MUNSU short on candidates

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Only one of five executive positions contested in 2013 election; voter turnout low

During last month’s Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union (MUNSU) election, ballots were counted for only one out of five executive positions that students attending the St. John’s campus could vote for.

Candace Simms defeated Noah Davis-Power by more than 700 votes for the position of executive director of external affairs, communications and research. The remaining four positions were filled by acclamation.

Simms attracted 963 votes, while Davis-Power garnered support on 217 ballots. That combined total of 1,180 votes cast is considerably lower than the average number cast per executive position with the union during the course of the last five elections.

An average of 1,984 votes were tallied in 2012 for three positions involving eight candidates. In years before, that average exceeded 3,000, with votes cast to determine the victor in four executive positions.

The 2013 vote also marked the first time in the last five elections that only one of the executive positions merited a vote. There was peak interest in executive positions in 2011, when 13 people put their names forward as candidates. The year before that, there were 12.

 

The five director at large seats have also been acclaimed for each of the last two years. MUNSU’s elected board of directors has 40 representatives, including the five executive member positions.

Does this indicate there is a sense of apathy towards the activities of the students’ union at MUN, a body tasked with spending more than $1 million annually?

“I think the low voter turnout really does correlate with the high number of acclamations,” suggests Travis Perry, director of finance and services with the union. “I do see the fact that when there’s many candidates running, especially for the executive positions, there’s obviously going to be a lot more members going out there and voting.”

Simms, who is currently MUNSU’s director of advocacy, said it was surprising to see so few candidates come forward this year.

“It was a little surprising, and I can’t speak for everyone, but talking to the other candidates, a lot of people were pretty humbled ... and shocked that they were acclaimed,” she said.

Simms adds that students are aware of other ways to get involved in the affairs of the union, such as through involvement in committees or by attending public meetings or getting in touch with the elected board members.

Lisa Murphy, current director of external affairs, communications and research, agrees.

“Just because people don’t have an exact title on the students’ union, whether they’re an executive member or board member, doesn’t mean that they’re not involved,” she said. “They come out and volunteer for our events, or they’ll help us with different campaigns. Just because these students aren’t running for positions doesn’t really have an effect on how much they’re actually participating.”

 

Missing the campaign

Perry faced two other candidates in the 2012 election, but was acclaimed in 2013.

“I really did enjoy the campaigning process,” said the psychology major, referring to his experience meeting and talking with students. “It was something that I was actually looking forward to. I had prepared for this year, but again, very shocked that nobody ran against me, and very humbled by the fact I’m going to be here for another year.”

Perry noted that three of the five executive members will be returning for 2013-14.

“It could be due to the fact that our membership has seen us out there engaging them, talking with them, and working hard for the students’ union.”

Murphy said the union has been making an effort to engage and inform students about elections through social media.  The biggest challenge facing MUNSU, in Perry’s view, is reaching out to its 13,000 members. Such work is a joint effort for the elected board representatives.

The paid executive positions are full-time jobs for the students, and Simms said their work extends beyond the required 35 hours per week.

“There’s many evenings where we’re here until after dark or even on the weekends working,” she said, adding the executive members typically handle a reduced course load.

“It’s important that we are still students and we stay connected and continue with our education ourselves,” she said.

Murphy, who is enrolled in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, says her professors have been exceedingly accommodating. She is taking three courses this semester.

MUNSU will set up an elections committee over the summer to look at how other unions across the country engage their members and encourage them to run for student government. Perry said this recommendation came from the chief returning officer following the 2013 election.

Perry says those who think they might be interested in running for a position with MUNSU one day should consider how they can get involved now, be it through volunteering or attending meetings.

“And I think it’s important that our members here (not) be intimidated by the thought of being involved,” adds Murphy. “Everyone is really friendly and wants everyone to contribute, so being a little bit shy or nervous to get involved shouldn’t hold them back. They should step in with two feet. We’re always open to their ideas and feedback.”

