Democratic Unrest After Student Council Elections

By Edivaldo McEnroe

— The democratic season at AUC has come to a close with the announcement of the 2019-2020 Student Council (SC) and AUCSA, yet questions regarding student engagement and democratic validity remain. Next year’s SC is left in the unenviable position of having to answer these questions within the frame of a new system.

For this year’s elections the SC decided to officially transition to the VU system — which previous Councils thought they were already applying. The transition has given AUC’s Student Council the legal recognition of a student council and all the benefits that come with it, such as additional funding and an online voting system. However, this move was met with some resistance when a post in the Facebook group “The excellent and diverse people of AUC” became the venting spot for students’ concerns, after it was announced that the candidate with the second most votes— second-year Social Science major, Nada Elbhoni — had not been elected to the council.

The VU system currently favours the predetermined candidate list — which is decided by the previous council through interviews and candidates policy plans — over voting. Candidates need to receive 20 percent of the total vote to be elected regardless of position on the list. Second-year Social Science major Valerie Tiana was the only candidate to meet the quotient.

In response to the controversy, the SC also announced that voter turnout had improved compared to last year, resulting in a 28.89 percent turnout of the total student body. In practice this means that just under six percent of the student body had the ability to dictate the election of a candidate. To some students, a low turnout indicated a lack of interest by the student body. Charlotte Kroese, third-year Social Science major, argued that regardless of voter turnout, student voting should be the determining factor in any elections and not the view of the current council. Third-year Social Science major David Klotsonis disagreed, and wrote, “If anything, it ought to be the people in the SC who are well-acquainted with the reality of it that decide who gets the next spots”.

Others were more critical of the Council’s transparency than the election process itself. In an interview conducted by Arwyn Workman-Youmans, current SC Co-Chair Juanita García Gutiérrez admitted that the SC could have done a better job at explaining why they were implementing the system, though she thinks they had done a good job at explaining how the system would work. Communication Officer Bart Knibbe, who was notably re-elected to the council and also interviewed by Workman-Youmans, felt that the SC had done the best job possible to be transparent about the change by providing information starting from late January. However, he admitted, “If students disagree it’s our responsibility to be more transparent next year”.

Jaël Kortekaas, second-year Science major who was also elected to the council, said that the council is planning on incorporating the feedback received during this year’s election process as far as is possible in the VU framework.

“It is not an optimal election process but it is out of our control to choose it,” García Gutiérrez told Workman-Youmans — now that the VU has been made aware of the fact that AUC was not using their system previously. In a Facebook post the the council also says that “the positives of this new election system to outweigh the negatives” especially in comparison to the old system which likewise did not guarantee the most voted on nominees to be elected to the council. Thus, even with the public displeasure after these elections it seems that the VU system is here to stay.

 

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, not all of the statements made by García Gutiérrez and Knibbe were credited to interviews conducted by Arwyn Workman-Youmans.

 

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