It seems like most students are not engaging with WUSA elections and many of those who are are not necessarily doing so because they care about student governance. This is a worrying trend.
Nomination period for the 2023 WUSA general elections starts on Dec. 1, but the vast majority of undergraduate students will probably not care. The voter turnout in the 2022 elections was just 4.63 per cent. While some have attributed this to the fact that the elections took place in summer this year, the 2021 turnout was not much better at 5.09 per cent.
This has not always been the case. 2020 saw a voter turnout of 12.2 per cent. While the sudden drop around this time could be because of the pandemic, it is clear that there has been a downward trend since before that. Between the years 2016 and 2019, the voter turnout remained around 15 per cent each year, with the exception of 2018. In 2018, all executive positions were acclaimed so there was no WUSA election in which all undergraduate students voted. While 2015 did see a low voter turn out of 7.34 per cent, that year the elections website broke down. In 2014, the turnout was almost 30 per cent.
One of the top 2 reasons that students who voted gave for voting both this year and last was that they had a friend running in the elections.
Admittedly, it is natural for me, as a student journalist, to take an interest in student politics and others may not share that inclination. However, as a student journalist who has spent a considerable amount of time covering WUSA, trust me — you need to care about the WUSA elections.
As our undergraduate student association, WUSA advocates for us not only to the university, but also to the various levels of government. Whether or not you think WUSA has done a good job at it so far, WUSA is definitely the most well equipped organisation to engage in student advocacy. Therefore, it is vital that we elect student leaders who can understand our needs and present a strong case for why those needs should be addressed for the coming year.
With the governance change that WUSA went through this year, our student government is still very much in a transition period. We need effective leadership for this transition to be successful, so that WUSA remains well equipped to advocate for students.
Moreover, the new governance structure also increases the responsibilities of the directors. Whereas earlier, elected student councillors were expected to advocate for their constituents within WUSA and help decide WUSA’s advocacy priorities. Now, with no council, elected student directors not only sit on WUSA board committees to decide these priorities, but they are also expected to sit on university committees where they will be actively carrying them out. So with the bigger role that directors play now, it is even more important for students to educate themselves and vote in these elections.
In particular, next year, WUSA is also expected to take on an equity audit and the officers and directors next year may have to implement recommendations from that to ensure that WUSA is an equitable organisation. We need student leaders who we can trust to do this well.
If you or someone you know will be a good fit for these roles and can afford to give WUSA and the student body the needed time, register to be a candidate. WUSA has had far too many uncompetive elections in recent years. All my arguments about why students should vote are moot if the elections don’t have enough candidates. This year we had a single candidate for President who dropped out because of which our then Vice-President elect became President. Unfortunately, we also only had one candidate for VP so there was no one to fill that role.
At Imprint, we have done our best to keep students updated on WUSA elections with regular updates each year as well as our annual Imprint WUSA officer debates, and we will continue doing that so that you are informed about your prospective leaders and representatives. We will continue reporting on what WUSA is up to. As a student newspaper, it is our responsibility to hold WUSA accountable, and we do that — most recently, we reported on WUSA’s board meetings not being open to the general membership. However, there is only so much that we can do, if students don’t show up to the polls so this year, please care about the WUSA elections.