LSU election results: new council, same low voter turnout

Murky eligibility process puts forth unopposed candidates in lucrative roles

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By ERIN CONNERS 

Business management student Jashan Sangwan was elected as president of the Langara Students’ Union board of directors, decisively defeating Harnoor Chopra 248 to 145 in last week’s vote. 

The 12 elected members, whose job is to represent the student body and decide how to spend the student fees collected by the LSU, will begin serving their one-year term on Jan. 1. Five of the 12 will be returning board members, but each of them will be in a different position than they are currently serving.  

“I’m eager to introduce innovative ideas to enrich our campus experience,” Sangwan, an outgoing general representative, said in his platform statement shared on the LSU website. 

The bigger the pay, the smaller the choice

For the first time in several years, there were multiple candidates running for most positions on the board. Past ballots obtained by the Voice from 2018 through 2022 had only one candidate in most roles.  

However, voters were still given only one option for the two most lucrative roles according to the LSU’s 2023 financial statement.  

The vice-president of internal affairs and vice-president of finance and administration received the highest stipends from May 2022 to April 2023, totalling $21,384 and $20,804, respectively. All other positions were paid stipends less than half of that amount.  

Ramandeep, who listed her area of specialty as “financial management” in her candidate profile, was elected unopposed to the position of VP finance and administration. Anurit Sangha, a health sciences student and the outgoing international students’ representative, was elected as VP internal affairs. 

Ramandeep was absent from the all-candidates meeting on Oct. 12, where election hopefuls presented their campaign platform. An LSU staff member said that the candidate had a schedule conflict.  

The Voice is aware of at least three students leading up to the election who said that their applications to run for VP finance were ignored. They said they were only told they were eligible to run for a different role — and were not given any reason when they asked about VP finance. In addition, because they were not directly told they were ineligible for the role, they were unable to appeal.  

One of these hopefuls, Keshav Puri, first-year business management student, said seeing only one candidate running for the role furthered his confusion about the election process.  

“I felt very miserable,” Puri said. “I don’t understand why they chose one person, why they didn’t allow more of us to run in VP finance.” 

Puri instead ran, unsuccessfully, for VP of external affairs which he said he did not think he was qualified for.

According to LSU policies, eligibility decisions are made by either the chief returning officer, also known as the CRO, or an electoral committee comprised of at least two staff members and one elected student director.  

CRO Jeannie Bates, whose LinkedIn profile says she also works at Elections Canada, did not answer questions about the elections eligibility complaints and directed the Voice to the LSU spokespeople instead. 

The LSU did not respond to questions from the Voice about the total number of students who applied and were not deemed eligible for VP finance or VP internal. 

Long history of low voter turnout continues

This year’s election saw a maximum of 411 ballots cast for a single position. This represents less than three per cent of the number of students enrolled this semester, according to data from Langara’s institutional research department.  

Low voter turnout in LSU elections is nothing new. As far back as 2011, just two per cent of eligible voters participated. The elections committee at the time told the Voice it was considering implementing online voting to help increase the turnout. Twelve years later, online voting is still not an option at elections and the LSU building’s lower lounge was the sole polling location.  

Benjamin Ingoldsby, first-year arts and science student, said that a lack of engagement on campus leaves many Langara students unaware of the impact a student union can have. 

“I think there is a lot of apathy about what the LSU does and about the election process as a whole,” Ingoldsby said. “It would be great if there was more debate and we had a wider imagination of what the student union could do.” 

Ingoldsby said more candidates with different views would “give people an actual reason to come out and be more involved.” 

Aside from a handful of candidates’ campaign signs in the week prior to voting, the Voice saw no signs in the LSU building or elsewhere on campus informing students of the election.  

The voting area in the lower lounge was set up next to the staircase leading to the LSU offices. From the upper lounge building entry, the polling station was not visible and there was nothing to indicate that voting was taking place.  

The Voice is unable to film or take photos inside of the building due to the LSU’s building policy. 

Media access given, then revoked

On Oct. 11, the LSU media committee approved the Voice’s request for permission to film inside the building during the voting period. However, they reversed this decision in an email sent 24 hours later.

“Following a thorough review, the election committee decided that no filming of any sort will be permitted within the Langara Students’ Union building during the polling period,” the LSU media committee said. 

While media is not normally allowed inside of the polling station, elections administrators such as Elections Canada often allow media in the building while keeping a distance.

There is a long history of the LSU blocking student journalists’ attempts to report on it. A 2017 piece from the Langara Journalism Review covered some of the challenges Voice reporters have faced when covering the LSU over the years.  

Stewart Prest, Langara political science instructor, said that it is in the best interest of all voters when there is an open relationship between the media and elected bodies.  

“It is crucial for governments to be open to, accountable to, in communication with the population that they are governing on behalf of,” Prest said. “Having that transparency can help to assure everyone that what is happening is happening in appropriate way.” 

— With files from Siddharth Teotia and Thea Catipon

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