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Hyde Park: Why I dropped out of the SSMU election

Truth is, I’m quite disgusted with the outcome of last Monday’s mandatory candidates’ meeting, led by Elections McGill. There are too many regulations impeding candidates from getting known, especially candidates with few resources. 
Here are the obstacles I have encountered while I was preparing to become candidate for VP University Affairs.

The Elections McGill web site is not optimized for Internet Explorer, and until last Wednesday did not explain so on the front page. This, despite the fact that an estimated 75 per cent of internet users use Internet Explorer. This blocked me from accessing the SSMU constitutional by-laws, which contain the electoral by-laws. My second option would have been to look on the SSMU web site, but the version of the electoral by-laws I found there was outdated. As a result, I ordered 900 posters from Copy Services in Redpath Library, instead of 400 photocopies. The resulting waste hurts my environmentalist heart. Moreover, the by-laws of SSMU are not available in French. Having no clue that “public service announcement” meant “advertisement,” I had prepared some ads and already contacted The Daily by the time the mandatory Elections McGill meeting happened. Lastly as a strange cherry on this sordid sundae, the measurements in the SSMU by-laws are given in the imperial system. Canada started its metrication in the 1970s. As a student schooled in the metric system, it’s difficult for me to visualize how big a 432 square inch poster is. Of course, I could convert it easily on the internet, but why not just use the metric system?

The only personal reason for my withdrawal that I’ll mention publicly is my status as a third-year Quebec student. If I had been elected to SSMU, I had no choice but to delay my graduation, which requires the Associate Dean of Arts authorization, to her discretion based on the value of my justifications. Registration in postsecondary education for Quebecers is on March 1. Unable to delay graduation, I would have had to apply late to the Faculty of Education, a long shot because I am completing an undergraduate degree which will not be on the Dean’s Honour List.

Regulations on campaigning, despite having improved, are still far too numerous. I’m not a libertarian, but I might become one after having to jump through the following hoops: a ban on participation (including advertising) in the McGill media, a ban on sending emails to any of the people in my gmail account contacts, and the labyrinth of various postering regulations for each building. Never mind not being able to campaign in the libraries (a ban which, to be fair, comes from the Libraries Director), or having to contact a Hall Council executive in order to campaign in residences.

I’m guessing all these rules were introduced following excesses from previous campaigners. However, by preventing people from efficiently using all resources available to them, candidates’ ability to raise awareness is severely restricted. Some of those issues will be resolved by the publication of this Hyde Park. I have already complained to the relevant stakeholders, namely Elections McGill and SSMU. I have also facilitated campaigning for SSMU candidates and referenda with fewer resources by sharing information such as Minerva lists of the largest classes in every undergraduate faculty and school, a list of Hall Councillors, and the beginning of a compilation of postering regulations.

 For me, the red tape surrounding the SSMU electoral process was too much. I withdrew my candidacy for Vice President University Affairs of the Students’ Society of McGill University, partly out of protest, partly for personal reasons. Once campaigning is over, let’s hope SSMU will use the downtime to begin to reform electoral laws and become more inclusive. Otherwise, we risk alienating candidates who are francophone, have less resources, or outsiders unfamiliar with SSMU’s byzantine election rules. If we want to increase participation and fight voter apathy, simplifying the campaign process would be a good place to start.

Lynne Champoux-Williams is AUS/SSMU Student Senator and President of the McGill Green Party.