Resisting apathy in the face of an uncontested election
During the VUSAC Town Hall on March 17th, a question was submitted to candidates through the VUSAC elections forum Facebook page by Victoria College student, William Cuddy that received a strong reaction from the small audience that had assembled there: “Given all of you (the candidates) are acclaimed, why should anyone in the VCU actually vote? Given the Vic bubble, spoil ballot/no won’t win, and if the vote doesn’t reach the threshold, it only requires the ratification of current council.”
The VUSAC 2017 spring election was the target of much scepticism, even after the conclusion of the voting period. There were less candidates running than there are positions to fill. “Why vote?” was a sentiment that I heard with alarming frequency over the course of the campaign, and one that I was guilty of sharing. It wasn’t until I began covering the election for The Strand that I realized just how wrong I was. I had to vote; it was my responsibility.
I could count the number of audience members at the Town Hall whose attendance was not mandatory on one hand. It was a room full of VUSAC members, their significant others, and levy heads. As a community, we are being accused of not caring, of not engaging with the student government. Not voting continues to reinforce this idea, and allows VUSAC members to continue patting each other on the back for being the only people in the Vic community to rise to the challenge. Are we really so apathetic? To all those who did not participate in this election, I ask: what does not voting accomplish?
I spoiled my ballot in every category, with the exception of the Board of Regents. It was nothing personal, except that it was. It is simply unacceptable that so many positions were uncontested, or are left unfilled. I am not here to criticize any of the candidates; I commend them for stepping up to take on such large roles, for continuing to run campaigns even though they arguably don’t really have to, and for wanting to support our community—that is more than most of us are doing. But I am very unhappy about the state of our student government, and I mean to let them know.
If you, like me, are disenchanted with the entire process and want to hold our student government accountable, I hope that you joined me this election season in spoiling our ballots. Or, you know, maybe you supported the candidates. Many of them have great platforms, and will continue to be fantastic assets to our community. Whether or not it directly affected the results of the election is, frankly, irrelevant. We have reached a point where our student body and government are experiencing a severe disconnect, where neither side feels appreciated. We need to engage with our student government, and that starts with us letting them know that we care, one way or another.
If you chose not to vote, you chose to support the failing system. You allowed it to continue as-is, not holding the current body of government accountable for the undeniable ostracization of the students within the very community that they are supposedly representing. I’m not hear to argue whether or not the “Vic Bubble” is real, I am not saying that any resulting alienation is intentional in any way; all I am saying is that clearly it is happening, and clearly it is not working in anyone’s favour. We are all pointing fingers and not doing anything about it.
At the town hall, Zahavah Kay, the sole presidential candidate, concluded her response to Cuddy’s question by saying, “obviously being uncontested is not a great situation, but being apathetic isn’t a great situation either.” I completely agree with her, and I look forward to seeing what she has planned for the coming year.