 

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

 

Organizations: Memorial University of Newfoundland Students, School of Human Kinetics and Recreation

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Recent comments

  • Rolland
    April 15, 2013 - 08:21

    Are they seriously suggesting they got re-elected because students saw them out doing good things? No one knows who these guys are but are just turned off when they see them walking around like kings. In reality, they just dump the students' money into causes we don''t care about. And to all of you complaining about how hard the work is, it's a 35 hour job and its their responsibility! They get paid over 20k a year. The current Director of External Affairs said minutes haven't been uploaded online because haven't been able to get a computer to work. Most people could do this in an hours time, so don't go defending them.

  • Thank you MUNSU
    April 09, 2013 - 12:28

    Maybe some people feel that MUNSU hasn't aided them in anyway, and that's a fair response if you truly feel that way,. It was a weakness of the past members. But the fact is that they provided resources for you if you wanted to take advantage of them, ones that many people don't know about. If they don't know about them, then yes there isn't really that much there for you, but they stated in this article how their focus has been on engaging members, and I've personally seen that shift. They are trying to improve on the things that everyone here is bashing them for. They ran in order to improve the issues they had with the union. That's usually how these things work, people run and do their best, and then other people run to focus on things that they wished were addressed more, and so on... MUNSU has encouraged me to be a leader, and to stand up for other students. Therefore, job well done. You changed at least one person. That's all we can really ask for in this day isn't it? I know it has positively influenced others as well, so it is more than just one. It's great that articles like this are happening, and people are commenting. Bad or good, it's constructive criticism. It also comes with the position, you can't please everyone, but they definitely do please a lot. All I ask is that we all give them a little bit of credit, because they are doing great things. I'd like to thank the current MUNSU for giving me a better University experience, and a shout out to the future MUNSU (for years to come) because you will make student's university experience better, even if you have a load of people telling you otherwise.

    • Rolland
      April 15, 2013 - 08:24

      So you are in the 1% that was inducted into the cult? That doesn't mean they do anything for the 99%. All of the "I am MUNSU" stuff is extremely creepy, straight out of Soviet Russia or 1984. No, I am NOT MUNSU and never do I want to be. Students should be able to choose whether they're in the union or not.

  • BILLy
    April 09, 2013 - 09:44

    I'd love for some of the people commenting to work one of these positions for a week. Sure is a lot of trash talking from people who sound like they don't know what MUNSU actually does for students EVERYDAY! You constantly hear people complain about the Breezeway and too much focus on marginalized groups... Know anything else about MUNSU?

  • MUN Political Science Student
    April 08, 2013 - 18:22

    Student voter participation rates are less than 10%. Really makes you wonder about the legitimacy of munsu in the minds of the majority of students.

  • Average Student
    April 08, 2013 - 10:48

    MUNSU is not representative of the students. They continually take political stands that is in no way related to MUN student life. They are worse than every other union jumping on every NDP or further left leaning bandwaggon out there. Most of the students who pay any attention to student politics are so annoyed by MUNSU that they do not run, do not vote, and only pay union fees because they are forced to. If someone with any conservative or moderate views are elected, or acclaimed, to MUNSU they are alienated by the MUNSU clique and dragged through the mud in the student newspaper.

  • gerry
    April 08, 2013 - 10:07

    some of family went to MUN; said it as a great school. Just curious though, do the students HAVE to belong to the MUNSU....to me, being FORCED to belong to ANY union in a (so-called) democratic country is like being forced at gunpoint to vote for a particular candidate...just my opinion

  • Breezeway Business
    April 08, 2013 - 08:58

    The campus bar called the Breezeway is losing over 150 thousand dollars a year. MUNSU's response is to look into it a maybe do a study. So, it will continue to lose money. There is another bar on campus called Bitters, privately owned and makes a profit. HELLO! Any commerce students on MUNSU? Stop paying off Breezeway losses with our student union fees and make a BUSINESS decision. Close or sell the Breezeway. Stop wasting our mandatory student union fees.

