C/O Denver Della-Vedova

Denver Della-Vedova is running to be MSU president again, albeit with an updated campaign 

Della-Vedova fails to commit fully to many of his platform points and lacks detail regarding consultation, raising questions about feasibility. 

Amplifying Voices   

Della-Vedova proposes a $1 fee per student to assist the Undergraduates of Research Intensive Universities with hiring staff and covering costs of lobbying. However, his plan does not denote any reasoning behind this number nor does he provide detail on whom he will work with within the MSU to implement this fee.  

He plans to prioritize environmental sustainability in his platform; however, he only addresses the problem of non-reusable and non-compostable food packaging. Given that La Piazza has already introduced compostable options for cutlery, Della-Vedova's commitment to introduce more eco-friendly containers does not detail which areas he hopes to address.   

His plan to establish stronger relationships with faculty societies is vague. He suggests spending pooled resources between the MSU and faculty societies during events such as Welcome Week, which he hopes will encourage cross-faculty events. However, he makes no explanation of what these resources will be or whom he will work with to implement this. He states that he has consulted with a number of faculty societies but does not share any further detail as to which faculties these are. 

He also plans to better connect Student Representative Assembly caucuses with their respective faculty societies but does not clarify how he will accomplish this.  

Student Stability   

Regarding Della-Vedova's discussion of creating student jobs, he states that he will try to create more jobs on campus for students and investigate ways to potentially connect students with jobs in Hamilton. However, he has not yet reached out to any employers on campus nor any businesses in Hamilton.  

Della-Vedova states that he will work with employers such as the Physical Activity Centre of Excellence and the David Braley Athletic Centre to find more job opportunities for students. However, he has not consulted with PACE or DBAC on whether an increase in student positions is feasible.

In addition, Della-Vedova proposes the hiring of a “hype crew” within the Communications and Media department to focus on sprit and brand engagement for the MSU and increase student engagement in events. Yet, Della-Vedova fails to differentiate this from the MSU Maroons who already acts as a representative of the MSU and plays an active role in showing spirit in the community.  

To inform first-year students of their housing rights, Della-Vedova proposes in-person legal clinics within residences. However, he intends to have the First Year Council host these sessions, which fails to consider that FYC members are first-year students themselves. This presents a potential issue as first-year students may lack the experience and knowledge to inform their peers. 

With mental health impacts more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic, Della-Vedova’s plans to address mental health concerns are valuable.  

Although Della-Vedova did not reach out to the SWC to consult on the feasibility of expanded programming specifically, Rosanne Kent, director of the SWC, said that Della-Vedova has been actively working with the centre throughout his presidency this year. Kent shared that increased capacity is an ongoing goal the SWC strives for, with capacity already being increased this year.  

Aside from expanding the SWC, Della-Vedova plans to create an online booking system, which was also proposed in his 2021 platform. However, no mention of the booking system was noted in any of his president reports in his current term. He states that this year’s approach would be different from last year’s, as he would see what the MSU could offer in the development of this system. However, details about what the development would look like and how the MSU would help were not provided.   

Keeping Momentum   

Della-Vedova commits to making online classes more accessible and consistent for students. His plan for how to accomplish this is to produce a set of standardized recommendations for professors running online classes. However, the specifics of these guidelines are unclear and, further, some of the issues that Della-Vedova highlights, such as the quality of lectures, are difficult to quantify and would thus be challenging to address with a set of guidelines.  

Further, Della-Vedova plans to have these guidelines encourage use of fewer platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom more consistently, rather than the wide range of software that the university currently uses. However, Della-Vedova does not address how different platforms may, in some cases, be better suited to the needs of a particular course. 

In Della-Vedova's discussion of issues related to Student Accessibility Services, he points out that requiring students to provide a diagnosis from within the last five years poses a major accessibility obstacle; however, he makes no commitment to attempting to change this policy.   

Lastly, when Della-Vedova discusses SAS, he suggests that McMaster offers rewards to notetakers, such as references or gift cards. However, references are already being offered to notetakers as rewards. Additionally, regarding gift cards, Della-Vedova does not outline how he would ensure that such rewards could be acquired and distributed.  

Throughout his platform, Della-Vedova proposes ideas that he hopes to further investigate. He does not offer many concrete and actionable plans demonstrated by the evident lack of consultation with relevant university members.  

Get to know the newly acclaimed MSU president-elect Denver Della-Vedova

The nomination period for the 2021 McMaster Students Union presidential election ended on Jan. 21. As the only nominee received by the elections department, Denver Della-Vedova has officially been acclaimed as MSU president-elect. Della-Vedova’s presidential term will begin on May 1, 2021.

