With the next HSR bus pass referendum expected in 2023, McMaster students have mixed feelings about the current contract

All full-time McMaster University students have access to an unlimited Hamilton Street Railway bus pass included in their yearly tuition. The HSR bus pass was implemented and maintained through a contract between McMaster University and the HSR.  

The HSR contract is renegotiated and renewed every three years through a referendum, in which students vote on whether to continue to pay the mandatory HSR tuition fees. The next referendum is expected to occur in 2023. Current HSR bus pass costs are $232.94 for undergraduate students and $294.15 for graduate students.  

The results of the graduate student 2017 HSR referendum were posted by the Graduate Students Association. 36.6 per cent of eligible voters voted in the referendum and 81.7 per cent of voters opted to renew the HSR bus pass contract.  

The next referendum occurred in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to online schooling and postponed campus residence, the HSR bus pass deal was temporarily suspended. As remote schooling continued into the Fall 2020 semester, the bus pass fees for that term were reduced 75 per cent from the normal cost. Additionally, there was a temporary implementation of opt-in/opt-out options for the remainder of the term.  

The bus pass fully resumed operations in the 2021 winter semester and has remained active since. 

The HSR contract has been sustained throughout several referendums, reflecting how the majority of students continue to find the HSR contract beneficial. 

Third year undergraduate student Kieran D’Sena spoke about his own frequent use of the bus pass and its importance to students who don’t live in the immediate vicinity of the McMaster campus. 

“I frequently talk to [students] who live downtown and they rely on the bus to get to class. Having [the bus pass] included in the tuition makes the process so much simpler,” said D’Sena.  

“I frequently talk to [students] who live downtown and they rely on the bus to get to class. Having [the bus pass] included in the tuition makes the process so much simpler.”

Kieran D'Sena, Third year undergraduate student

Third year undergraduate student Luca Scanga explained that although he does not require the HSR to get to campus, his bus pass is still an integral part of his routine and develop a greater relationship with Hamilton.  

“Even though I live very close to campus, I need the HSR for grocery shopping, getting around to other people's houses in Westdale and Ainsley Wood, and getting downtown. If you don't have a car, which most students don't, it's great for getting around the city," said Scanga.  

“Even though I live very close to campus, I need the HSR for grocery shopping, getting around to other people's houses in Westdale and Ainsley Wood, and getting downtown. If you don't have a car, which most students don't, it's great for getting around the city."

Luca Scanga, Third year undergraduate student

Other discussions brew among McMaster students, shedding light on alternative perspectives regarding the HSR bus pass. The r/McMaster subreddit hosts conversations from students expressing frustration with the mandatory bus pass tuition fees. Students do not currently have the option to selectively remove HSR fees from their tuition.  

Regular adult HSR bus fare is $3.25. A student who requires the HSR to get on to campus may use their bus pass approximately 130 times during the fall and winter semesters, excluding holidays. With adult prices a student would be paying $409.50 in bus fares a year, which exceeds current HSR tuition fees.  

This is an ongoing story. 

C/O Keanin Loomis

Loomis discusses Sewergate, developing a more responsive city hall and the importance of the student vote

The Silhouette sat down with Hamilton mayoral candidate Keanin Loomis to discuss his platform for the upcoming municipal election.  

Loomis has been an active member of the Hamilton community through his involvement in Innovation Factory as chief operating officer and as president and CEO of Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.  

Loomis was motivated to run for mayor after feeling that some issues were mishandled by the current governing body. Namely, the sewage leak in Cootes Paradise and the police response to violence at 2019 Hamilton Pride.  

“One of the big things that motivated me to run was the dumping of sewage into the Cootes Paradise and its subsequent coverup. It just absolutely disgusted me. It was one of the reasons why I decided to step up, because we need better leadership in this community,” said Loomis. 

One of the big things that motivated me to run was the dumping of sewage into the Cootes Paradise and its subsequent coverup. It just absolutely disgusted me. It was one of the reasons why I decided to step up, because we need better leadership in this community.

Keanin Loomis, Hamilton mayoral candidate

Loomis discussed the main pillars of his campaign — rebuilding trust in city hall, growing Hamilton economically, enhancing responsiveness in city hall and focusing on a safer and cleaner city.  

