It’s that terrible time of year

Student union elections sweep universities across Canada

Walking through the halls at your university will become immeasurably more difficult in the coming weeks. What was once a five-minute stroll between classes will now be furiously drawn out as you attempt to dodge the hands of literature-waving student union hopefuls and their well-wishing accomplices. What was once a library is now debate headquarters. What was once a student lounge is now an easy target for just “a few minutes of your time.” And what was once your Twitter stream is now a forum of political squabble.  Yes, it’s OK to cry.

Most of the student body ignores these elections, which explains the consistently low voter turnout. But some, perhaps the inherently masochistic, actually pay attention and try play an active role in deciding their student government. Kudos to you, brave souls; may you never tire of Robert’s Rules. For the rest, who can’t bear to sit through an assembly where participants collectively and repeatedly renounce their united privilege, I have a few cheats to help you make an active decision while still maintaining some form of sanity.

Beware the Brash

The promises of “three-day weekends” and “no homework over holidays” don’t end in high school. But in university, these promises sound more like “seven weeks of Frosh,” “total elimination of meanness on campus” and “down with all fees.” It didn’t happen then, and it won’t happen now.

Rah! Rah! Rah!

There are always candidates who believe ostentatious demonstrations and boorish sit-ins, also called “occupations,” are clever and dignified forms of protest. Unless you have a particular affinity for rhyming couplets, avoid.

Don’t be Seduced by Swag

Remember, you pay union dues. So while free waffles during exams might sound deliciously enticing, it often amounts to just bribery with your own money. That said, at least you’re getting some back.

Do a Background Check

Sure, previous experience on a student union is great! Just check to see if previous experience includes being named on a lawsuit or formal sanction from the university for unacceptable behaviour. I’ll let you do the Googling.

Evaluate Online

Beyond how well they manage their Facebook page, consider candidates’ attitudes towards posting official budgets online and making information easily accessible to the entire student body. On another note, I tend to avoid candidates whose online profile pictures include photos of themselves screaming into megaphones–it’s a personal choice.

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