Last week, students at the University of Alberta elected William Lau — a presidential candidate who ran on a platform of caricature-like facial recognition, vague promises and a campaign that reeked of mediocrity — as their 2014-15 Students’ Union President. Adam Woods, who ran a less flashy campaign yet one that had more substance than Lau’s, came in second place in the race. To anyone following the results of the 2014 SU elections, the presidential results are continuing the disturbing trend of a gimmicky, lazy and borderline comical campaign winning over one of substance and merit.
But for those who didn’t support Lau’s presidency, it seems there’s some recourse. At midnight on Monday, March 10, Lau was disqualified in a Discipline, Interpretation and Enforcement Board ruling due to third party campaigning done by the Chinese Student and Scholar Association. The association had made posts on a Renren page on Feb. 26 and March 6 advertising Lau’s run for president. The ruling went on to state that Lau made no effort to distance himself from the third party campaigning as he was unaware of the situation, and was subsequently fined $403.70. That fine put Lau $200.32 over his campaign budget, which disqualified him as a presidential candidate.
First, it should be noted that this ruling doesn’t necessarily remove Lau as the SU president, and he’s launched an appeal, the date for which is yet to be determined as of March 11 when The Gateway went to press. And to be fair, this ruling seems more indicative of an incompetent CRO more than anything else. This should have been brought to light much earlier — not five days after the election results were announced.
But although a less-than-perfect CRO and unfortunate actions by third parties played into this particular mess, this isn’t the first time issues around Lau’s campaigning techniques have been brought into question. During the campaigning period, Woods voiced concerns about Lau using a motorized scooter — due to a broken leg — for illegal campaigning purposes such as decking it out with posters and posting photos of students taking “rides” on it.
The merit of the concerns raised by Woods are open to debate, but the fact that Lau’s campaigning techniques have been called into question multiple times should show that something’s not right. Lau should have faced more scrutiny for these accusations.
Unfortunately, that’s what students voted for this year. They voted for a president who admitted in this year’s Gateway Executive Report Card that he’s played a largely supportive role with some of his projects this year, and a supporting role is not what people should be looking for in a leader.
In comparison, Woods ran a campaign based on experience and concrete ideas. If you need proof, you need only look to the election platforms that both candidates put out on their websites during the election. By reading Woods’ platform, readers could see that he put together a carefully thought-out platform with clear goals and methods to reach those goals such as advocating for mental health and fighting the CoSSS fee. Although perhaps not the most visually striking, it was obvious that Woods was the man with the plan.
In stark contrast, Lau’s platform was rife with buzzwords and vague campaign goals such as “Prioritizing Student Voice” and “Maximizing Student Representation.” Yes, he does have some decent points, but it seems that most of Lau’s platform points simply match the job description of the SU President. Students voted for a president who campaigned on the promise that he will do at least the bare minimum of what is required.
Outside of his platform, Lau seemed to agree with his opponents on certain issues brought up at forums and debates. Of course there’s nothing wrong with candidates having the same stances on issues, but when it becomes frequent — as it did in Lau’s campaign — it should be raising red flags with voters. With Lau agreeing with his competitors on more than a few issues, there seems to have been no point in voting for him at all.
“Lau For Life” sounds more like a prison sentence than a SU President that we should be excited about. Instead of electing a president with innovative ideas, experience and the knowledge to lead the Students’ Union, students elected nothing more than a minor campus celebrity.
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