Atoning for my Errors

The state of AUSU council is my fault.

Full confession: I’m one of the few students who voted in the 2014 general election. In that election, only around 170 out of approximately 25,000 eligible students cast ballots, so each vote carried a heavy weight of responsibility. Many of the candidates I voted for won seats on council.

I have repented of a few of my votes. While I would vote for some councillors again if they chose to run in an election, there are some I would not. Having kept a close eye on council since the 2014 election?I’ve attended most council meetings and followed the issues closely and actively?I’ve witnessed the disintegration of the current council firsthand. I’ve seen bad apples, good apples, and what happens when poor selection allows the two to mix.

In this by-election, AU students have the opportunity to contribute to the rebuilding of AUSU council. With this opportunity comes responsibility. It’s not a matter of bringing the number of councillors back up to a workable quantity, although with only three of the original nine councillors still holding seats, that’s certainly part of it.

Quality is what counts here. While successful candidates in the 2014 general election took their places at the helm of a smoothly-functioning organization, successful candidates in this by-election are faced with a heavier task. Which candidates can roll up their sleeves, pitch in to clean up the lingering mess, and rebuild an AUSU that can return to doing what it’s supposed to do: serve the students?

More importantly, which assembly of candidates can work well together as well as with the three current councillors? Which configuration of candidates brings the best pool of knowledge, skills, and temperament?

Before I cast my ballot in this by-election, I’m going to find out as much as I can about each candidate. I thought I had done a thorough job last election, but my screening process let some rotten choices slip through. This time, I’m paying closer attention and digging deeper in order to vote for the best possible group of candidates.

Selecting candidates for council is a little like hiring someone for a job. There may not be a perfect candidate but a thorough selection process increases the chances of a good fit. Is it possible to be thorough with an online campaign? I don’t think so. You learn a lot more about someone when you can see and hear them in action. The lack of face-to-face campaigning, however, makes what is available online even more valuable.

Campaigning for this by-election mainly takes place on the AUSU forums. In the 2015 By-Election forum, most?but not all?candidates have been answering students’ questions and making campaign statements. There is additional information on each candidate on the AUSU Election page.

To go beyond a candidate’s “campaign face” requires a bit of digging. I’ve been reading through LinkedIn profiles, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts, just like a prospector employer would. I’ve checked out the AUSU council meeting minutes to see which candidates have attended council meetings. And I’ve done web searches of candidates’ names just to see what else pops up (making sure that any search results pertain to the candidate and not someone else with a similar name.)

If you’re an AU undergraduate student, you can help me atone for my past voting errors. Before you click on the link to your online ballot, find out as much as you can about each candidate. With your vote and my vote and the best six candidates, we can put AUSU, its council, and its members, back on the path to success.

Voting in the AUSU By-election began today, August 21, and continues until August 24. Links to online ballots were e-mailed to members when the polls opened. Election information is available on the AUSU website or from the Chief Returning Officer at

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.