Loomis expressed there has been a shift in focus away from crucial issues and towards petty grievances in city hall, which he identified as a problem.  

“Week after week after week, we're seeing embarrassing things happening at city hall and a lot of wasted energy focused on personalities . . . we needed better leadership in this community,” said Loomis 

Loomis’ platform also includes a plan for furthering Hamilton’s economic development. Loomis plans to focus on affordability and accessibility for all citizens. Alongside this, he also discussed the need to take the city’s carbon footprint more seriously.  

“I am going to be focused on creating a clean, safe and healthy Hamilton. For my kids, for equity seeking groups that might not feel safe here and for the environment as well,” said Loomis. 

I am going to be focused on creating a clean, safe, and healthy Hamilton. For my kids, for equity seeking groups that might not feel safe here and for the environment as well.

Keanin Loomis, Hamilton mayoral candidate

There will be a significant amount of turnover following this municipal election, as at least seven positions are being elected out of the 16 person political body, providing a unique opportunity for change. Loomis explained that this potential for reform is notable, especially regarding current challenges city hall has faced in staying focused on important issues.  

“[I] want to make sure that very quickly I set the right tone and make it very clear that we are not going to continue to do things as city hall has over the last couple of decades. If we can get over that hump, I think that we'll be able to really get down to business and work on meeting our challenges and taking advantage of opportunities,” said Loomis.  

[I] want to make sure that very quickly I set the right tone and make it very clear that we are not going to continue to do things as city hall has over the last couple of decades. If we can get over that hump, I think that we'll be able to really get down to business and work on meeting our challenges and taking advantage of opportunities.

Keanin Loomis, Hamilton mayoral candidate

Loomis also emphasized the importance of young people keeping informed on the election and casting their vote. McMaster students are directly impacted by the decisions the municipality makes and Loomis suggested that by developing a stronger understanding of these decisions and how they’re made, students will be sure to find something that motivates them to get to the polls and vote.  

“If you can understand how all three levels of government impact you on a daily basis, you will be a generally more informed citizen and you will be motivated to have your say when the time comes to speak up,” said Loomis 

Keanin Loomis is running for mayor in the Oct. 2022 municipal election. His candidate profile has be posted as part of a series the Silhouette is running to build student awareness about the municipal election. Candidate profiles will continue to be posted in alphabetical order over the next few weeks. Election Day is Oct. 24 and more details on how to vote can be found here.  

Navigating the blurred line between politics and peers, and why it’s important to know where you stand

PHOTO C/O: Alex Motoc, Unsplash

Friends and social media can shape your political orientation and ideologies. From a tweet shared by your favourite celebrity to a comment made by a close friend, several studies show that you may begin to question, and possibly even alter, your political stances in agreement with those around you. 

The power of social influence is not a new revelation. For decades, psychologists have noted the ability of social groups to modify and impact individual behaviours and opinions. This phenomenon occurs as a means of meeting individual needs of acceptance and belonging through conformity in society. 

The power of social influence is not a new revelation. For decades, psychologists have noted the ability of social groups to modify and impact individual behaviours and opinions. This phenomenon occurs as a means of meeting individual needs of acceptance and belonging through conformity in society. 

On a smaller scale, the power of social influence can prompt you to follow basic etiquette in public. However, on a much greater scale, the people around you can affect your political views, causing you to take an ill-informed political stance before casting your ballot. As a result, without adequate information, you may end up siding with a political party or candidate that does not truly represent your beliefs and values. 

Research is singlehandedly the most valuable strategy to combat and mitigate the power of social influence. Exploring each political candidate and their platform can help you solidify your political views to make a well-informed decision.  

While it may not be completely obvious at first glance, there are certainly damaging ramifications of inadequate knowledge when it comes to politics and voting. A lack of political understanding diminishes the value of having democracy and leads to an inaccurate reflection of the public’s true wishes through government policies and action. 

While it may not be completely obvious at first glance, there are certainly damaging ramifications of inadequate knowledge when it comes to politics and voting. A lack of political understanding diminishes the value of having democracy and leads to an inaccurate reflection of the public’s true wishes through government policies and action. 