Della-Vedova is currently in his fourth-year of honours life sciences with a minor in environmental sciences. In addition to his passion for guitar, gaming and seeing trails and waterfalls around McMaster University, he has been involved with student government for several years — including throughout his high school years and his past three years at McMaster.

In his first year of university, he was a member of First Year Council and has been part of the Student Representative Assembly for the past two years. His passion for student government finds its roots in his drive to empower others around him and to help his fellow students get the most out of their learning institution.

“I really like helping people,” explained Della-Vedova. “I like making sure people get what they want out of their learning institution. And I really wanted to be able to focus on bringing folks together, especially this year.”

“I really like helping people,” explained Della-Vedova. “I like making sure people get what they want out of their learning institution. And I really wanted to be able to focus on bringing folks together, especially this year.”

Della-Vedova was the only nominee for the MSU presidency this year, which has been the cause of discussion and debate on social media, but is focused on looking to the future. Some students have expressed frustration over there being no student input during the process of Della-Vedova being acclaimed as MSU president-elect.

To this, Della-Vedova expressed understanding — an understanding of the frustration, gave a promise to show the student body who he really is and that he is ready to serve the Mac community to the best of his abilities.

“I'm really excited to move forward. As for you know, obviously, it's an issue among students with the acclamation process in policy issue. So I'm sure that the SRA is gonna work on that and debate about that. But as it stands, I'm trying to focus on the future,” ” said Della-Vedova. “

"I'm trying to focus on the future,” said Della-Vedova.

Part of Della-Vedova’s focus on the future is ensuring the student body is made aware of his campaign and plans as MSU president, something that would typically happen during the campaign period. Della-Vedova’s campaign is centered on three pillars: accessibility; bettering advocacy; and community, togetherness and support. The three come together to form his slogan, “Denver’s ABCs”.

Accessibility within the university is an important issue to Della-Vedova. His passion for ensuring accessibility is grounded in his work over the past six summers at Stripe Learning Centre for Children, a physiotherapy camp for youth with cerebral palsy. He is very interested in overcoming issues negatively impacting accessibility at Mac. He is especially interested in making the reintegration of in-person learning accessible for all students.

One of the main ways in which Della-Vedova hopes to improve accessibility is to try to centralize the avenues and channels students use to communicate within courses, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Avenue to Learn.

Although Della-Vedova’s hope to reduce channels of communication within courses is a campaign point that will surely resonate with many students, it is currently unclear how he will accomplish this.

Della-Vedova also seeks to improve and expand upon the ways in which the MSU currently advocates for students. He seeks to build upon what is already in place with regards to student advocacy and implement improvements where possible.

“As for bettering advocacy, I've said bettering too, because . . . I love what the MSU does for advocacy,” explained Della-Vedova. “But I want to improve it where I can . . . so tuition advocacy, financial aid, international student representation and campus safety, these are all things that I think we need to advocate [more] on.”

Della-Vedova believes his background in student advocacy and government will help him achieve these goals. For example, he hopes to be able to use his position to implement ways for students to learn more about their tuition, OSAP and provincial government. He also wishes to help students have greater access to resources and events surrounding student housing and tenant rights.

Della-Vedova also wants to better utilize student advocacy organizations such as Undergraduates of Canadian Research Universities and Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. The MSU is a member of both of these organizations, which advocate to the federal and provincial governments, respectively. Although he has not dealt with UCRU directly, Della-Vedova looks forward to discussing McMaster student issues with them.

“I've looked into what we've done in the past, I know there's been advocacy that was done through UCRU and through OUSA,” explained Della-Vedova. “But I just want to lean into them a little more this year and really push.”

Racial profiling by security on campus has been a concern for McMaster students this past year, ultimately leading to SRA passing a motion calling for the removal of the head of security services and an end to the special constable program on campus. When asked about this issue, Della-Vedova explained he plans to consult the Equity and Inclusion Office and research other Canadian campus safety models to understand how to better address this situation.

Although he did not directly discuss racial profiling and racism at Mac in his campaign, he did acknowledge that the fight against racial profiling has been a student-led effort and the importance of students in this conversation.

“Students have been at the front of this advocacy and I think they're a huge part of this conversation, too,” said Della-Vedova.

The final aspect of Della-Vedova’s campaign is his community, togetherness and supports pillar. Through this pillar and his associated endeavours, he hopes to bring the McMaster community together for the 2021/2022 school year. Among his ideas, he plans to focus on improving mental health services, restructuring Welcome Week and addressing issues affecting MSU clubs.

MSU clubs provide a sense of community for many McMaster students. This year, there was a lot of concern with the MSU requiring clubs to have 25 members. Della-Vedova hopes to consult with the clubs advisory council and the MSU to address these issues.

