In Focus News

King's students looking for something new in KSU elections

King’s Students’ Union executive and Board of Governors rep. positions are poised to change hands after this month’s upcoming election. Following two days of voting on Feb. 14 and 15, winning candidates will be announced and the transition will begin.
Or not.
New terms for the seven elected positions will start on March 15—that’s a sure thing—but whether or not the positions will be given to fresh faces or to returning student politicians is still to be determined.
The week before nominations opened, The Watch asked King’s students, in an anonymous poll, how they felt about their union’s work—more than half reported being dissatisfied with the KSU this year.

(Infographic credit: Kristen Thompson)
(Infographic credit: Kristen Thompson)

In the fall, KSU executive and Students Advocating Representative Curricula (SNARC) became embroiled in a debate over the Wall of Women. The photo and portrait collection was installed in the Wardroom in 2014, and taken down during renovations in 2016.
SNARC pushed to have the Wall of Women reinstalled last semester, but the project was derailed by concerns around racial and gender equity, voiced by the KSU. The debate culminated in a formal complaint filed against the KSU by SNARC executive Rachel Colquhoun.
The conflict between the KSU and SNARC drew critical attention to the union from King’s’ student body. One student who was polled by The Watch wrote, “The KSU is usually great—the SNARC debacle, not so much.”
Colquhoun believes her complaint and its aftermath prompted students to examine the KSU more closely.
“I think it enraged people and I think that motivated people to run,” she said in an interview.
People like her? No, she says she’ll remain a critical bystander.
“People have tried to get me to do a bid for the presidency. I just don’t have the time, as much as I would like to be a force behind the union becoming a more democratic place, I just don’t personally have the time to do it, especially in my thesis year,” she said.
Outgoing KSU President Brennan McCracken said in an interview that pervasive campus conversations, like the one that arose over the Wall of Women, are sure to be on people’s minds at election time. Like Colquhoun, he hopes it encourages more widespread participation in the union.
“I think the exciting thing about elections and the exciting thing about students’ unions as organizations is that students really do have the power to change them and shape them. And running in an election, whether it’s a successful campaign or not, is one of those ways to do that,” McCracken said.
Polling revealed that a large majority of students are hoping the election brings new representation to the KSU. One student who was polled wrote, “We have an executive running the union, not a union running the executive. These people are ignoring their responsibilities and we need change.”
There are few precedents for executives and BOG representatives holding the same position for more than one term, but there are precedents for the same small group of students shuffling between positions within the union.
Of the seven students currently holding KSU executive and BOG representative positions, four held at least one other KSU position before being elected into their current roles.
In last year’s election, experience within the KSU was touted as an asset in the platforms of McCracken, Lianne Xiao (Student Life Vice-President), Zoe Brimacombe (Financial Vice-President), and Julia-Simone Rutgers (BOG representative). All had successful bids.
This year, based on polling results, experience within the KSU could prove to be a liability, more than a virtue.
One student who was polled wrote, “The KSU does great things, the executive does not.” Of course, executive positions are an inextricable part of the KSU.
As always, the 2018-19 executive and BOG representatives will be accountable to King’s students. To be of best service, McCracken said the most important thing a student politician can do is listen.
“Really we do have an onus to represent all students to the best of our abilities, and there’s no way to know what that representation looks like and there’s no way to know what students are looking for if you can’t listen to them,” he said.
In case the soon-to-be-elected incumbents are listening, this is what some of the students who were polled had to say:
“I like their mental health initiative.”
“Very happy that the exec voted in favour of a motion to apologize; it is a step in the right direction, I hope it continues.”
“KSU could do better at sharing info/putting info out to students. Just to keep people in the know.”
“I got no value for services as a mature day student who doesn’t need insurance.”

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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