Take Paul Fromm as an example of the rash consequences that could result if ballots are cast with such blissful ignorance. Currently running in Hamilton’s nearing municipal election, he is a white supremacist and neo-Nazi that spearheads several organizations with deplorable objectives.  

The stark and concerning reality is that there are very few eligibility criteria to run for a municipal election in Ontario. As such, it becomes the sole responsibility of us citizens to support and cautiously grant power to candidates whose visions and values align with our own.  

So, whether you are preparing to vote at the next municipal election or an upcoming MSU election, beware of social influence and try to implement necessary measures to make your vote your own. Though the prospect may seem daunting, you are not required to vote for your friend or someone they support at an election. Only your opinions and ideas about a candidate’s qualifications and plans should matter when you check off the circle on your ballot.  

It is also important to remember that along with your right to vote in Canada, maintaining the secrecy of your ballot is also a right that no one may infringe. While there is no harm in engaging in healthy political discourse, you should never feel compelled to share your political views with anyone, especially if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  

As students receiving post-secondary education in a democratic nation, we ought to recognize our privilege and use it to effect positive change in our communities. Staying aware of how our friends and exposure to political views on social media can influence our stances, as well as doing our research, is vital to ensure we are truly making an impact with our votes.  

C/O Michael Pattison

Pattison has built his campaign on affordability, transparency and food insecurity 

The Silhouette sat down with mayoral candidate Michael Pattison to reflect on his current campaign and the most pressing issues for the upcoming election. 

Pattison is running as a mayoral candidate for the third time in his political career, having previously campaigned for the position in 2014 and 2018. He is running again this term to address issues involving affordability, transparency and food insecurity in the municipal government. 

Affordability is the biggest point of Pattison’s platform. He discussed the importance of funding mental health initiatives as a key part of his affordability plan. 

“The worse that our mental health slides down and the harder that finances get on people, I believe [that] is one of the biggest precursors for mental health [challenges]. When you are terrified of losing your home, not being able to eat or not being able to pay your bills — these things weigh on people so heavily on a common scale. Whether it is through more therapy or having different social meeting groups, [mental health initiatives] can help the overall city of Hamilton as a whole,” said Pattison. 

As another key aspect of affordability, Pattison highlighted the importance of addressing the housing crisis in Hamilton. 

“From a city perspective, my number one thing is: winter is coming. We have to have safe, secure spots for those that are homeless or are becoming homeless or we're going to then have a death issue on our hands,” said Pattison. 

From a city perspective, my number one thing is: winter is coming. We have to have safe, secure spots for those that are homeless or are becoming homeless or we're going to then have a death issue on our hands.

Michael Pattison, Hamilton Mayoral Candidate

Pattison also advocated for transparency in city spending. Discussing the allocation of funds from residential taxes, Pattison claimed the largest allocation is towards an unknown department listed as “other” in the 2021 tax distribution report. 

“When you go through the city budgets, they give you an average residential tax rate and they break it down by department. And if you were to look, you'll see where social services comes in, you'll see where education comes in, policing, and things like that, but yet the largest piece of the pie is just listed as ‘other’. And after going through line by line of our overall budget, I am yet to figure out what the ‘other’ is,” said Pattison. 

However, the City of Hamilton’s annual tax dollar distribution chart only mentions “other” for other city services. After reaching out to city hall, other city services was explained to encompass the capital levy, where tax dollars are used to finance capital projects for all city programs and services, as well as smaller dollar value city services. Additionally, policing services were found to be the largest allocation, followed by education services, and then other city services. 

The third main issue in Pattison’s platform is the importance of food security for Hamiltonians, similar to his platform in 2018, due to increased rates of food insecurity across Hamilton. 

“We're going to come into a food crunch. I believe that this winter is going to be a very unfulfilling time for people . . . We've done nothing as a city to work on our food security issues. Even dealing with local farmers, we haven't put anything in place. We haven't helped them with green housing, we haven't done anything to come up with a local supply of guaranteed food,” said Pattison. 

When asked about the potential challenges of mayorship, Pattison foresaw the learning curve that comes with the position as the biggest hurdle. 

