It’s that time of year again.
You probably have seen it: posters of smiling faces scattered all around campus, Facebook advertisements and endorsements all over your news feed, people stopping you on your walk to class to ask if they could just take five minutes of your time.
Yep, I’m talking about election season.
I’ve been through many elections since my first year. From campaigning to being campaigned to seeing the post-election season (which is arguably more intense), elections are something that I’ve familiarized myself with and learned a lot about. While the big UTSU election passed, there are tons of other ones occurring right now, and I wanted to share some advice on surviving election season.
First: remember that regardless of how much students will insist that student politics is highly important, you have every right to tune out.
I won’t lie and say I’m not a proponent of political engagement by students. Especially as people who pay fees to a greater organization, it is important for students to know what’s going on and who’s saying they’re going to represent them. That being said, I know how stifling and mentally draining an election season can be from the perspective of an outsider. All you see are the same posters plastered all over your favourite coffee shop lounge, people keep coming up to you and asking for five minutes of your time, and it takes you a good 10 minutes sifting past campaign posts on Facebook to find that cute puppy video to destress. I know how it feels; I had to deal with family trouble, relationship trouble, and a super hard academic year. I tuned out of the UTSU elections this semester; I unfollowed a lot of UTSU outlets, prominent student politicians, and focused on keeping myself afloat. You are your greatest priority.
Second: do research on candidates and their platforms beforehand.
Student politicians want to tell you about themselves. They want to try to convince you that they’re the right person you should vote for, that they’ll accurately represent you and your interests to a greater student body and administration. And while maybe being awkwardly stopped outside of Robarts by someone with a lollipop and a stack of campaign flyers in their hand was endearing the first time, it probably got tiring really fast. If you do your own research, just 5 minutes online, you’ll both participate in making an educated decision as well as leave you guilt free the next time someone stops you.
Third: remember that student politicians are people, too.
It can be easy to treat student politicians as the bane of your existence during the busiest month of the year. There’s a tension that exists whenever someone you know runs for a position and manifests even when they’re just hanging out with you. It’s the uncertain “are they going to campaign to me??” feeling that makes you doubt their genuineness. But when this happens, it’s important to remember that dehumanizing student politicians doesn’t contribute to anything. Of course, you should always analyze and critique what a politician is telling you–you don’t want problematic people in power–but at the end of the day, the majority are students who willingly are exposing themselves and being vulnerable to the public. And it’s here that a little compassion goes a long way: it helps you manage irritation a little bit, and it ensures both parties feel safe.
We’re approaching the end, but I thought I’d just post this experience before election season dissipates into exam season. Best of luck.