In order to strengthen the McMaster community, Della-Vedova also hopes to improve the delivery of student mental health services. The president-elect believes the key to this is the implementation of an online booking system for the Student Wellness Centre, which would allow for empty appointment slots to be filled. Although he has not consulted with the Student Wellness Centre directly or made concrete plans for this idea, he is hoping to do so soon.

Della-Vedova has many plans for his MSU presidency, although some of them may lack clarity. He has been interested in taking on the role of MSU president since his first year. He said that the Mac community has given him a lot over the past several years and he is looking forward to giving back through this role, regardless of the circumstances of his victory.

“The biggest thing I'd like to say about Mac itself is the community has always kept me in a good mood,” explained Della-Vedova. “That was actually why I picked McMaster to go to.”

Students will surely learn more about Della-Vedova in the coming months as he transitions into the role. To learn more about his campaign and plans as president, students can also visit the following social media accounts:

Facebook: MSU President-Elect Denver Della-Vedova

Instagram: @Dellavedovamsupresidentelect

MSU president-elect acclaimed for the first time in at least 40 years

For the first time in at least 40 years, the McMaster Students Union president-elect has been acclaimed. At the end of the 2021 nomination period, MSU Elections received only one candidate and Denver Della-Vedova became MSU president-elect.

According to Silhouette archives, an average of 6 candidates per year have ran for the presidential position from 1990 to 2000. Notably, the 1994 election had 12 candidates. General Manager John McGowan, who has been with the MSU since February 2002, is not aware of a president ever being acclaimed.

Oussama Badran, a third-year kinesiology student and other students have raised concerns.

[#1054] The MSU elected a president without a vote of no confidence. To those who do not know usually there is a huge...

Posted by Mac Confessions on Monday, January 25, 2021

“We're not getting a choice in a president that definitely has power and is getting a paycheck on our dime. So I just need to know why is this happening, why didn't [the MSU] do a better job of advertising and actually, in particular, why didn't they just extend the deadline?,” said Badran.

The end of the extended nomination period came on Jan. 21. According to MSU Chief Returning Officer, Hargun Grewal, the nomination period was extended to match the extended winter break and to ensure students had the opportunity to run.

With one candidate, Bylaw 7/A section 3.3.1 was enforced. “If the number of valid nomination forms submitted is fewer than or equal to the number of available positions, the CRO shall declare all nominees duly elected by acclamation.”

With one candidate, Bylaw 7/A section 3.3.1 was enforced. “If the number of valid nomination forms submitted is fewer than or equal to the number of available positions, the CRO shall declare all nominees duly elected by acclamation.”

The MSU Elections department is responsible for upholding and enforcing the elections bylaws of the MSU, including 7/A. They act as impartial arbiters to ensure that elections are run in a fair and transparent manner as the bylaws outline.

Badran felt that there was a lack of communication from the MSU about these procedures, including the possibility of an acclamation and about the election itself.

Current MSU President Giancarlo Da-Ré discussed the result and the bylaw that dictated it.

“What we have seen this year is the impact of an acclamation of the MSU president. Evidently there are some students that feel that they did not get to know the candidate before the results were announced, which I think is a fair concern to have, a fair frustration from students,” said Da-Ré.

The bylaws that govern the MSU and its elections are subject to change. According to MSU Associate Vice-President: Internal Governance, Michelle Brown, the Board of Directors have tasked her and the Internal Governance Committee to do a review on bylaw 7/A.

“I think it [the acclamation] warrants a discussion at the [Student Representative Assembly] level where we can follow our normal democractic processes. I know that the Internal Governance Committee is aware of these frustrations from other students and as they do with other policies and bylaws throughout the year, they're looking into bylaw 7/A to see if this is something that should come to SRA. I definitely think that it's something that can come to SRA for discussion, debate and I look forward to being a part of that debate,” said Da-Ré.

"I definitely think that it's something that can come to SRA for discussion, debate and I look forward to being a part of that debate,” said Da-Ré.

The IG committee is composed of six voting members and the AVP IG, who is the non-voting chair. The voting members include four SRA members and two non-SRA MSU members, though other MSU members are welcome to participate in a non-voting capacity. Della-Vedova is currently one of the four voting SRA members on the committee.

“I think it's important for me, as the chair of the committee, to try and stay as impartial as possible so that I can try my best to help facilitate an unbiased conversation within the committee and so that we can make the best suggestions possible to the SRA,” said Brown.

According to Brown, a committee member will usually lead the bylaw review, conducting research and proposing evidence-based ideas. Research includes studying procedures from various organizations, like student unions and governments.

The committee will discuss and debate ideas, including ideas from other members and MSU parties, until they have formed a cohesive proposal. That proposal is then circulated to the SRA, discussed and debated at assembly, then voted upon.

Approval from the SRA results in bylaw changes, while a rejection would send the bylaw back to the IG committee, restarting the revision process.

