Uncontested elections & student engagement go hand in hand

Three chairs enclosed in bubbles

Uncontested elections are bad for democracy, which is why we must address their prevalence here at Queen’s sooner rather than later.

Only one team is currently running for AMS Executive this year, marking the fourth straight year this election has been uncontested. Meanwhile, there are currently no potential candidates for Undergraduate Trustee.

Uncontested elections are dangerous. Contested elections bring out the best in candidates, fostering healthy competition and giving students a real choice in who they throw their support behind. When students are left with only one choice of candidate, it limits their options; it’s not a matter of who you will vote for, but whether or not you have faith in the abilities of the team running.

This is the fourth year in a row Queen’s has seen the AMS Executive election go uncontested. Student engagement itself is at an all-time low. The fact that these issues have yet to be properly addressed points to a failure within the AMS.

The AMS is important not just for prospective candidates looking for political experience but for the student body as a whole. In past years, AMS Executives have accomplished numerous things: divesting from fossil fuels, advocating for menstrual product dispensers on campus, and bringing sustainable products to CoGro, to name just a few.

It’s important students see the AMS not as a meaningless student government, but as leaders who have a real voice at Queen’s.

To do this, the AMS must focus more on educating people about what it does and why it’s important. Making people care about their student leaders is needed to drive student engagement. The AMS should also be clearer about who is eligible to run and why they should.

The lack of prospective candidates also speaks to the culture behind the AMS.

Queen’s student government can often be a cliquey space that can be intimidating to penetrate. Additionally, the AMS and its services, including The Journal, have historically been primarily white spaces and aren’t necessarily safe for all.

Uncontested elections aren’t just a Queen’s issue, but an equity issue. Until student leaders work to make the governmental space more inclusive, people won’t feel safe enough to run for office.

This is an unprecedented time. Disruptions caused by the pandemic might explain the lack of candidates this year, but they don't address the three uncontested elections before it. If we want to prevent a fifth, the AMS needs to step up to the plate and tackle student engagement.

—Journal Editorial Board

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