By-elections to be held next month

File photo. (djking / Flickr)

By-elections to fill vacant or appointed positions on the Brandon University Students’ Union (BUSU) will be held next month.  This decision was made after a heated discussion following an email sent out on August 27th by BUSU President, Stephanie Bachewich, which informed council that they would not be having by-elections, so appointed council members would remain in their positions with no elections until April 30th, 2014.

Bachewich’s decision sparked heated debate among council members. Manuel Godoy, Racialised Commissioner, stated that it was “not up to the Executive to make the decision not to have a by-election” but that it was in council’s purview.  Matthew May, BUSU Vice-President Internal said that students should be elected by their constituency, and that for council to make a decision about who they think is best to present students is “unilateral”.  He said he believed it was “deplorable” to cancel the by-elections and hope that students just didn’t notice.  However, some commissioners spoke against by-elections.  Megan Johnston, BUSU’s Health Studies Commissioner, said she believed that having a by-election would be “a waste of BUSU money”, because she doesn’t believe that students will run or that they care enough to vote.

Bachewich explained that she had sent the email after an unnamed appointed student had asked for the specific bylaw stating that they had to run for their position after appointment in a by-election. After reading through BUSU’s bylaws with a University staff member, Bachewich says she believed that there was no requirement to have by-elections for BUSU commissioners, student Senate representatives, Quill Board Members, SUDS Board Members, and Knowles-Douglas Building (KDC) Board Members.

BUSU Bylaw 1020, Nomination Vacancies section, says that, “if the position is for Community or Faculty Representative, it shall be vacant until the process described in Bylaw 3350 can be followed”.  Bachewich says she interpreted ‘Community Representative’ to mean Senate or Quill, SUDS, or KDC Board representatives, whereas other councillors believe this only refers to commissioners who aren’t faculty representatives (for example Women’s Commissioner, International Commissioner, Part Time/Mature Students Commissioner, etc.)

The Quill, SUDS, KDC, and the Brandon University Senate are autonomous from BUSU, so the question remains whether BUSU’s bylaws should preclude these organizations from having by-elections if they so choose. None of these organizations were consulted before the decision was made to not have by-elections.

A motion to have a by-election was moved by Mike Urichuk, Education Commissioner, and seconded by Cameron Flamand, Residence Commissioner.  The by-election will take place during the already-scheduled nomination period.

Following last March’s contentious elections, it is obvious that BUSU needs to completely revamp their by-laws and policies.  As part of the Work Study Program, a joint venture between Brandon University and BUSU, BUSU was given Work Study funding to hire a student to rewrite their bylaws and policies so BUSU could recommend changes at their next AGM.  When asked about the status of this project, Bachewich explained that a formal report had not been done, but that the student researched what other student unions had and made recommendations about bylaw and policy models for the future.  When asked whether there would be a General Meeting for students to make changes to specifically the election by-laws before the upcoming by-election, Bachewich said that council has not discussed it.  According to BUSU’s by-laws, AGMs must be scheduled with at least three weeks notice given to students.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 104, Issue 2, September 10, 2013.