The results of the November Student Representative Assembly by-election period will provide lots for students to talk about.
Hannah Martin won the SRA Social Sciences seat with 52.2% of the vote, but it is the results of the referenda questions that will raise some eyebrows.
The MSU constitution referendum aimed at making vice-presidents elected by the student body failed for the second time this calendar year. Though 61.3% of students voted "yes", constitutional referendums require a two-thirds majority to pass. This figure is a decline from the previous election, where 66.4 per cent of students were in favour of a change to the vice-president system.
The Marmor, a yearbook provided to students when they graduate, will cease to exist after 2020 following students voting to cut the $9.22 fee in a referendum. This was a lopsided decision, with 76.5 per cent of students voting to cut Marmor and 75 per cent voting against a $5 fee for a digital yearbook project. All current students will receive a yearbook as they paid $9.22 for the Marmor as part of their student fees this year.
The SoBi referendum failed narrowly. 53.2 per cent of students voted against the opportunity for students to be given a SoBi membership at a cost of $16.95 per student. This would have given them 90 minutes of bike access per day.
Arguably the most controversial result lies with the Exclusive Club Card question. MSU Elections invalidated this referendum and in turn will not release the results. "The Elections Committee felt that due to the number of large number of violations and severity of the fines that this may have influenced the voters and violated the integrity of the election. Therefore the Elections Committee has voted to disqualify the Exclusive Club Card Yes campaign side," said MSU Elections in a statement.
The "Vote Yes" campaign for ECC racked up eight fines, including five "severe fines." One of the severe fines was for posting on "Spotted At Mac" encouraging students to support the ECC card. It is unclear how the Elections Committee determined that a member of the "Vote Yes" campaign sent this to the Facebook page and not a student who was just voicing their opinion. MSU Elections would not comment when contacted until the minutes are released.
Referendum sides have five business days to appeal any fines or disqualifications.
Commentary - A critical look at the results
The high number of referendum questions is rare but also a blessing, and it can give some insight to what the student population is thinking.
One of my main takeaways is that students are extremely skeptical of paying any more student fees. Going into the election period, I thought the SoBi referendum was a no-brainer because $16.95 was a high price for a fee, but students could opt-out, so there is no real cost to students who did not see the value. However, four days is a small window for a referendum period and there were other issues to consider, so it is possible that some students were not that informed about this, saw the figure and chose to vote no.
The Marmor results add legitimacy to the idea that students are trying to make university cheaper whenever possible. I can't say I'm surprised by the result because who really needs a yearbook when we have Facebook and Instagram to document moments from our university careers? 76.2 per cent is a big number though and speaks to students eagerness to ease the financial burden. I was not optimistic about the second option with Marmor either and the $5 operating fee increase was poorly explained and made it hard for students to understand what that money would actually be spent on.
Vice-president at-large seems like it is over for good now. Two failed referendums in less than 12 months and a decline in the second poll should be the nail in the coffin, but the results should not be viewed as a validation of the current system. Think what you want about the way VPs are elected, but the fact remains: over 60 per cent of McMaster students said they wanted more of a say in the election of vice-presidents. The next SRA should take these results and put them into action; more outreach during VP election season and increased opportunities for students to get involved with the process.
I understand the ECC disqualification based on the available information but will be curious to see if there are appeals made. The "Vote Yes" campaign was not happy with their treatment during the entire process and I doubt they are surprised to see a disqualification. Not sure if this issue is totally finished yet.