“A mayor basically has three distinct roles and mastering those three roles is something that I'm game for. I have the ability to maintain all three levels: within city council, you're basically a moderator; within the city executive, you're the CEO and in the public, you need to be a role model. So, trying to master those three, coming from just a blue-collar background that was just born and raised in this city,” said Pattison. 

Addressing the McMaster University community, Pattison wanted students to become more engaged with the election and municipal government. 

“I believe that you're our future leaders. And you know, it's the choices that are made today that set up tomorrow. You guys are the future and you need to be involved now. If you're not involved now, then you're going to let old coots make all the decisions; they're going to be detrimental. Whereas the fresh new ideas, the fresh new perspectives on life, give me different perspectives that we don't see in our lifetime,” said Pattison. 

I believe that you're our future leaders. And you know, it's the choices that are made today that set up tomorrow. You guys are the future and you need to be involved now. If you're not involved now, then you're going to let old coots make all the decisions; they're going to be detrimental.

Michael Pattison, Hamilton Mayoral Candidate

Michael Pattison is running for mayor in the Oct. 2022 municipal election. His candidate profile has be posted as part of a series the Silhouette is running to build student awareness about the municipal election. Candidate profiles will continue to be posted in alphabetical order over the next few weeks. Election Day is Oct. 24 and more details on how to vote can be found here.  

New provincial bill removes the option for ranked ballots in upcoming municipal elections

In October 2022, cities across Ontario will hold their next municipal election. However, with this upcoming election, the Ontario government has introduced a new bill that will prevent municipalities from using ranked ballots. 

This bill was introduced along with legislation from the Ontario government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new legislation is meant to help provide liability protection for workers and businesses against COVID-19 exposure-related lawsuits. 

In justification for this mandate, Adam Wilson, spokesman for Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, said that the decision would help eliminate unpredictability and inconsistencies across municipalities during the pandemic.

However, people are questioning whether the provincial government’s concern is necessary and whether the mandate is instead stripping residents of their democratic rights. 

why is the political class engaged in anti-democratic actions. There are over 400 municipalities in #Ontario
Why should a governing party hand down this hard decision?
Did majority of Ontario residents discuss this in their communities?#onpoli https://t.co/r4xr0v65jW

— Kojo Easy Damptey #KojoforWard14 ✊🏿 (@EasyThePianoMan) October 21, 2020

Under a ranked balloting system, voters rank their preferences of candidates. In the first round, votes for first choices are added up and if someone has a majority then they would win the election. However, if no one has a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the votes are transferred to the next choice until someone wins by a majority. 

This system is also what is currently adopted by the McMaster Students Union for all of its elections. 

Although London is currently the only city in Ontario that has implemented a ranked ballot system, this bill would deny all cities from implementing the system in the future. 

In the cities of Kingston and Cambridge, votes from previous referendums showed that a large proportion of people are in favour of switching to a ranked ballot system. 

In an interview with CBC News, Dave Meslin, the creative director of an electoral reform advocacy group known as Unlock Democracy Canada, believes that a ranked ballot system should be implemented in the province of Ontario.

“Ranked ballots have such an impact on everything from civility to diversity to having more choice, to ensuring that you have a council with a real mandate. It's such a step backwards for this option to be stripped away from cities,” Meslin told CBC News.

“Ranked ballots have such an impact on everything from civility to diversity to having more choice, to ensuring that you have a council with a real mandate. It's such a step backwards for this option to be stripped away from cities,” Meslin told CBC News

Meslin also noted that this is the very system of voting that voted Doug Ford as the current leader of the Ontario Conservatives. When Ford ran for leadership, he was not in first place during the first round of ballots but was in second place. 

News regarding this bill and the provincial government’s decision to remove the possibility of ranked ballots has resulted in fury from other provincial party leaders. 

All three party leaders took to Twitter to express their discontent with the situation. NDP leader Andrea Horwarth wrote, “Mr. Ford interferes in democratic elections again and again. I'm committed to bringing back the right of municipalities to decide how to hold their own elections — including ranked ballots.”

