vice-president of downtown, beating a non-confidence vote 779-321.
Amr Elziny is the new vice-president of student affairs and Fahad Khalid is the vice-president of student services.
The newly-implemented online process was intended to boost voter turnout and get more students involved in their student government, Doherty said.
This was not the case.
According to Doherty, his year, the turnout was approximately 13.5 per cent, down from last year’s turnout of 16 per cent.
Although the process was aimed at being easier and more convenient for students, it didn’t achieve the desired results. Among the UOIT student body, 1,193 students voted.
“I did not vote, saw the posters, saw the emails, that’s about it for my commitment unfortunately,” said Gabrielle Caron, a forensic science student at UOIT. “I don’t feel like it would make a big difference and I honestly don’t really care… I’m here for my education.”
Colin Léger is a first-year networking and information technology security student at UOIT. He narrowly won his candidacy for Faculty of Business & Information Technology director by a margin of 29 votes.
Léger said there’s a noticeable lack of energy or excitement on campus.
“Compared to other universities, there doesn’t seem to be much of a school spirit,” said Léger. “I think we really need to unite everyone and have everyone proud of the university and have really good events.”
Part of renewing that school spirit would be reinstating E.P. Taylor’s pub, which Léger said is something he wants to do for the campus.
One of the more surprising aspects of the election is that someone did in fact lose to a non-confidence vote.
The position of Faculty of Science director is currently unfilled because the non-confidence vote won with 346 votes against Rida Warsi, who finished with 301 votes.
It is unclear as to how long this position will be unfilled, however UOIT by-laws have a process for acclamation and may select an interim director in the meantime.
This is UOIT’s first election since last year’s split with the joint student association with Durham College. Elected executives will take office May 1.