By: Jessica Gearey
Photo Via DSU
Dawson’s Student Union elections are a little different this year. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the DSU has had to rethink how they run their elections while trying to get students involved virtually.
Nominees have set up multiple profiles through social media in order to communicate their goals for the year. The DSU has an Instagram account for election information (@dawson_elections), as do the organized campaigns (@dsv4thepeople and @init4u.2020). Also using platforms like Reddit and Facebook, nominees expressed their interests, goals, and how they plan on conducting their positions. Yanni Dinu Mahapatuna, this year’s Chief Electoral Officer and second year Liberal Arts student, hoped the use of these methods would encourage students to share information on their social media, creating a chain.
The new challenges pile up with the old. “Last year the voting numbers were really low,” Mahapatuna says, acknowledging that students haven’t been engaging with the elections; the Dawson population is approximately 10,000 students, but under 500 students actually voted in the 2019 DSU elections. This year’s elections are looking to have an even lower turnout.
Mahapatuna also faced nomination difficulties. Candidates nominated themselves, successfully completed the nomination procedure, but didn’t know what their role was. Mahapatuna would receive emails in the middle of night from candidates wondering what exactly their position entailed. Consequently, these candidates were disqualified. “I was really hoping we wouldn’t have to do that,” she says. Nevertheless, this year’s candidates bring a lot of creativity and intensity.
Another challenge presented itself when nominees considered how to effectively get their campaigns across. “They’re very concerned on how they’re going to bring support,” Mahapatuna says, “usually they hand out buttons in the lower atrium or they buy people popcorn, just little things.” She adds that even with the debate, they fear that being unable to physically pull support from students will affect their campaign.
This year’s debate was through Zoom. Each nominee was given a chance to introduce themselves, answer an impromptu question, and respond to audience questions. A lot of ideas proposed by candidates aim to create a sense of community and sustainability within the college’s student body. For example, Abril Mezza Naranjo is nominated for Director of Communication and Mobilization. She and her team plan on working with the college, its clubs and its establishments virtually, but she also emphasizes that she doesn’t want everything to be about social media. She wants to investigate how in-person activities could be possible.
Progressive and environmental changes were brought up, and audience members pressured some candidates to commit to making sure that the college will be safe, sustainable and reliable on those fronts. Linden Mackenzie is nominated for Director of Sustainability along with Sarah Bensemana and Cordelia Jamieson. Mackenzie, who is a strong environmental advocate, wants to make sure that students are educated on how to be eco-friendly. She proposes adding “Green Talks”, which would take place virtually and start a conversation on how to create sustainable change.
As for progressive action, candidate for Director of Internal Affairs, Leana Ramirez, plans to make campus life more supportive for students. She explains that communication is key when it comes to the relationship with the administration, and she wants to expand sexual violence advocacy within The Hive and establish a student run center for BIPOC students.
Director of Clubs and Services candidate Amélie Chornet wants to repair the “damaged relationship” between the clubs and the DSU. She emphasizes that she wants to create an environment of mindfulness, and reassure clubs and their executives that the DSU is a reliable and safe space.
Virtual learning has been challenging for the election process, and will challenge the resulting student government. However, the DSU has a dedicated set of candidates who are determined to create a system of support for students during this difficult time. “You have to slowly conform to these unique situations,” Mahapatuna says, “it’s changing all the time and you need to be on your toes.”