Three undergrad societies failed to elect student senators. Here’s why

Though many constituency elections took place earlier this spring, no new student senators have emerged from arts, forestry or dentistry.

Senator positions are elected for each of these societies according to their bylaws, but the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), the Forestry Undergraduate Society (FUS) and the Dentistry Undergraduate Society (DUS) were unable to fill the roles.

In forestry, this was due to ongoing student apathy. But in arts, there was a confusion over abiding by University Act election timelines after the AMS found it was in violation of the provincial law last year.

Now, students in these faculties will not be voting for their senators, who will be chosen by appointment or interview. Though the DUS and FUS will move ahead with an in-council appointment process for the senator position, the AUS has decided to interview candidates for the vacancy.

The DUS could not be reached for comment.

Lacking engagement

FUS President Kennedy Thompson said that no students have applied to run for the position in forestry in the recent past.

“Forestry students did not actively sign up for elections this year and [also] the past few years making the election process fall to an appointment process for mandatory positions like the senator,” Thompson said in a statement to The Ubyssey.

In arts, concern was raised at an April 2020 AUS meeting about a lack of advertising for the position. Though AUS president Katherine Aquino said that the AUS received seven applications for the interview process, she said the society will work to better advertise for future elections.

“Making sure that we make a point to have specific and supplemental training is going to be a focus in the following months, and also ensuring that … all the promotional materials are shared as widely as possible,” said Aquino.

‘Confusion’ over the rules

Aquino said that confusion over the elections timeline arose due to a miscommunication between members of the AMS and the AUS elections teams.

“In previous years, the AUS executive positions and the senator position [elections] occurred simultaneously, and this year was the first time that [the AMS] enforced the University Act and were wanting to follow the timeline,” said Aquino.

As outlined under the University Act, candidates for UBC Senate must submit their nominations “at least 4 weeks before the date of the election” — but this doesn’t apply to AMS executive elections since the society operates separately from the university.

“That generated some confusion within the AUS team because they needed to have separate timelines for the two elections,” said Aquino.

AMS President Cole Evans said he wanted to avoid a rule violation as in past years.

“We [wanted to] avoid a mishap which happened a year before where the rule was technically being violated with nominations not being open for long enough,” he said.

Keeping the process democratic

Evans said the responsibility of ensuring the process will remain democratic primarily rests on each constituency.

In arts, Aquino mentioned that the resignation of an arts student senator last year helped set a precedent for what to do in this current situation. This year, the AUS has begun a blind review of the seven received applications. Aquino, current arts student senators and the incoming presidents of the Vancouver School of Economics Undergraduate Society and AUS have been conducting panel interviews of the applicants.

For the incoming executive team, she hopes to develop more awareness and “comprehensive orientation practices” so future executives are aware of timeline regulations for elections.

“Because we’re in a transitional period with the old execs … and the new executives, we’re really able to make sure that the people who are now just coming in are aware of what had happened and that there is work to … prevent this from happening again,” said Aquino.