Mr. Ford interferes in democratic elections again and again. I'm committed to bringing back the right of municipalities to decide how to hold their own elections —including ranked ballots. Thanks @meslin, and all those fighting this attack on democracy, for speaking out. https://t.co/S0v9cClrBX

— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) October 23, 2020

Liberal leader Steven Del Duca said that the Liberal party will be finding a way to restore the option of ranked ballots if elected in 2022. 

“Ranked ballots were originally brought in under an Ontario Liberal government. Not only would I bring back the ability for municipalities to choose to use them, but Ontario Liberals will introduce a Private Members Bill to attempt to restore them in the meantime,” said Del Duca.

“I’m disgusted that the Premier would take a sledgehammer to local democracy yet again. This Doug knows best game has got to end. Ranked ballots improve democracy and the people should have the right [to] determine local elections, not the Premier,” wrote Mike Schreiner, Green party leader, in a tweet on Twitter. 

In Hamilton, Ontario, city councillors voted 8-7 following the 2018 election against the option of using ranked ballots for 2022. While ranked ballots were voted down, this motion demonstrated that there was high consideration amongst the city’s leaders for a ranked ballot system.

During this motion, Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger was one of the seven who had voted in favour of using ranked ballots. 

Maureen Wilson, councillor of Ward 1 in Hamilton, was another one of the votes in favour of ranked ballots. Speaking to the Silhouette, Wilson said that she would still recommend ranked ballots today and does not understand the provincial government’s decision.

“I’m perplexed by it. I would think that the provincial government should be focussed on covid and covid recovery and why they would tuck it into an omnibus bill is perplexing. This is a government that used ranked ballots for its own leadership race. I know Mr. Ford was elected leader on a ranked ballot so if they're good enough for his party, surely they're good enough for the residents of Ontario,” said Wilson. 

We have choices that we as different municipalities make across a great number of things, so I’m not sure I understand the inconsistencies argument and I also don’t understand the argument that this will create confusion on behalf of residents. I think that’s really underestimating the intelligence of electorates. It’s not confusing at all,” Wilson added.

Wilson also adds that the provincial government’s justification for this mandate does not make sense to her.

We have choices that we as different municipalities make across a great number of things, so I’m not sure I understand the inconsistencies argument and I also don’t understand the argument that this will create confusion on behalf of residents. I think that’s really underestimating the intelligence of electorates. It’s not confusing at all,” Wilson added.

Photo by Hannah Walters-Vida / Editor-in-Chief 

By Donna Nadeem, Staff Writer

American students studying at McMaster were given the opportunity to vote in the 2020 United States Democratic Party presidential primaries on March 5, 2020. McMaster’s chapter of Democrats Abroad facilitated voting, which took place between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the third floor of the McMaster University Student Centre. Democrats Abroad is an organization that gives Americans who live outside the U.S. a chance to vote in U.S. elections. 

On March 5, voters only needed to type in their information on their computer and, after receiving their ballot, they should follow the instructions and return the ballot before the deadline.

On March 5, voters only needed to type in their information on their computer and, after receiving their ballot, they should follow the instructions and return the ballot before the deadline.

It is estimated that 3 million Americans of voting age live overseas but only around 10,965 abroad ballots were cast in the 2016 U.S. General Election. The more votes submitted through Democrats Abroad, the greater representation they have within the Democratic National Committee. While Canada has the highest number of U.S. citizens of voting age, many McMaster students do not know about the Democrats Abroad primary. The number of people who voted through Democrats Abroad remains low.

David Mivasair, the Chair of Democrats Abroad for the Hamilton-Burlington-Niagara region, had initially decided to approach McMaster after learning of a large number of Americans that attend the university. The question Mivasair was faced with was how to reach these American students.

At Clubsfest last year, Mivasair came to McMaster to introduce a new chapter of Democrats Abroad. Around 60 students signed up for Democrats Abroad at Clubsfest, and from that list, the club was formed, executives were instated and the club was officially opened up to general members.

Aside from the voting centres, the McMaster chapter of Democrats Abroad intends on holding on-campus celebrations for American holidays such as American Thanksgiving or Fourth of July. They also wish to initiate a speaker series or present lectures discussing relevant issues in American politics. 