Photo by Andrew Mrozowski, Managing Editor

Deputy Returning Officer, Alison Hacker, discussed that her and Grewal as the DRO and CRO, respectively, have been invited to an internal governance committee meeting on bylaw 7/A.

“On behalf of the elections department, we believe that this is a fair conversation to be had and we are again in full support of supporting the review of this bylaw as needed,” said Hacker. “We do our best job just to uphold the bylaws, offer transparency in times when there's a lot of confusion, such as now and offer as much support to any of these investigative processes as they work to make elections more equitable moving forward.”

Another of the four SRA voting members on IG is Simranjeet Singh of SRA Science. This is his second term on the assembly. Singh believed there should be a vote of confidence for MSU president, either by the students or SRA. He also spoke in favour of a minimum number of candidates and an extended nomination period until that number is reached.

Currently, he believed that the SRA would be better suited to take the vote because of the existing procedures for vice-presidential elections, which include a vote of confidence in the case of one candidate.

He acknowledged criticisms of the SRA as ill-informed but believed a presidential vote of confidence could be easily incorporated.

“I also fear that if there’s only one candidate, that it’s sent to a student poll, because students wouldn’t have as much background before they would go ahead and vote, we might just get a confidence vote, essentially, no matter what. I don’t have evidence to back it up, that’s just my fear based on my understanding, so it could definitely be wrong,” explained Singh.

A key distinction between MSU presidential and vice-presidential elections, particularly around acclamation, is their respective electorates. As McGowan explained, the president is selected from the general student population while the vice-presidents are elected by the SRA.

“The rationale is probably due to the want of the SRA to ensure that there’s not just a candidate that comes forward, but also the diligence and screening those candidates,” said McGowan.

To Singh’s fear of guaranteed confidence, in the 2020 presidential election more students abstained than voted for the third place candidate. While abstentions do not necessarily mean no confidence, there is evidence that the student body would vote with just cause.

Badran discussed a shorter campaign period in the event of one candidate as a chance for the student body to determine if they have confidence. He also believed there is merit to an SRA vote of confidence, but also discussed the importance of student voice.

“I feel like this [proposed bylaw changes] is supposed to represent us. How are you supposed to represent us if you can’t get our opinions straight from the source? Student government is wonderful, but sometimes you really need to listen to the people you're representing instead of making an assumption,” said Badran.

"Student government is wonderful, but sometimes you really need to listen to the people you're representing instead of making an assumption,” said Badran.

An SRA vote of confidence also raises questions on which SRA would cast the vote — the incoming SRA, as with vice-presidents, or the outgoing assembly who are now used to their roles, as Singh discussed. There are many options to consider in the bylaw revision process, including options not mentioned in this article.

“Denver’s ABC’s” significantly lack detail, research and plans for execution

Though “Denver’s ABC’s” address some timely concerns, like tuition and MSU clubs, his platform significantly lacks in research, consultation and detail, both in terms of specific plans and execution.

Significant Concerns

Della-Vedova hopes to use the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance more effectively to reduce tuition. Tuition is an important issue, especially with increased financial barriers during the pandemic.

The MSU and OUSA are bound by their policies. The official stances of both the MSU and OUSA on tuition are: The province should freeze tuition across all programs until a fair-cost sharing model is restored. Then, tuition increases for all programs should be capped at inflation.

Della-Vedova’s platform is in direct violation of these policies. Regardless of COVID-19, OUSA and the MSU have not changed their tuition policies. Both policies are subject to amendment by the MSU Student Representative Assembly or by the OUSA General Assembly, which would likely not meet in his term until the end of October 2021. Della-Vedova will likely face significant challenges to advocate for tuition reduction.

The campus safety point does not address racial profiling or sexual violence prevention and response. In June 2020, the SRA, including Della-Vedova, passed a motion to call for the removal of the head of security services and an end to the special constable program. This motion became the official stance of the MSU. Yet, Della-Vedova does not promise to achieve either of these goals.

In June 2020, the SRA, including Della-Vedova, passed a motion to call for the removal of the head of security services and an end to the special constable program. This motion became the official stance of the MSU. Yet, Della-Vedova does not promise to achieve either of these goals.

Della-Vedova cited a campus climate survey and census from this year for student feedback on campus safety. However, through the Silhouette’s fact-checking, we could only find last year’s provincial government SVPR climate survey. Della-Vedova does not mention any past or ongoing efforts of sexual violence prevention or response.

There is a significant and noticeable lack of consideration for issues of racial justice and justice for equity-seeking groups on campus in Denver’s ABCs.

While there are points around international student representation, financial aid and increasing physical accessibility on campus, there are no points on justice for Black, Indigenous and students of Colour, 2SLGBTQIA+ students, women and survivors.

