AUTSA Elections Struggling for Candidates
By Justin Wong (he/him)
Māori, Health Science, and North campus students are part of a wider student body that will lose representation on AUT’s student association next year, as more than a third of representative roles go unfilled at this year’s election – the lowest in the past three elections.
Nominations were open for 22 members on the Student Representative Council (SRC) to provide student representation across AUT, and to hold AUTSA’s governance board and the wider organisation to account for students.
AUTSA elections in 2020 saw 103 candidates running for all but one position, while the 2019 elections had 51 candidates and only failed to fill three roles.
Only 20 candidates were nominated at this year’s SRC elections to stand for 15 roles, with some contesting for multiple positions.
There are no candidates for seven roles in this election and they are declared to be vacant.
All are student cohort representatives, including the Māori Affairs and Postgraduate Officers, campus representatives for both North and South campuses, and representatives from the business and law, Te Ara Poutama, and the health and environmental sciences faculties.
Most of the vacant roles saw intense competition in previous elections, with seven people campaigning last year to become the health and environmental science faculty representative, and five were in the 2020 race to represent business, economics, and law students.
While AUTSA’s Māori Affairs Officer is elected by all AUT students, the Māori Students Officers at Auckland University’s student association are made up by both Tumuaki of its Māori Student Association, Ngā Tauira Māori.
Contests for the remaining SRC positions are also less competitive than previous years, with only one candidate elected automatically in 2020 and two in 2019.
Eight people have already been automatically elected as the sole candidate in their races this year, including the senior Vice President Academic role by this year’s Design & Creative Technologies (DCT) Faculty Representative, Macauley Cunningham.
At least three uncontested positions, including the Diversity Affairs Officer and the Mature Students Officer, could also become vacant if the only candidate is voted into other roles.
The seven roles that are contested this year also saw a drop in candidate numbers compared to last year, with those running for the DCT faculty representative reduced to two from 14. The City Campus Representative job, which saw 15 people throw their hats in the ring in 2020, only received five candidates this year.
Presidential candidate Sara Youssef told Debate she was not surprised to see a low number of candidates, saying AUTSA has failed in student engagement.
“It’s a bit of a shame that those leadership roles are not very encouraged at AUT,'' she said.
“Not a lot of people know about it and they don’t know what they can benefit from being in those roles, impact at AUT, or what they could change.”
Another candidate for AUTSA President, Ashley Kirkness, said lacking awareness of the roles and what they do are the main reasons why candidate numbers are the lowest in years.
“These roles don’t always get seen – and the space always changes based on who holds the roles.”
Kirkness also said questions need to be asked if the current structure is the best way to represent the current student cohort.
Current Vice President Academic Michael Kanara, who is also running to be AUTSA’s President, declined to comment.
Debate has been unable to contact the fourth candidate, Jaskaran Singh.
Online voting for the election has started and will close at 5pm on October 1, with results announced on October 6. AUTSA said all eligible students will receive an email with a link to vote, and those who did not should check their spam inbox, before contacting them to find out how to receive a voting link.