In this way, the McMaster Chapter of Democrats Abroad also functions as a social club, providing a space for American students at McMaster to come together. There are branches of Democrats Abroad at other Canadian universities including McGill, U of T, and UBC. 

"We are a social club for Americans, Canadians and international students to congregate, get together and discuss American issues that affect the whole world," said Kareem Khaled, the President of the McMaster chapter of Democrats Abroad.

"We are a social club for Americans, Canadians and international students to congregate, get together and discuss American issues that affect the whole world," said Kareem Khaled, the President of the McMaster chapter of Democrats Abroad.

The McMaster chapter of Democrats Abroad has not been ratified by the McMaster Students Union. The club attempted to get permission for the 2019-2020 school year, but were unsuccessful as the MSU believed that the club would only be relevant for the 2020 election year.  

Democrats Abroad’s McMaster chapter emphasizes the importance of voting in upcoming elections. Regardless of whether students may be embarrassed by the state of U.S. politics or whether they believe dissociation is the right response, Khaled believes that student engagement is important. 

“Their votes get their word out there because that's how you get a government that represents the people,” said Khaled. 

"You need everybody from different backgrounds [and with] different ideas to be involved in the political process, and we're hoping to be a channel to engage the [American] people and all other [non-American] people in the world to be more involved in their country's political processes, because they affect us," said Khaled.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

A record 79 candidates were vying for a position on the McMaster Students Union Student Representative Assembly general elections, which ended last Monday.

Seventy-nine candidates competed for 31 SRA seats across all faculties, the highest number ever.

Last year, there were just 41 candidates running for 31 seats. Two years ago, there were 50 candidates.

The highest number of candidates came from the SRA science and SRA social science faculties.

Twenty-five candidates ran for seven seats for science, while 16 candidates ran for five seats in social science.

In 2018, there were just nine and five candidates for the science and social science faculties.

Candidate turnout was higher than last year for other faculties as well.

SRA commerce had eight candidates running for four seats this year compared to five candidates last year, and the arts and science faculty had four nominees running for one seat compared to one nominee last year.

Voter turnout was markedly high as well. Twenty per cent of undergraduate students, or a total of 4283, voted in the SRA generals election, a dramatic increase from last year’s election, which saw 1064 voters.

Several current SRA members and winning candidates attributed the increase in candidate turnout to more effective advertising from the McMaster Student Union elections department this year, made up of chief returning officer Uwais Patel and deputy returning officer Emily Yang.

“This year, the CRO and DRO did a really good job in doing outreach. It was a lot of promotion, and it was faculty-specific promotion as well,” said Tasneem Warwani, current SRA arts and science representative.

“I think what they did really well was reach out to SRA members to ensure that they were reaching out to their constituents,” said Devin Roshan, current SRA health sciences representative.

One new initiative the elections team took on this year was sending faculty-specific emails directly to students to remind them of nomination deadlines and how many seats were available.

“On the MSU pages, social media-wise, I saw more promotion about it,” said third-year social sciences student Allie Kampan, who won an SRA seat. “More people were aware of it this year.”

Some faculties also tried to host more faculty-specific events encouraging students to run. For example, the social science caucus ran an event where they handed out nomination forms.

“I think the SRA reps made it more approachable this year,” Kampman said. “There’s a stigma around a lot of MSU things, specifically SRA, which is that it’s unapproachable.”

Roshan pointed out that increased turnout also comes from regular efforts through the year to educate students on issues and what the SRA is doing.

The health sciences election this year featured eight candidates for two positions, building off seven candidates last year after just two in 2017.

Students entering post-secondary education may also be becoming more interested in politics.

“Looking at the first years specifically, in my interactions I’ve had with them, they’re very passionate about getting involved,” Warwani said.

First year council elections this year featured a record high of 54 candidates running for sixteen positions.

Not all faculties saw a rise in candidate turnout. Humanities had only three nominees, meaning all three available seats were acclaimed. There were just two nursing nominees for one seat and four kinesiology nominees for two seats. SRA engineering also had just eight candidates for six available seats.

All of these faculties have struggled to put forth nominees in recent years, with seats often being acclaimed.

