Fall reading week referendum off to a weak start

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The two students who attended the organizational meeting Oct. 9 to form the Yes and No committees ahead of the Nov. 4–6 fall reading week referendum, have stepped down as chairs of their respective committees, after being appointed to the position by default.


After <em>Imprint </em>requested an interview, the two UW female students, who have asked not to be identified, responded via email and revealed they are both planning to step down as chair of their respective committees, citing a lack of time to make such a commitment.


With five days left before the official campaign period begins and only three weeks away from&nbsp;the fall reading week online referendum, Feds now faces the prospect of heading into the campaign period without a Yes and No committee advocating for either side of the issue.


Feds President Daniel Burt was in attendance at the organizational meeting. She admitted attendance was &ldquo;a little bit shocking.


&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not part of the advertising; it&rsquo;s up to the elections committee. I&rsquo;m not really sure if they were surprised, if they felt like they did do their jobs and didn&rsquo;t get the response they were hoping to, or they didn&rsquo;t reach out at all, and therefore they were fine with it,&rdquo; Burt said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not sure; that&rsquo;s a follow-up I have to do.&rdquo;


Burt added, &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t really look great&nbsp;to have no one on the committees fighting for whatever side because this is such a huge issue with the fall reading break.&rdquo;


This would not be the first time Feds is unable to form two committees for the opposing sides of a referendum question. Back in the winter term, when Feds held the GRT bus pass referendum, only the &ldquo;Yes&rdquo; committee was formed.


Despite the lack of student involvement during the campaign prior to the bus pass referendum, voter turnout reached a record 28 per cent, according to Burt. &nbsp;


In hopes that the lack of student engagement in the committees doesn&rsquo;t foreshadow voter turnout during the referendum period, Burt said she&rsquo;ll be meeting with both Chris Lolas, chair of the board, and Anne Marie Hayman, Feds election officer, who is off campus at the moment, to see how to improve the process.


Burt attributes the lack of student engagement in the committees to a &ldquo;missed connection&rdquo; between both sides of the issue.


&ldquo;I have this argument in my head all the time because I really don&rsquo;t think that our students are not engaged. When you talk to anybody about fall reading break, they will rant to you for however long on whatever side they&rsquo;re on,&rdquo; Burt said. &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re missing the connection; both sides are firing, but somehow we are not talking to each other. That&rsquo;s where the gap is, and I don&rsquo;t know how to fill it&hellip; it&rsquo;s still a mystery to me.&rdquo;


Burt expects fall reading week referendum voter turnout rates to surpass the GRT bus pass referendum, held earlier in the year.


Even if there are no committees formed, Burt said there are no plans to postpone or delay the campaign period and the referendum dates, downplaying the importance of the committees.


&ldquo;Technically, you don&rsquo;t need either of the committees to have a referendum&hellip; The GRT one, we had our highest voter turnout for anything in Feds and we didn&rsquo;t have one of the committees,&rdquo; Burt said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think it will affect the outcome of the referendum because with the budget they have they can do some social media and a poster [campaign]; that&rsquo;s what I&rsquo;ve seen in the past. In that short time, how many students can they influence that haven&rsquo;t already made up their mind?&rdquo;


The Feds election committee is to provide each committee, if formed at any point before the referendum, with a budget of $500, which they cannot surpass without being disqualified.


Stephane Hamade, Feds VPED, who ran his campaign on the promise of bringing a fall break referendum to students and brought the motion to council, said, &ldquo;Running a yes and no campaign can be a lot of work. Perhaps students perceive it will be very time consuming running one of these campaigns&hellip; Hopefully, once we re-advertise, other people will be interested in being part of the process.&rdquo;
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