A is for Accessibility

Della-Vedova promises to ensure the safety of immunocompromised individuals in the return to campus. However, there are no details for how he will accomplish this. No consultations, such as with key return to campus groups, are noted in the platform.

This section includes education and resources on student housing, such as tenant rights and signing a lease. He hopes to work with campus stakeholders, including Residence Life and the Society of Off-Campus Students. It is unclear whether Della-Vedova has consulted with these groups. Further, his platform does not acknowledge or differentiate between similar initiatives.

Della-Vedova hopes to receive and address student concerns around proctoring software and to improve hybrid learning. He plans to streamline student-professor communication and he wants the MSU to be a leader in physical accessibility, such as ensuring McMaster complies with provincial standards.

He hopes to advocate for parking cost changes and for more online course options to alleviate parking needs. There are no details on how he will accomplish these tasks.

B is for Better Advocacy

Della-Vedova wants to continue federal advocacy for international students and provincial advocacy around tuition regulation. He plans to build upon the international student task force implemented by MSU President Giancarlo Da-Ré and create long-term goals.

He plans to create an off-campus international student seat on MSU First Year Council and work with the Student Success Centre to understand and deliver on the needs of international students. It is unclear what consultation has been done or how he plans to achieve these goals.

C is for Community

Della-Vedova’s prioritization of mental health can be appreciated with the overwhelming nature of the pandemic. He plans to create an online booking system at the Student Wellness Centre but his platform lacks detail on how this would be accomplished or if he has consulted the SWC.

Della-Vedova’s prioritization of mental health can be appreciated with the overwhelming nature of the pandemic.

Della-Vedova suggests a survey to understand student struggles this year. The McMaster virtual learning task force ran the fall 2020 experience survey and is currently implementing its recommendations. Della-Vedova does not mention this or differentiate his idea.

He plans to address academic concerns for current and incoming students, discuss academics with the vice-provost on academics and include current first years in Welcome Week 2021. He plans to restructure Welcome Week with MSU Spark and Maroons; however, these services do not plan Welcome Week.

He plans to continue improvements on the MSU website and create an Avenue to Learn tab for MSU updates. He does not provide further details.

He plans to work with the Clubs Advisory Council on shaping the future of MSU clubs. This is timely as students were outraged this past fall by policy changes. However, Della-Vedova does not specify the changes he would like to make or provide insight into how he will accomplish these goals.

By: Natalie Clark

Madison Wesley is a second year political science student involved with several art clubs at McMaster, including the starving artist society. She is also actively involved with community outreach programs, such as the Give n' Get store in Barrie, Ontario.

Wesley’s platform promises to improve physical and mental health on campus, introduce a textbook renting program for students, increase the amount of study spaces on campus and ensure that teaching assistants are required to complete a mandatory training program before stepping into a classroom environment.

Wesley’s most ambitious promise to students is to make the physical and mental health of students her priority. She promises to increase the number of counsellors and psychiatrists on campus and make them more accessible to students.

Wesley also hopes to increase the number of student group therapy sessions available.

In addition to improving the number of available counsellors on campus, Wesley wishes to introduce a student walk-in clinic on campus.

Another aspect of Wesley’s platform includes the plan to introduce a “Rent-a-Text” program for students purchasing books at the McMaster campus store. This program would allow students to rent textbooks for a period of four months, with a 25 per cent deposit.

After the four-month period comes to a halt, students would return their textbook in good condition and receive back their deposit in return.

Wesley also aims to increase the number of accessible study spaces on campus.

She believes that there are large areas of space all around campus that can easily be converted into effective student study spaces.

For instance, Wesley uses the Waterfall Room in the Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery as an example of a large space that could foster and support a future study atmosphere.

In addition, Wesley promises to work with each faculty at McMaster to create a mandatory training program for TAs.

“As major players in our day-to-day education, they need to be effective in the classroom as instructors,” reads part of Wesley’s platform. “I will hold the university to the standards that we students expect.”

More information about Wesley's platform can be found at https://madisonjw.wixsite.com/2019.

 

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Photos by Catherine Goce

By Donna Nadeem

Following of last year’s particularly low McMaster Students Union presidential voter turnout rate and suspicions that not all students received an email allowing them to vote, the MSU elections department has been making key changes to its email voting system.

In particular, MSU elections department investigated any technical issues with the MSU’s voting system Simply Voting. Ultimately, they found out that any students who marked MSU’s election emails as junk mail did not receive future emails from the MSU due to Canadian anti-spam legislation.

The elections department not only runs the elections for the MSU but for many clubs and faculty societies within the McMaster community. For instance, their services also facilitate the elections for four major faculty societies: the McMaster Science Society, McMaster Engineering Society, the McMaster Humanities Society and the McMaster Social Science Society.

