Me? COFA SA El Presidente?

Topic: Inside Student Orgs 14 years, 8 months ago

As some of you may have heard already (especially those of you who attempted to vote), the elections for the COFA Students’ Association’s 2006 President have been called off. Yesterday, on the third day of the election, the other candidate decided to withdraw from the contest, although I don’t know why as yet — I haven’t had a chance to speak to her since I found out about this development.

This means I’m going to be President next year! W00t! :D Thanks to everyone who voted for me!

However, I’m also disappointed at result in some ways. You might be wondering why. I won an election without having to do a lot of campaigning and without all the stress of having to wait for a result. Why on Earth would I be anything other than ecstatic at the result? Let me explain…

A History of Apathy

For those of you not familiar with student politics at COFA, let me give you a quick run-down: COFA students are notoriously apathetic about student politics, student representation, campus life and maybe even just in general. COFA students don’t get involved in running their student organisation, nor do they like to be involved in protests or campaigns about things that directly affect them, let alone politics, the environment, social ills or any of the other issues facing the world at large.

Last year COFA undertook something called the ‘coursework review’, where all the courses were restructured, with units of credit changing from four to six per course, to fall into line with UNSW standard. Students ended up doing on average four subjects per semester instead of six, with severely reduced contact hours, all while paying higher fees than ever! Despite the best efforts of COFA SA, students generally made very little noise about the issue, with few attending protests or getting involved in the campaign — most just didn’t care.

For as long as I have been involved with COFA SA (one and a half years now), we have only had one single election, despite the fact this is now the second annual full Committee change since I was first on one. The one election we did have was a by-election for a vacant Committee position that we had this year. We had two candidates and if I recall correctly, we ended up receiving a grand total of five votes!

Why Elections are Good

In the present situation, with very few students having an interest in running COFA SA, even though they pay to be members, use the SA’s services and primarily rely on them to represent students’ interests to COFA and UNSW administration, most positions on the Committee (since at least 2003) are filled by a single candidate who nominates and is then elected unopposed. For 2006 Committee positions, this has been the case for all positions other than President and the Sexuality Officers, the latter remaining vacant because there were no nominations.

So while having an election for the position I was running for was daunting and stressful for me personally, it would’ve been great to have a chance to see democracy really at work at COFA for once, with a contested election — especially with the issue of VSU in the air and our critics arguing that student organisations are undemocratic. Too bad neither of us candidates had really gotten into campaigning yet, drawing attention to the election with posters and everything.

Also, with VSU likely to be implemented for 2007, there will be many crucial decisions that will need to be made by this year’s Committee to ensure COFA SA’s survival. I personally would feel more comfortable in my role if I knew I had the explicit approval of COFA students, that I had a mandate to reform COFA SA.

Problems Today

As you may imagine, there are other issues associated with having few students interested in COFA SA.

The biggest problem would probably be the level of commitment of students on the Committee. Some of the students who have sat on the Committee in past years have done so because they saw nobody else wanting that job. They felt compelled to do so out of necessity. As such, such of these students were in fact quite busy and didn’t have time to commit to COFA SA.

Others never really had an interest in the first place, and stopped attending meetings soon after they started. This has made it very hard to just get things done. It’s been very difficult to have Committee meetings regularly this year and simply getting quorum has been a struggle.

Of course, there have been other problems — namely this year’s leadership. I tried my best to ensure COFA SA ran effectively, but there was only so much I could do when I has to work with a President who disagreed with me on so many issues and had such a different style of doing things. This is something else that I’m sure could have been avoided if we had more interested students — surely we would’ve had a higher chance of securing quality candidates then!

So What If You Lose?

Unfortunately, there’s yet another thing which makes it hard to get interested, dedicated students on the COFA SA Committee — our electoral system. At present, if you lose an election (or withdraw from one) you have no way of standing for another position on the Committee, unless one is still vacant after the election.

For example, the other Presidential candidate will not be able to serve on the 2006 Committee unless she wants to be Female Sexuality Officer and she qualifies by identifying as non-heterosexual. However it’s really only by luck that they are vacant. Ideally, all the positions would receive multiple nominations and there would be an election for each position at the same time.

This means that if anybody loses an election, they’re out of the Committee entirely. This is a shame because those running for positions, especially for ones like President and Vice-President that require a lot of commitment, are probably students who are dedicated and genuinely passionate about COFA SA.

This is something that definitely needs to change!

The Future

Anyway, I will leave this topic here for now. Hopefully I have convinced you that I at least have a good grasp of some of the issues faced by COFA SA. While some of these may just be unavoidable for campuses with such a small student population (just over 2000 at COFA), I’ll certainly be working towards a solution during my time as President!

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1 Comment Add your own

  • . Adam Searle  |  12 years, 11 months ago

    blast from the past.

    ‘happy birthday mr president!’
    hope that came true at least ;)

    you should do a blog post now that the sa has been wound up. overview your time as el presidente (WAY cooler than president!)

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