KSA by-election asks student to choose between identities

CRO says allowing some students to vote for more than one constituency would be unfair.

By Matt DiMera
[news editor]

Students who self-identify with more than one constituency group may once again be forced to choose between their identities in the Kwantlen Student Association’s (KSA) upcoming by-election.

Before last spring’s general election, students were able to vote for as many constituency representatives (previously called liaisons), with which they self-identified. However, the KSA’s chief returning officer, Corey Van’t Haaff interpreted the rules differently than her predecessors.

“You can only vote for one constituency,” explained Van’t Haaff in a phone interview with The Runner on Oct. 12. “You only get one vote to influence the number of people on council.”

The KSA has positions representing seven groups who have historically faced unique challenges to their participation in post-secondary education: queer students, students of colour, students with disabilities, international students, mature students, aboriginal students and women. Any Kwantlen student who self-identifies with a given group may vote for, and run for, the constituency representative position representing that group.

In the upcoming by-election only the students with disabilities and students of colour representatives are up for election.

“It is arguable,” said Van’t Haaff. “But I’m going along the lines of one vote for the constituency, one vote for the campus and one vote with the faculty; all with the one you most identify with.”

Van’t Haaff argued that allowing some students to vote for more than one constituency representative would give them an unfair influence on the makeup of council.

“My position is one person, one vote,” she said. “You would be giving the person who identifies with four, four opportunities to put somebody on council.”

The Capilano Student’s Union has six similar positions on their board, however they allow all students to vote for all constituencies, even those who don’t self-identify with the constituencies.

According to Van’t Haaff, the issue is out of her hands, but was brought up with the KSA council in her April 30 report, on the spring 2012 general election.

“If council’s intent is to have people only cast one vote, or if council’s intent is to have people cast more than one, then council is free to clarify that particular rule,” she stated.

Melinda Bige, the KSA’s aboriginal constituency representative disagreed with the current policy.

“It gives the implication that one category matters more than the other,” she said. “I don’t identify as an aboriginal person separately than I identify as a woman. It’s something that I’ve advocated for, to change it.”

Christopher Girodat, the KSA’s executive chairperson, agreed that the issue needs to be addressed.

“This is [something] we identified as an issue shortly after the release of the official results of the general election, unfortunately a package of amendments is not yet complete and won’t be in force in time for the by-elections,” said Girodat. “It is on our radar, it’s definitely something the governance committee’s identified as something that needs to be changed. Unfortunately we can’t change the rules mid-election.”

Girodat said that council didn’t have adequate time in the five months since the last election to make changes, but that they would be made in time for the next election.

“The election rules are about 27 pages long, so there’s a lot they’re looking into.”

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