[spacer height="20px"]As such, Simply Voting plays a significant role in facilitating voting in McMaster’s student elections.

This year, the elections department worked with Simply Voting to introduce Mac ID authentication into the voting system. This means that students will no longer need just their email to gain access to their ballot. Using the link to msumcmaster.ca/vote, students can now also use their McMaster login credentials to vote. Ballots remain secret and identifiable information is not collected.

“The new system was tested this past summer and during First Year Council Election which just finished, and no issues were reported,” said Uwais Patel, the MSU elections department chief returning officer.

Conveniently, the integration of Mac ID means that students can access their ballot without receiving an email.

“We will continue to schedule initial invitations to vote and periodic reminders to those who have not voted yet,” said Patel. “Moving forward, the email blasts sent should ensure maximum deliverability, but will be complemented with the promotion of our new voting link. Regardless, students will be able to access their ballot easily,” said Patel.

Moving to a MAC ID authentication system is expected to make voting more accessible and the process of voting more reliable. Voters are no longer reliant on email messages generated by Simply Voting to login.

This year, there was an unprecedented number of candidates running in the FYC elections, with 12 simultaneous elections occurring during the campaigning and polling periods. This was the first test for the new voting method, no issues with which were reported.

Voter turnout for the 2018 MSU FYC chair and vice chair election was only 21.6 per cent, with 1,373 students voting this year. Turnout for residence chair elections sat at 31.8 per cent, with 665 students voting. However, this marked a notable rise from last year’s 14.6 per cent FYC voter turnout.

The feedback received revealed that students appreciated being able to use the msumcmaster.ca/vote link to promote voting themselves.

On the FYC ballot, an optional question asked students for feedback regarding the work of the department. In the coming weeks, the MSU elections department will be carefully looking though those comments for more insight into potential future service enhancements.

“Email is simply one communication tool to drive voters to the voting link where the login to a ballot will be located. Therefore, spam filters will not have any impact on the election process,” said Patel.

However, students still need to click the link in the first place. In addition, the number of students who voted in the FYC election was quite low compared to the total first year student population. With these technological changes to the voting system, only future elections will tell if voter turnout will make a comeback in the winter presidential race.

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As the school year wraps up, the McMaster community saw its usual tidal wave of elections. As different faculty societies and the McMaster Students Union select their representatives for the year, questions of the efficacy of the MSU Elections Department arise.

During the MSU presidential elections, the voter turnout was 28 per cent, a large dip from the previous year’s 41.6 per cent voter turnout. Students have vocalized their inability to vote in elections because they had not received the electronic ballot via email, which the typical way elections are facilitated through the MSU Elections Department.

To solve this issue, the MSU Elections Department has been investigating any technical issues with the MSU’s voting system, Simply Voting, according to their Feb. 28 Executive Board report.

In their report, it states that the Simply Voting database informed the MSU Elections Department that students are receiving emails, making it difficult to pinpoint where the exact issue is. MSU Elections Department has also consulted with McMaster University Technology Services, and it is highly unlikely that their filters are blocking voting emails.

What they suspect is most likely occurring is that students are marking elections emails as junk mail.

“[Simply Voting has] mentioned that a significant portion of electors have unsubscribed from email blasts in the past or marked them as ‘spam’. When this happens, Simply Voting can no longer send that individual an email, even for a new election,” read the report.

"A significant portion of electors have unsubscribed from email blasts in the past or marked them as 'spam'. When this happens, Simply Voting can no longer send that individual an email, even for a new election." 

 

MSU Elections Department
Executive Board Report

The MSU Elections Department hopes to implement a system where the Chief Returning Officer may see all those who have unsubscribed from Simply Voting’s email list and send a supplementary email asking if they wish to participate in an upcoming election. They hope to have this implemented by the end of the year.

The MSU Elections Department not only runs the elections for MSU elections, but many clubs within the McMaster community. Their service also facilitates the elections for four major faculty societies: the McMaster Science Society, the McMaster Humanities Society, the McMaster Social Science Society and the McMaster Engineering Society.

During this year’s MSS election, all ballots cast through Simply Voting were rendered invalid and redone.

“It has come to our attention that not all students were provided with a link to vote in the MSS Presidential Election today. As well, we noticed that students in Kinesiology were not eligible to vote in the election. We recognize this is an issue and creates an inequitable election process by creating barriers to students’ ability to vote,” read a portion of a letter released by MSS president Connor MacLean on Feb. 8. Neither the president nor the MSS vice president (Internal Affairs) nor MSS vice president (External Affairs) responded when the Silhouette requested an interview.

The MES also faced issues during their elections this year, when the current MES president discovered that none of the eligible voters were registered the day voting was set to open.

