Dawson Democracy on Display:
The results from the Dawson Student Council election are in!
By: Arwen Lawless Low
Photo Via DSU Instagram @my_dsu
In It 4 U, the current student government, has managed to follow through on their campaign promise. The party had assured Dawson students that the Student Council would be up and running by the end of their 2020-2021 mandate. As of March 6th, this is the case.
The functioning of the Student Council goes as follows: seventeen students sit on an advisory board to the DSU, ten seats belong to Dawson programs and five to demographics (Indigenous, queer, racialized, francophone and disabled students). Meetings are held by the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, and councillors are invited to offer their own opinions on the DSU’s upcoming projects. As put by the DSU’s website: “While [student councillors] can’t make unilateral decisions, they make recommendations that will then be passed along to the Executive Committee.”
Evidently, the campaign process this year was out of the ordinary. Conducted entirely online, students hoping to serve on the council had to solicit at least fifteen nominations from peers in their program in order to be eligible. For candidates in the Social Sciences, which holds 4 seats, this is where the process started and ended. The number of applicants evenly matched the number of available positions. According to Yves-Jusslin Maniratanga, a first-year student in Commerce and one of the newly-elected councillors, the nomination/campaign process was nonetheless difficult. “Conveying ideas to students was not as easy [as it would be in person] because connecting with people through an online platform is challenging” she says. For Yimaj Baharun, a first-year Social Science councillor, the online campaign process was “somewhat convenient, as it saves you from needing to put up posters and having to go all over [Dawson] to get to people.”
In the month since its re-assembly, the student council has had one*** meeting. According to Maniratanga, meetings have generally been focused on discussing the DSU’s plans, the Student Council’s role and appointing student representatives on other committees. Baharun revealed that meetings so far have been smooth and neither “lofty” nor “intimidating”. When asked about what is was like to collaborate with the Student Council, Arwyn Regimbal, the councillor for queer students, said that while they had had a few disagreements with their fellow councillors about how to go about inciting change, “the intention behind challenging other students is never to diminish their experiences, but rather to help them find effective and proactive solutions that work for their concerns.”
One element that united all councillors interviewed was their drive to serve their constituents. Jerome Jerome-Pitre, the councillor for Indigenous students, is hoping to “establish a safe place for Indigenous students at Dawson to feel included, invested, welcomed, and appreciated,” and hopefully create Dawson’s first-ever Indigenous club. Amongst other things, Regimbal is hoping to prioritize overhauling of the DSU’s Safer Spaces Policy to “better protect queer students, as they tend to be common targets of unacceptable conduct in the Union’s spaces.” Andreanne Dussault, a 3D Animation student and a councillor for technical programs, hopes to find ways to “encourage students in technical programs to invest themselves in the work the DSU does.” Maniratanga wrote about advocating for increased support to students during the pandemic and “leveling the playfield” for students who might not have the same access to the tools and environment needed for online learning.” Baharun stated that he didn’t take his position lightly. “I must admit that the issues we have discussed make me really understand that I'm finally not that young anymore” he explains, “I'm finally in a position where I have a say on substantial matters.”
The importance of the Student Council for these councillors is clear. Dussault expressed that for a few years, the DSU has been shrouded in obscurity, leaving room for mismanagement. As a part of their Accountability initiative, which includes digitalizing all DSU documents and changing the by-laws for increased transparency, this year’s executive team re-established the Student Council. “I think just the fact that the executive committee made sure to have a proper council this semester is setting the DSU on a good path,” said Dussault
Covid delays mean that this year’s Student Council term is particularly short. Indeed, just one month after the Student Council elections have finished, the 2021-2022 general elections are already underway. For Rihem Bouaoud, Dawson’s Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, this is something to look forward to. “The Student Council election was very successful, and we are so excited for the next election we have!” he says. ” If you want to throw your hat in the ring for the upcoming general election, you can find all the steps to submit your candidacy now on the @Dawson_Elections Instagram page.