According to incoming SRA engineering representative Hawk Yang, one possible reason for the typically low candidate turnout is that the engineering faculty has a prominent engineering society, which often overshadows SRA engineering initiatives.

Nonetheless, as evidenced by the SRA statistics, the MSU is still seeing refreshingly high interest in student government this year.

 

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Photo C/O Catherine Goce

By: Neda Pirouzmand

Graduating students should not have had an equal say on these decisions in comparison to returning students. As changes regarding student fees are implemented in the following academic year, graduating students will not be paying for them.

This line of reasoning can be extended to graduating students’ influence over the MSU presidential elections. The actions and views of the MSU president only become relevant during and following their transition period into office.

Chukky Ibe won the McMaster Students Union presidential election in 2017. In March of the same year, students passed a referendum to add $95 to their Athletics and Recreation Activity fee in order to build the Student Activity Building and expand the Pulse fitness area.

Last year, Ikram Farah’s winning election was accompanied by a referendum that reduced the Ontario Public Research Group’s funding at the university from $8.07 to $5.50 per student.

Josh Marando will officially take office in May. While he is currently in the process of transitioning into the role of MSU president, his responses to recent events, such as Doug Ford’s changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, and any future implementations will directly impact incoming and returning students.

At most, graduating students may be indirectly affected by the MSU’s advocacy efforts at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. This possible indirect impact still does not warrant graduating students to have as much influence as they currently possess.

An alternate system may involve weighting votes, where graduating students’ votes are weighted less than those of returning students. The logistics of the weighting amount could be decided by the MSU.

Those against changing the voting system may state that graduating students have unique and relevant experiences that allow them to make informed votes. Additionally, as graduating students pay the full MSU fee it can be argued that they have the right to exercise their vote.

These concerns could be addressed through adjusting the weight of votes from graduating students, rather than removing their vote altogether. If necessary, this could also be coupled with lowering the MSU fee for these students.

Would reweighting graduating students’ votes have changed past elections and referenda? This information is not publicly available and therefore no concrete conclusions can be drawn.

Elections should allow for a candidate to be selected who is in agreement with the majority of the relevant student population. Thus, the influence that graduating students have in this mix should be decreased.

Following this line of reasoning, incoming first-years should have a chance to vote. Many referenda and elections cannot accommodate this due to their timing in relation to admissions.

However, in some cases, this could be accomplished through implementing appropriate communication channels between incoming students and the MSU.

If this were to be pursued, it would need to be preceded by large-scale exposure and encouragement of voting in high school students.

Once April passes, graduating students will no longer fall under the umbrella of the MSU. As such, they should not influence future MSU decisions as much as they currently do.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

By: Maanvi Dhillon

Voter turnout in the 2019 McMaster Students Union presidential election fell 1.2 per cent from last year, marking the lowest rate since 2012.

Just two years ago, voter turnout sat at 41.6 per cent and saw 9,327 student voters.

“The voter turnout rate continues the impressive upward trend in McMaster student voter turnout, and marks five consecutive years with more than 40 per cent of students voting in the MSU Presidential election,” reads a statement on the MSU website from 2017.

This ‘upward trend’ did not continue the following year. In particular, the 2018 election saw voter turnout fall 13.6 points.

Following last year’s election, the MSU elections department promptly investigated the sharp decline in voter turnout.

After finding no issues with the voting software, Simply Voting, low turnout was estimated to have been caused by students opting out of receiving elections emails.

“Students who voluntarily opted-out of emails from the MSU’s election software provider, as per Canadian anti-spam legislation, did not receive future emails,” said Uwais Patel, the MSU’s chief returning officer.

Patel pointed out that this did not necessarily prevent students from voting in the election as they could have received a ballot if requested. However, it still likely would have reduced their likelihood of voting.

Low voter turnout is a serious concern given the role and position of the MSU president, who Patel describes as “an important representative who will help shape the student experience for years to come.”

As a result of the change, in this year’s election, students were able to

access their online ballot with their Mac ID instead of email.

Students were also enabled to use a general link and log in with their McMaster login information, eliminating the necessity of email for access and making the process fit more naturally with other online McMaster activity, like accessing Mosaic or Avenue to Learn.

