It took almost seven hours of ballot counting, but the new Brandon University Students’ Union (BUSU) executive and council was revealed early Wednesday morning, including a new president.
Stephanie Bachewich defeated incumbent Carissa Taylor by thirty votes, with 52.2% of the popular vote.
“I’m really excited,” says Bachewich, “I’m so thankful for everyone that helped me with my campaign, and all the support.” One of her main goals is to improve student engagement with BUSU. “I really feel we need to get out there and make the first relationship with students, so they can come to us when they have problems or if they want us to do something.” To this end, Bachewich plans to hold a monthly session called “BUSU Listens” in SUDS to allow students the opportunity to meet their representatives and voice concerns.
The race for Vice President External was even closer, with Jenna Clinton edging out Julea Stoneman-Sinclair by a mere thirteen votes. Her plans for the year include the promotion of mental health on campus. “My big thing is mental health,” says Clinton, nothing that people “wanted to know how I was going to incorporate that, and how I was going to make people actually care about it.”
During the extended campaign period, Clinton had the opportunity to attend the “Unleash the Noise” conference in Toronto, along with 212 other students from all across Canada. She says there were many good discussions held, and she brought home several different ideas on how to incorporate mental health awareness on campus.
Matt May was elected Vice President Internal, and notes the concerns he has heard from students vary from faculty to faculty. “An example would be in the science faculty, [and] the recruitment and retention of suitable teachers for courses. Some teachers are leaving and not being replaced adequately. That’s one thing that we can try and lobby the school to make sure the courses are available.”
The election stood out from previous years, with a shroud of negativity encompassing the extended campaigning period, almost before it even began. Throughout the election there were numerous complaints filed with the Elections and Referenda Discipline, Interpretation and Enforcement (ERDIE) Board. These included grievances regarding the extended campaigning period (from 12 to 21 days) and the composition of slates, among others.
“I know students have been [saying] the election was very negative,” says Bachewich. “However, at the end of the day I felt like both campaigns really put forward an honest campaign. I also feel the decisions made by ERDIE as well as Derek [Booth, the Returning Officer], were decisions that followed the bylaws, and I felt they tried to make the election as fair as they possibly could.”
Although there were candidates elected from a number of different slates, all of the new executive members believe they can work through any differences that may arise.
“Something that I’ve been doing for years is [that] I usually can turn anything into a positive,” says Clinton. “I don’t want people to get the vibe that there is still tension, and I want people to understand that we’re working together – despite the results, we’re trying to work together and make the organization still have integrity.”
She adds many of those elected already have common goals. “A lot of the commissioners that were elected were actually on the former executive-commissioner slate that I was on, so we do have similar goals, and I think a lot of things can be worked out – I’m trying to be positive.”
May hopes the council can find a collective voice, and work together. “I’m hoping that we can diminish [any] differences as quickly as possible.”
Bachewich notes team building will be a priority. “I find that the first thing that I need to do when I go into office is to ensure we have a strong, cohesive team. When I go in, I feel the council orientation is going to be important, [as well as] our planning and priorities for the year.”
“I think at the end of the day, we’re all elected for students. I think we’ll be able to come together and do positive things next year.”
While the ballots have been counted, the results remain unofficial. There have been numerous complaints filed with the ERDIE Board in the aftermath of the election, regarding alleged voting irregularities and procedures. Until all complaints have been resolved, the BUSU Council cannot ratify the results to make them official. As of press time, there was still no indication as to when this would occur.
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 26, March 26, 2013.