Election season always creeps up sooner than you expect it to. Throughout April, clubs, services, and offices all over campus are recruiting new executives, and students are thrown into the frenzy of student election season. Bulletin boards fill with posters, Instagram stories become base camp for campaigns, and CVs everywhere hold their breath. But what exactly does running for a position look like? What’s happening behind the headshots and the almost-ironic captions? Could you ever brave the student election? I sat down with some current execs to discuss their experiences running for student-elected positions.
Hassanatou Koulibaly, U3 Arts and Science, is currently vice-president (VP) Student Life of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and recently clinched next year’s VP Sustainability and Operations position. She told The McGill Tribune that those who are interested in a spot on the team must nominate themselves and fill out an election kit (simple enough), attend the candidate’s meeting to learn about election procedures (and scope out the competition), meet with the current position holder (to get the tea), and then, with the help of a $300 budget, campaign, campaign, campaign.
Koulibaly explained that her road to involvement with SSMU came simply from enjoying doing fun things with friends in clubs at McGill. Having been involved in different clubs during her time here, she was looking at her experiences and asking, “what’s next?”
“I’m not really a student government type,” Koulibaly said in an interview with the Tribune. “I like vibes. I like student engagement, student life, and extra-curriculars.”
Having seen some of the amazing opportunities, Koulibaly said she only wanted to be more of a part of it all.
Amidst the campaign itself, Koulibaly cited her friends as a huge source of strength and her biggest support system. She relied on them to fill in wherever she needed help, whether that was designing campaign posters or spreading the word about her plans for office.
“Your friends are helpful because they kind of create a network for you,” Koulibaly explained. “The friends of your friends will know who you are because of your mutual friend […] even if you’ve never spoken to them, they have an unspoken faith in you.”
Current Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS)’s VP External Rohan Rastogi, U1 Arts, also decided to run for a student-elected position after falling in love with his extracurriculars. Following his role as recording secretary for AUS in his first year, meeting the team, and attending legislative council meetings, he decided he had to be a part of it.
“The best part of the process was researching the position and figuring out my platform,” Rastogi told the Tribune.
Both executives saw running for a position as something to do for themselves, while expanding both their personal and professional networks. Koulibaly explained that, as a student studying STEM, it was nice to do something completely outside of her realm of study––it made her approach it with a renewed intentionality. The election process was, for her, a chance to learn an incredible amount about herself and different communities within the school. She also learned to stretch her ideas and see just how far they could go.
“When you campaign and you hear what [ideas] other people have, or you see what needs are, you realize how your ideas can change,” Koulibaly said.
She cites the competition as pushing her to make her own ideas and initiatives better.
Both candidates highly encouraged others to run for student government positions and provided their peers with a few tips. Rastogi suggests reading up on the different positions and finding one that best aligns and suits your interests, and then just going for it. Koulibaly, in a similar vein, emphasized, particularly to people feeling fearful or concerned about the campaign, the importance of finding a position that aligns with their interests.
“There’s no right or wrong answer, you just run for what you believe in,” Koulibaly said.
So, choose a position that suits your fancy, take a deep breath, and whoosh your CV through, leaving all fears behind. Happy campaigning!