“Our election was supposed to begin last March 13. On that day, I discovered that none of our students were registered to vote in any election,” said Michael Meier, MES president.

“[The MES] CRO attempted to get in touch with MSU Elections, but received no response for several days. At this point, we began to look for alternative ways to facilitate the election,” said Meier.

Voting opened for MES elections on March 22, about a week after their original start date. The late election has affected the MES’s timeline. Their society was set to have their semi-annual general meeting on March 26, where they ratify their council members.

“The delay in voting has caused concern, as we were worried that the elections would not be completed in time. The technical difficulties surrounding sending out emails has greatly affected our voter turnout. For the presidential elections, we had less than half of our regularturnout,” said Meier.

It is currently unclear if other faculty societies faced similar issues when facilitating their elections. The MSSS did not respond to interview request. When similarly approached, the MHS president Sadaf Rahmanian formally declined to offer a statement.

As the election season winds down, the MSU will continue to investigate what potential issues their service may have when facilitating elections.

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Voter turnout for this year’s McMaster Students Union sat at 28 per cent, reflecting the first time in five years that less than 40 per cent of the undergraduate student population voted in an MSU presidential election.

While this year’s low voter turnout rate is a problem, it is unclear why this problem emerged in the first place.

As highlighted in a news article from the Silhouette’s Feb. 1 issue, the last time the MSU saw a similar voter turnout was in 2013, when 29.3 per cent of the MSU voted for former presidential candidate David Campbell.

This year’s low voter turnout rate is a problem as it weakens the MSU democracy and makes MSU policy less reflective of McMaster students’ voices. The MSU needs to do more to find out why this is the case.

While it would be easy to cite student apathy as the main factor, doing so would only be speculating as it would be impossible to prove that after five years of persistently high MSU presidential voter turnout rates, an arbitrary increase in the amount of apathy was the driving force behind this year’s drop in the number of votes. It also seems implausible.

According to a Maclean’s article from 2012, in 2009, the last year that the MSU presidential election was conducted via paper ballots as opposed to online voting, voter turnout sat at 13 percent. In the years following the transition from in-person to online voting, however, the turnout rate improved significantly.

This year’s low voter turnout rate is a problem as it weakens the MSU democracy and makes MSU policy less reflective of McMaster students’ voices.

After the McMaster Students Union made the transition to online voting, which enabled students to vote through their laptops, iPads or smartphones for the first time, turnout increased 22 per cent the following year, 24 per cent the next year, and 33 per cent the year after.

Other Canadian universities also witnessed this trend. For instance, the University of Windsor Students Alliance saw a 42 per cent voter turnout increase after it made the transition to online voting.

In addition, when they switched to online voting, Wilfrid Laurier University, Queen’s University, the University of Western Ontario, Simon Fraser University, Brock University and the University of Manitoba saw their respective turnout rates spike.

While the cause of these increases is elusive, the strong correlation suggests that the switch to online voting, which improved the convenience and accessibility of voting for students, significantly contributed to the increase in turnout rate.

To identify the most plausible explanation for this year’s low voter turnout, it is essential that we first look at concrete policy changes that have also been implemented at other universities.

If a major policy change, such as the switch from in-person to online voting, did not occur this year, we should examine McMaster-specific policy changes and other actions that have been taken.

For instance, in 2011, Queen’s University started to embrace “Do It Yourself” videos, which sparked renewed conversation about the election and likely contributed to the increase in voter turnout.

According to an article in the Varsity, at the University of Toronto, voter turnout rates typically increase when the presidential candidates invest more effort into campaigning and engaging students outside of the student union.

Rather than invoke voter apathy and claim that the only remedy is social change, we need to do more to understand what factors may have contributed to the turnout for this year’s election to make sure that it does not happen again.

Not to blame the candidates and say that the problem is not student apathy, but considering the trend at the University of Toronto, we should be asking ourselves: Did the candidates campaign in ways that they traditionally have not? Did they campaign at as many classes as they did last year? Did they all promote the debates? Did they show up at the debates? How did their debate performances compare those of the candidates from previous years?

Students may be apathetic and disengaged from the MSU, but we need to do more than complain about it.

By understanding how policy changes contribute to voter turnout, we can reverse those policies or prescribe new ones. It is only after we gain a more nuanced understanding of the problem that we can remedy it.

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After deliberating once again, the McMaster Students Union elections committee has decided to disqualify the unofficial president-elect, Ikram Farah. After tallying the votes once again, Muhammed Aydin is the new, unofficial president-elect.

As of Feb. 5, Farah has five business days to declare her intent to appeal to the elections committee. Rabeena Obaidullah, who was originally disqualified on Jan. 25 and whose disqualification was maintained, has five business days to declare her intent to appeal to the electoral appeal board. In all cases, the electoral appeal board’s decision is final.

