Saint Mary’s University is known for its small, tight-knit community in the heart of South End Halifax. International students make up 30% of our school’s population; we are known for our international pride. Campus events like International Night and Bangladeshi Night (which take place in mid-February), are prime examples of Saint Mary’s rich, diverse culture. International and domestic students come together as one to celebrate their culture, representing over 80 countries that make up the SMU community. Events like these have a great turn out.
However, a few weeks later, when the polling stations open for SMUSA president and Board of Directors, student involvement is lower than expected. According to the SMUSA website, there are approximately 7121 full and part time students that attend SMU. Of those students, only 1660 people voted last year. Less than 25% of students contributed to such an important decision. Why is engagement so low?
Is it because students are unfamiliar with the candidates’ platforms and prefer to remain neutral through the election process? Or is it because they don’t realize how relevant voting is?
Many students pass the voting booths located throughout campus thinking their vote wont make a difference. If all students believed this, no one would bother to take the time to vote! When you step up to a voting booth on February 28th or March 1st, you are not only voting for the SMUSA President and Board members. You are also voting for various referendums, such as making a decision in regards to supporting mental health services, student led societies, and our own school paper, The Journal. SMUSA is organized to give the student body a voice, which is an opinion that holds weight in numbers. For example, February 2016’s referendum included a motion in support of “amending the constitution to include only gender-neutral language”, which needed two thirds to pass. The result was 65.7 : 34.3, just missing the mark by a very small margin. If a few more people had voted in support of the amendment, the motion to include only gender-neutral terms would have passed. Therefore, the impact of just a few votes can be vital. Other past referendum’s can be found publicly on the SMUSA website.
The bottom line is that voting gives us the opportunity to stand behind our values, express our opinion and create the environment we want to live in. It takes five minutes to stop and vote, and if you don’t have the time in between classes, you can vote online at www.smusa.ca between February 28th and March 1st. Every vote counts, so during this election period we should all come together, get involved and contribute our opinions on important matters. Happy voting students!
Emily Trottier and Kyle Christopher, Contributors