A breakdown of which councillors voted for which SPO candidates has been made public for the first time.
The University Students' Council voted in January to publicize the student programs officer election ballots. The SPO is one of five full-time USC executives, and the position oversees the organization's student programming, including Orientation Week and the clubs system. On March 11, outgoing and incoming USC councillors elected a new SPO from six candidates, Carina Gabriele.
Formerly, these votes were a secret ballot, but council voted to publicize the election at a January council meeting in a 31 to 10 vote with two abstentions. Now the votes are accessible to the public by request within 10 days after the winner has been named. A councillor-by-councillor vote breakdown has been available since yesterday.
The motion was proposed by outgoing USC vice-president Landon Tulk. He argued that councillors have a duty to transparency in their vote as student representatives. The motion's most vocal opponent was outgoing music president Kyle Tang, who said that smaller faculties would be more vulnerable to inter-council tension caused by an unpopular vote.
Both the outgoing president and vice-presidents, Tobi Solebo and Tulk, voted for the motion. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities president, Massimo Peruzza, joined Tang in voting against the motion. Incoming president Mitchell Pratt abstained and incoming vice-president Danny Chang was not on council at the time.
Tulk said the policy is successful so far.
"I think the policy is doing exactly what I intended it to do. Accountability measures like these need to be taken across this entire organization," he said.
Most criticism of the policy argued that the SPO may view who voted for them and then treat them favourably — or, that other councillors who favoured a certain candidate might take issue with a peer voting for their opponent. Tulk said this is not likely.
"You can't be in this position if you're petty or hold grudges against a faculty because they didn't vote for you," he said.
Tulk believes the motion was principled; it did not change anything drastically but rather showed students they can have a better view of their representatives' governance.
Tang said while transparency is an important principle, he disagrees with Tulk. He said the assumption that councillors will not take the vote data personally is an idealistic notion. He added that the interest in transparency in SPO elections is new, and he believes no one had made it an issue before.
Tang said the public ballots disproportionately harm the USC's smaller constituencies because they rely on the SPO for funding and other assistance more than wealthier faculties like Social Science; for instance, if the SPO ignores Social Science, they can largely fund themselves, whereas Music, Arts and Humanities and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies could not.
Gabriele said the publicized vote will not affect her inter-faculty council relationships.
"Out of courtesy for my fellow candidates, it's just something that is entirely up to council and is in their jurisdiction," she said. "It's important to listen to all faculty's concerns."
Tang said he is not worried about next year, as each small faculty president voted for incoming SPO Gabriele, who is also a former Faculty of Arts and Humanities president. But he said he is less optimistic about the future.
Incoming president Mitchell Pratt said council should continue the debate on the public ballots.
"This should be something for discussion on council floor in the future," he said. "While transparency is important, we also need to account for other factors and dynamics surrounding the process. I look forward to having productive debate surrounding this topic in council meetings to come."