Student representatives on the University Senate are feeling neglected by the election process. At Friday’s meeting, Adam Fearnall, a senator-at-large, raised the issue of reimbursement for senatorial candidates. As it stands now, candidates who run for Senate do not get reimbursed for their campaign expenses—which is the case for students who run for positions on the University Students’ Council.
“Candidates [for Senate] have a tendency to run campaigns that do not have many expenses because of the lack of financial support,” Fearnall said. “The financial constraints prevent candidates from doing things that facilitate voter awareness.”
Fearnall added the current Senators want to see the inequality change.
“While it is possible to argue that the lack of budget encourages creativity, it often merely results in apathy.” Fearnall continued. “A balance needs to be struck between providing candidates enough money to run a reasonable campaign and the necessity of controlling budgets for the interest of promoting creativity and outreach.”
“I do hope we can [change it]. Ideally it will come from the university. They should step up to enable students to become engaged, regardless of their economic background,” Brent Duncan, senator for social science and the faculty of information and media studies, opined. “I suppose this would be a discussion we have to have within committees and in Senate closer to budget time.”
Irene Birrell, secretary of the Senate, said while the issue could be raised at Senate, if students want to change the system, doing so would present some problems.
“I think one of the things that would have to be considered is whether or not this would be exclusive to student candidates. There are 102 members of Senate,” Birrell explained. “So would this be something that would be limited to students? I don’t know. If we paid for students to run would we also have to pay for other constituencies to run? So the cost of such reimbursements would vary based on that decision.”
However, Fearnall said he was eager to see a change.
“The lack of a budget has the ability to prevent a student from running for Senate. We don’t hear about the candidates who decide not to run because financial accessibility is not something that people are very willing to talk about,” Fearnall said. “We should level the playing field to prevent this from being an issue.”