Student Politics and Running an Election Campaign

One Student Speaks Up About Running for Governing Council

By Jaime Pritchard, Associate Editor

The upcoming University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU) and Governing Council elections mark a new year of student leadership at UofT. The Governing Council elections close on February 17, and winners will be announced shortly thereafter. The governing council is the body which oversees academic, business, as well as student affairs at the university. This election cycle also sees new positions open on the UTM and UTSC Campus Councils, the Council of Presidents, as well as numerous other student- and faculty-operated systems of leadership. The Governing Council itself seeks 8 students, including 4 full-time undergraduates, 2 part-time undergraduates, and 2 graduate students. Those elected will sit for a one-year term, beginning on July 1, 2023. Nominations for these student positions were open until January 19 this year, and one of those nominees spoke with the Trinity Times about the election process.

Jordan Picheniuk is a second-year Economics and History student who was nominated by his peers to sit on the governing council for the 2023-2024 term. If elected, he hopes to “participate in the student life and the campus life committee” and “ensure that university resources are being best used to the benefit of the students.” Coming out of the pandemic, he wants to help rebuild the lost student connections. Although no candidate can make certain promises about what difference they will be able to make in these leadership positions, Picheniuk said that “what [he] can promise is that [he] will go into every single one of those meetings with students at the forefront.”

Governing Council Chamber, Simcoe Hall
Photo Source: University of Toronto

When it comes to organizations like UofT’s Governing Council, there are positions open for students, as well as for other leaders and members of the UofT community. Max Stoneman and Peter Tam, in a piece written for The Michigan Daily, argue that  “student governments have the power to promote genuine change for students on campus.” They enable students to advocate for their own needs and those of their peers in giving them a real allocation of power. For UofT’s governing council, elected students work directly with teaching staff, members of the Academic Board as well as the UTM and UTSC Campus Council – and their bodies – to shape the student experience. Since these bodies are democratically elected by peers, Tam and Stoneman assert that there is a power given to the student body on who represents them and which ideas make their way to the discussion table. These elections, then, are bigger than the candidates or the school. In Picheniuk’s words, “it’s an important process … that speaks to our democratic traditions, which require constant vigilance to maintain amid unrest in Canada and around the world.” 

When asked what he would tell his peers who may consider running for a seat on one of these councils or get involved in student leadership in the future, Picheniuk without hesitation asserted that they should “go for it. It’s nothing but rewarding.” In his experiences so far, the staff and campaign organizers see student candidates as “valuable parts of the process”, and in Picheniuk’s mind, “there is no better way to start than to just start.” Governing Council positions are elected annually, and new positions will be open for the 2024-2025 for nomination next year. Pichenuik’s interview outlines this process; those nominees are then confirmed, which enables them to campaign and share their platforms with their peers until elections close. The election guidelines are outlined in a document prepared by the Governing Council, linked within the call for nominations, and those hopeful candidates can seek guidance within.

Picheniuk is only one of many students who are campaigning for a seat on the Governing Council this year—there are many qualified students with diverse platforms. If you have yet to vote and want to have a say in who represents you before the ballots close, be sure to make your voice heard before February 17th. If you are considering campaigning for a student position and want to follow a current candidate’s advice, “go for it.”

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