By Ala Buzreba, February 26 2015 —
There are fewer posters than usual on campus this year. Part of this is due to less candidates. Incoming president Levi Nilson was acclaimed, and most executive positions have fewer candidates than usual.
While there’s always fluctuation in the number of students running for the Students’ Union, the lack of candidates is due in part to the absence of slates.
Slates are when two candidates run under the same platform and slogan, appearing on each other’s campaign materials and sharing costs.
Students’ Legislative Council (SLC) voted on the issue earlier this year, but banning slates through SLC failed after it was bundled with other, more controversial bylaw amendments. This means the Chief Returning Officer got to make the decision when they released their elections policy. The CRO often takes policy cues from SLC, so it’s easy to see why slates were banned.
A lot of people think that slates are unfair. It can be hard to compete against two people if you’re an individual candidate.
Running on a slate provides support for candidates during a stressful time. Campaign days are long, students are apathetic and constantly talking to strangers is exhausting.
That said, running is an invaluable experience. It’s rare that students our age have the ability to come up with policy, debate in front of audiences and participate first-hand in the democratic process.
If this election is your first, running in a slate makes doing all this seem possible. Having a second person around helps you to grow your network and gives you a shoulder to lean on.
Slates also used to give students more money for their campaign. If you’re running for faculty representative, candidates get $150 to spend on their campaign. Slates doubled that to $300 for one platform, albeit one with two people. You can barely get enough quality posters for $150, let alone handbills and a decent photographer. The added money puts your face on twice as many posters.
There were 18 candidates for arts representative last year, and every winner was part of a slate. Running on a slate was clearly a huge advantage, despite the fact that two of the representatives won their position without their other half.
It’s obvious why slates helped candidates — they got to campaign with someone as equally passionate about student government as they were.
In the faculty of arts, there are four positions up for grabs. It’s only fair that candidates should be able to team up and work together. It’s not like slates were restricted to certain groups of people. Everyone had the capability to grab a friend and run for the SU together.
This year, there are only five candidates running for arts representative. Last year there were 16. This means all but one will be elected to serve a one-year term on SLC. The reduction in candidates for faculty representatives likely has something to do with the lack of slates.
Banning slates just puts up another barrier for students trying to participate in politics. It also ensures that only a certain type of person gets elected — those who are loud, outgoing and involved with clubs and associations on campus.
Everyone should have the ability to run for the SU, and wanting to share the burden with a friend shouldn’t be something shameful or forbidden. If we want the SU to accurately represent everyone who goes to school at the University of Calgary, we need slates.