For these reasons, Patel believed the transition would make “voting more accessible and the process of voting more reliable.”

Before the election, Patel was confident that the MSU Elections’ lineup of strategies would give students access to the details they need to easily vote.

“Using resources and technology, we are maximizing the way we deliver… information,” said Patel. “By voting and engaging with the election this year, students can be confident in who they elect as MSU President to represent them on issues pertaining to student life and advocacy,” said Patel.

In effort to increase voter turnout, the elections department also released an instructional video showing how to vote.

They also asked committee members and MSU Maroons to promote the election on campus and encourage students to vote.

However, this year’s drop in voter turnout suggests that the new voting system and array of promotional efforts did not sufficiently improve the turnout rate.

This year’s notably low voter turnout casts doubt over the new MSU president’s capacity to ‘represent’ McMaster’s nearly 30,000 undergraduates when only 6,576 voted in the election.

 

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Photos by Kyle West, Graphics by Yvonne Lu

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, there was a graphic that indicated that Josh Marando answered that he "strongly agreed" with the police presence on campus. However, in our survey, Marando answered that he "strongly disagreed" with the police presence on campus. We apologize for this misconstruction and have changed the graphic since. 

The Silhouette recently surveyed the four McMaster Students’ Union 2019 presidential candidates on their opinions on where the MSU and the university are doing well and where they can improve.

The survey consisted of seven statements. Candidates were asked to indicate their level of agreement with each statement on a scale from “strongly agree” to “disagree.”

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="197" gal_title="2019 Presidentials Survey Results 1"]

The first question asked candidates about their opinions on the statement that “The MSU is committed to equality and inclusiveness.”

The candidates all agreed on the MSU’s commitment to equality and inclusiveness. Jeffrey Campana and Madison Wesley indicated they “strongly agreed” with the statements, whereas Justin Lee and Josh Marando said they “agreed.”  

The second question asked candidates whether or not “Increased police presence will promote increased safety of students on and around campus.”

There were a range of opinions on the relationship between McMaster students and the police.

Lee was the only candidate to agree that police presence will promote safety. Campana was neutral, while Wesley disagreed. Marando was the only candidate to strongly disagree.

In September, a string of break-ins in Westdale prompted a greater police presence in the area. During the same month, a video depicting a woman being run over a McMaster police horse was widely shared on social media.

The candidates were mostly in agreement with the statement that the MSU should oppose the provincial government’s free speech mandate requiring Ontario universities to implement a free-speech policy.

Wesley was the only candidate not to agree with the statement, choosing a “neutral” response instead. Campana indicated he agreed, while both Lee and Marando chose “strongly agree.”

In October, the Student Representative Assembly unanimously passed a motion opposing the government mandate.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="201" gal_title="2019 Presidentials Survey Results 2"]

The next question asked candidates whether or not the MSU should lobby against the government’s changes to tuition, student fees and the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

The survey showed that all the candidates were in stark opposition to the provincial government’s changes to tuition, student fees and OSAP announced on Jan. 17.

Lee, Marando and Wesley all strongly agreed with the statement, while Campana selected the “agree” response.

Regarding McMaster’s accessibility, Wesley and Campana indicated there was room for improvement, as they strongly disagreed and disagreed with the statement that the school is “fairly accessible” for students with various disabilities.

Lee and Marando were neutral on the issue.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="202" gal_title="2019 Presidentials Survey Results 3"]

The results also show that none of the candidates are satisfied with McMaster’s current efforts to prevent and address sexual violence. When asked if McMaster does a “sufficient job” in this area, Campana and Wesley strongly disagreed, while Lee and Marando disagreed with the statement.

McMaster’s sexual violence policy is up for review this year.

Overall, it appears that while there is a high degree of agreement amongst candidates on topics such as the Ontario government’s recently announced tuition and OSAP changes, candidates differ in their views on issues like the relationship between students and the Hamilton police and McMaster’s response to sexual violence.

The voting period for this year’s MSU presidential election is taking place from Jan. 22 to 5 p.m on Jan. 24. To vote, students can fill out the ballot sent to their McMaster email or login and vote at www.msumcmaster.ca/vote.

 

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