    • Former MUNSU Employee
      April 08, 2013 - 09:27

      Having worked for MUNSU in my undergraduate days, I can tell you that the amount of wastage is far more than people realize. I can not count how may "promo" drinks were poured up for the then MUNSU execs during my tenure. Though I do not know if this continues today, I would be very surprised if it did not. The entire structure of that bar defies logic. It has the potential to turn profits back into the student union but every year its decisions are left to a bunch of inexperienced and highly biased elected students, who are far too idealistic and concerned about themselves than anything the breezeway can produce. The breezeway is a fundamental part of the student union and it is there to serve the students but this does not mean that its management (who are very experience and skilled) should have to answer to a collection of students that treat it like their own personal lounge and are elected based on a very slim majority of the population.

    • Shannon Patrick Sullivan
      April 08, 2013 - 10:13

      Bitters is not "privately owned". It is operated by the Graduate Students' Union.

    • Jordan
      April 08, 2013 - 16:32

      Actually, Bitters is owned by GSU MUN (Graduate Student Union) of MUN, so it is an example that student union owned bars can still make money, showing that there are other successful models on campus for the Breezeway to look at, including things like adding food services.

    • Check those Facts
      April 09, 2013 - 09:31

      Bitter's is owned and operated by the Graduate students union. Get your facts straight before you go on ranting.

  • Informed Student
    April 08, 2013 - 08:49

    Well if you don't like how they run things then how about you run for position? And as for equality have you seen the LGBT room compared to sports and athletics public spaces?

    • Somebody more informed than you
      April 08, 2013 - 15:01

      Have you seen how many people frequent the LGBT space compared to the athletics areas? Would you like equality in terms of dollars per square foot, or dollars per student-user, or square feet per student-user? You probably have all three, already.

  • Concerned Student
    April 08, 2013 - 08:48

    Being involved in student politics before, but not at MUNSU, I understand the amount of work that is placed on these students. It is obvious that none of these commenter's do though. These people are sitting on multiple University wide committees, meeting with students, various student groups, getting slandered by people, planning events, and trying to make the university a more friendly and equitable place for everyone attending all while trying to be students themselves. I can see why no one wants to get involved because the slightest mis-step and the judge, jury, and executioner are coming to tear these people into the ground. Who would want to get involved with that? If these people are students and have a problem… why did they not run? The best way to make change is to get out there and do it… not sit at a computer and talk the talk yet not walk the walk.

    • Kirstie
      April 08, 2013 - 09:37

      That's a pretty big generalization no? I actually sit on a committee for a municipal issue which I'm sure requires much more effort than MUNSU. I'd rather my 40 bucks back so I don't have to pay for a silent organization

  • Former Mun Student
    April 08, 2013 - 08:17

    It's the same handful of politically correct people running for the same positions, wasting money on the same useless programs and pretending to promote equality while consistently making concessions for the women groups, the LGBT groups and the rest of the fringe that the general population is tired of HAVING to support and be equal too while they get more funding and representation than any other group at Mun. As a straight, white male - MUNSU has absolutely NOTHING to offer me. I'm glad I'm not paying student union dues to that crowd anymore. And clear of that dark dreary dingy dungeon they call the breezeway.

  • Kirstie
    April 08, 2013 - 07:57

    MUNSU will never understand. They walk around MUN like they own the place and only cause problems for their students. They are convinced they can turn the Breezeway around even though it is a disgusting place. They continually chose to put their money into organizations that the general student does not care about and forgets any other view points. I refuse to have anything to do with MUNSU until they actually show they are working for the students. The amount of acclaimed positions show just how fed up everyone is with them. It's the same people who only care about the same few organizations. They should abolish the whole lot of them.

  • Brad
    April 08, 2013 - 07:15

    I get a kick out of resumes I see from those who previously serve on MUNSU, and they think they're all that and a bag of chips...when the reality is you're pretty much like every other graduating student in terms of experience, and skills. It's no wonder people don't take these guys seriously.