Farah plans on appealing her disqualification to the elections committee in the coming days. Obaidullah also plans on appealing to the electoral appeal board.

According to the MSU’s announcement, the elections committee did not disqualify Farah on Jan. 25 as they did not believe the violations her campaign had accrued had affected the integrity of the election.

After deliberating on Feb. 5, the elections committee reconsidered some of the original complaints levied against Farah and decided she had violated two additional rules, resulting in her disqualification.

In particular, they ruled that Farah’s electronic media had not provided a sufficient link to the main Elections Department website. She was also penalized for knowingly violating a rule.

Farah plans on appealing her disqualification to the elections committee in the coming days. Obaidullah also plans on appealing to the electoral appeal board.

If a candidate has one “severe violation”, the elections committee considers disqualification. A candidate is only disqualified if their actions were deemed to have affected the integrity of the election.

According to the meeting minutes from the Jan. 25 meeting, the elections committee also considered disqualifying Aydin.

Aydin received two severe violations for sourcing campaign materials outside of the MSU Underground and for deliberately breaking a rule. They ruled that these infractions did not affect the election and maintained the legitimacy of his campaign.

They also discussed disqualifying Farah at this meeting, who received severe violations such as incurring more than $30 in fines for the same violation; a fine for deliberately breaking a rule, disrespecting the deputy returning officer of the MSU Elections department and for campaigning in bad taste.

According to the meeting minutes, Farah’s campaign team ignored the DRO when she asked them to stop using unapproved amplification equipment, something the committee deemed disrespectful towards elections officials. Farah was also fined for “bad taste” due to some of her campaign team smearing another candidate’s platform. During the Jan. 25 meeting, however, the committee felt that these violations had not swayed voters.

Following their Feb. 5 meeting, the committee ratified two more severe violations and deemed it grounds for disqualifications.

Obaidullah was disqualified during the Jan. 25 meeting because they believed her severe violations compromised the integrity of the election and gave her an unfair advantage.

In particular, they took issue with the violations concerning posts in closed Facebook groups, as this not only broke one of their main rules but also could not be traced unless people in those closed groups disclosed them to the elections committee.

Evidence presented to the election committee showed that multiple posts had been made on behalf of Obaidullah encouraging people to vote for her, a direct violation of one of the campaign rules. This violation, compounded by others such as mass messages and campaigning in bad taste, were the rationale for Obaidullah’s disqualification.

Before this election, presidential candidates have only been disqualified three other times. The last time a presidential candidate was disqualified was in the 2016 election, when candidate Sarah Jama was disqualified. Jama was disqualified for spending over the spending limit and for campaigning in bad taste. Following the appeals process, she was reinstated and came in second place.

For now, Aydin is the next MSU president-elect. The exact rationale behind Farah’s disqualification is still unknown as the elections committee has not yet released their meeting minutes from their Feb. 5 meeting. Until the appeals process is over, all results are unofficial.

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This is the first time since 2013 that less than 40 per cent of students voted in the McMaster Students Union presidential election. The number dropped almost 12 per cent from last year, and represents almost 3,000 students.

There are about nine months until the Hamilton municipal election. If you cannot get students to vote for their own union’s president, how do you ever expect to will them into voting in a municipal election that has less direct influence on them?

Time and time again, student needs are passed over by the city and the complaints pile up. The addition of bylaw officers as a knee-jerk response to Homecoming, the fines students have paid because of these officers, the lack of consultation with students on issues affecting them, the continued struggles with the HSR or the attempted shift in ward boundaries that would have split the student vote and diminished the effect of the $1.5 million Area Rating Reserve Fund for students all add up.

Most of these have been within the last few months. Ask yourself what you really expect to find if you look back at the city’s decisions since 2014. Why would the city cater to a population that does not vote for them?

Efforts after this immense drop in voter turnout need to start immediately. Communication has been a constant problem for the entire year as little improvement has been made since the Sept. 28, 2017 editorial, which stated as the kicker, “While the focus is on big projects, students need more updates on more things”. These results prove it.

All of the debates, the campaigning and the promises of each candidate were meaningless to a population that is apathetic or unaware of what the union does. It is a lot to ask a student who believes that barely anything has improved to listen to promises for the future.

That editorial also mentions, “The fortunate part for this paper is that many of our news articles, no matter how big or small, are breaking stories,” which still remains completely absurd. Despite the constant criticism in nearly every single issue against them or against issues on campus that still have yet to be fixed, the Silhouette has likely printed more positive news about the union than they have provided themselves. It is ridiculous.

The union needs to act immediately and not wait for Ikram Farah, the president-elect, to step in and save everything. Any union that fails to engage the people who pay for it is a failure, and losing the dedication of about 3,000 of them to apathy in a single year is a crisis.

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