CSU Does Suffragette, Civil Rights Movements proud
Evelyn Cranston

For some Capilano University students, CSU elections are an exciting time: posters are up, forums are held, and ballots are marked. Students at the Sechelt and Squamish campuses, however, have previously been excluded from participating in elections. In the past, certain opportunities were not available for students at satellite campuses because previous CSU boards had interpreted the bylaws to mean that they are not voting members.

The bylaw in question states that the members of the Union include “all paying and non-paying Capilano University students.” Students enrolled in Sechelt and Squamish do not pay fees to the Students Union, and it was previously thought that this meant that they were non-voting. However, David Clarkson, Electoral Committee Chair, says that they were always included on the voting list that is received from the University.

Section 7 of the Society Act states, “A voting member of a society has only one vote, and, despite any contrary provision in the bylaws, may exercise that vote on every matter without restrictions.” However, it is not made explicitly clear in the bylaws or the Society Act whether non-paying members were also considered non-voting members as well. In Clarkson’s understanding, students at satellite campuses were always technically allowed to vote, but it was inconvenient for them to do so because polling was only held at the North Vancouver campus.

Clarkson says, “Nowhere else does the policy or bylaws pertaining to memberships or the elections does it say, ‘North Vancouver students are voting members,’ or ‘Squamish students are nonvoting members.’ Our bylaws are totally silent in that way.” In Clarkson’s understanding, paying a membership fee is not the determining factor of whether a student is eligible to vote.

This year, then, the most significant change is the on-campus voting opportunity for the two campuses. For most Sechelt and Squamish students, making the trip to North Vancouver to vote was seldom done.

Last year, the CSU was working with a budget of $500 to run the elections. This time around, they have $2500 to spend. Clarkson is enthusiastic about this budget bump, as it gave the CSU “the resources to do some things that we weren’t previously able to do,” such as increase polling hours in North Vancouver from 21 hours in 2010 to 44.5 in 2011, and offer four polling hours in each of the satellite campuses.

Nolan Remedios, candidate for Educational Issues Coordinator, explains that the interpretation to include the two campuses has been done largely, “in good faith, as a means to include the other campuses. The purpose of doing it is to reduce the amount of disenfranchisement that the campuses feel.”

In his opinion the decision to extend voting “demonstrates an understanding on the part of the CSU that decisions that are made and policies that are created in the Maple building of the North Vancouver campus actually do, in some cases, have an effect on students in Sechelt and Squamish.” In his view, they’re not paying the fees, but they’re still being impacted by CSU decisions that are made without their contribution.

As well, Sechelt and Squamish students are technically allowed to be candidates. However, it wouldn’t be easy for those students. He explains, “It’s quite clear that [students on satellite campuses] would be eligible to run … [but] the rules around campaigning for our elections only allow candidates to put posters up on the CSU bulletin boards, and there actually aren’t any CSU bulletin boards on those campuses. It would restrict the kind of campaigning that the candidate could pursue on either campus.”

With this expanded voter base, a candidate running in the upcoming elections could potentially gain an advantage by travelling to the smaller campuses. The electoral committee has no stance on this practice, should a candidate choose to make the trip. However, it may be difficult for students taking courses only at the North Vancouver campus to make the time to ferry out to Sechelt.

Remedios states, “A lot of people and candidates in general felt that it wasn’t worth allocating resources and time and effort to campaigning out there when you also have to campaign here simultaneously.” Additionally, he’s seen candidates mention service of Sechelt and Squamish campuses, but sees a lack of candidate understanding of the real issues that students in regional campuses deal with.

Equality between students is the main motivator in this issue. The CSU has also made candidate information pages as well as all of their posters available online. Remedios emphasizes the importance of these, as it’s essentially the only way regional campus students will learn about their options. Clarkson explains, “In that sense, by providing everybody the same opportunity, we’ve tried to minimize any advantage someone might have by taking the ferry over to Sechelt one day.” He sees this new inclusivity as a positive move, and describes it as “just us including students as they ought to be under the bylaw.”

Sechelt and Squamish cannot be ignored. There are already over 1,000 students attending the two campuses combined, and the University is looking to expand both the campuses. To further accommodate voting members, the CSU has considered online voting. This would come at a price though, as online voting would cost approximately an additional $3,000 per election to administer according to Clarkson. However, if inclusivity of all students in political decisions is the end goal, extended polling hours, outreach to regional campuses, and the concept of online voting may be steps in the right direction.

// Evelyn Cranston, Staff Writer
// Photograph by Natahsha Prakash

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