In light of the rumored change in the electoral law for the upcoming student elections, Outlook consulted with Dean of Student Affairs Talal Nizameddin to gain a better understanding of any possible newly-instated procedures.
Nizameddine highlighted some flaws of the old electoral system, while focusing on the ongoing collaboration with the USFC to introduce a better-functioning system for this year’s elections as well as those of the upcoming years.
When are the elections taking place this year?
At the moment, we are waiting for the USFC to collectively agree on electoral rules that are not motivated by political gains. Until then, we do not have a definite date.
What are some of the changes being introduced into the electoral system this year?
As mentioned, we are not sure. There are three main blocs vying for an advantage, but the language and tone so far this year has been more promising than before, so I am hopeful.
Do you think the existing electoral system is efficient? If yes, why do you think some students have expressed their displeasure with it?
I think the existing system is good but has some flaws. For example, there is widespread thinking that a small faculty like FHS is over-represented. It has a third of the number of students as OSB, but two-thirds of its representation value on the USFC. Also, FAS sophomores are triple the size of FHS, but have half the voting capacity on the USFC.
My personal view is that we should give up on the idea of size altogether for the USFC. Perhaps one way to go is a smaller body that represents the whole student body without the selfish interest of one’s own faculty, but this requires a change in students’ mentality and, sadly, I don’t see signs of that at the moment.
Each is fighting for their own little ’empire’, and thus there is no real concept of a body that represents students in a general sense.
Important issues that affect students across AUB, such as advising, curriculum, the relevance of degrees and choice of major in the world, the relationship between professors or teachers and students, and the rights of students in the classroom are being pushed aside.
For example, there are still students who are unsure about their rights in terms of attendance policies, or have to deal with the pressure of well over sixty percent of their graded work being left until the end of a semester in one major exam or assignment.
Such issues are never raised because of the fragmented mentality, where representatives feel they must prioritize their own specific faculty or elections bloc interests and compete with the others in a type of zero-sum game.
Do you think this year will show an increase in the number of voters?
Of course, the elections are an exercise of democracy, and the experience is a great one in order to understand the weaknesses of a democratic process and its ultimate strength.
No democracy is perfect. It’s not meant to be. It’s a process that intends to give people an opportunity to voice their beliefs, to work with others and to compete in terms of ideas and agendas in a peaceful and civilized way.
I have always encouraged and will continue to encourage participation in elections, and last year we had the highest number of participation ever. The trend is going up, but it’s difficult to predict. The level of participation ultimately depends on the ability of candidates to inspire voters.
Can an electoral system convince all clubs to participate and not boycott the elections like last year?
No one boycotted last year. Only one club called for a boycott, but they were brand new and had never participated in the elections before! So technically, it wasn’t even a boycott. All major groups intend to partake as usual, but much will depend on getting a good election law to pass.