Palpable enthusiasm for election of officers despite student apathy in special general meeting
The constitution has been changed, nominations for positions have closed, and candidates are now gearing up for a week of orderly campaigning. Meanwhile, the student body is preparing to hear the candidates explain why they are more likely
than their opponents to run the most complimentary barbecues in 2015. Whilst several key positions are still contested, many candidates ran unopposed. As a result, more than half of the 2015 committee has already been elected before the first
student vote has been cast.
Fifteen committee members have been elected by default for 2015, with no other candidates interested in contesting the positions. The uncontested elections are:
Vice Presidents - Drea Tran and Bride Walsh
Treasurer - James Coppe
Communications Directors - Bella Pierri and Jack Stoneman
Equality Directors - Katie White and Elly Danks
Activities Directors - James Daff and Adam Conti
Education Directors - Stephanie Morley and Duncan Burry
Queer Officers- Lloyd Miller and James Gray
2nd Year Representative - Angus Michael
3rd Year Representative - Alex Dworjanyn
The remaining ten positions are being contested, and candidates will have until the end of this week to campaign before the elections begin next week. The candidates for these positions are:
President (Leadership position)
Director of Sponsorship (Leadership position)
Secretary (Leadership position)
Competitions Directors (two positions available)
Careers & Development Directors (two positions available)
Women’s Officers (two positions available)
Environmental Officer (one position available)
The candidates running for a contested position must comply with the LSS’s strict rules about campaigning. The rules provide that campaigning is only permitted this week (Week 7), and that during the voting week (Week 8) candidates are not permitted on level two unless they are attending their classes, casting their own votes, or using one of the amenities.
In addition, there is an express prohibition on using Facebook status updates to campaign. In fact campaigning this week can ONLY be done in 5 ways:
1. One A4 poster on the LSS noticeboard
2. One online profile on the LSS website
3. Word of mouth
4. Email to people they know (but not unsolicited emails)
5. Lecture bashing with the lecturer’s permission (maximum one minute per lecture)
Any candidates found breaching the rules could be stripped of up to 30% of their votes, or even disqualified.
In addition to the close of nominations and the default election of some members, last week also saw several amendments to the LSS constitution. At Thursday’s Special General Meeting, six amendments were proposed and all but one passed successfully. The changes included the creation of a new position in the Leadership Team (the Sponsorship Officer) as well as a requirement for the treasurer to perform an audit every 24 months.
Furthermore, co-opt positions (committee members who were not elected) now no longer have the power to vote at committee meetings. This change was said to be necessary to allow directors to better fulfil their tasks. It was also considered a barrier to the LSS affiliating with the University of Melbourne Student Union.
The amendment requiring elected members to remain in Melbourne was voted down by a majority, with only two votes in support of it. Along with concerns with its wording, doubt was also expressed as to whether it was a necessary addition to the constitution given that its aims could be pursued through other means.
However, despite ample notice being given to students, very few were interested in attending the Special General Meeting. In total, there were a mere 37 attendees voting on the constitutional changes, and of them, only fourteen were not members of the current LSS committee.
These numbers suggest that there is a real problem with student engagement with the LSS, especially when combined with the fact that only ten members of next year’s committee will have been voted in. This year the committee was comprised of 53 people, and if the same number of co-opt positions as this year are offered next year, then less than one fifth of the committee will actually have been chosen by students.
What is the cause of this democratic deficiency? It would be easy to point the finger at current or previous LSS committees and suggest that they have caused widespread disillusionment, but that would be like Scott Morrison blaming Labor for the number of asylum seekers: unfair, unconvincing and just plain incorrect. Perhaps De Minimis is to blame. Maybe our rigorous push for accountability has deterred students from the LSS spotlight? (We can only dream).
Unfortunately, the truth may be more banal and close to home than we would like to admit. Constitutional amendments are boring. LSS positions involve effort. Someone else will take care of it. There are an infinite number of clichés that I could now use to encourage you to vote or otherwise get involved with YOUR student society. (“Your vote counts,” “The power is yours,” “It’s only what you make of it”). However I would instead like to appeal to the pessimist that is evidently alive in everyone by saying that if you choose not to vote next week, you forgo your right to complain. So, find the candidates who are campaigning for your votes, ask them questions, tell them what you want to see and what you’re sick of seeing, then vote. Voting takes place at the LSS office on level two at 1-2pm from Monday the 15th to Friday the 19th of September.