Hillary Bellows won the race for MUNSU director of advocacy Wednesday night, defeating Stephanie Mauger, who took the controversial stance that the student union should reevaluate its hardline on the tuition freeze.
“I knew that it was going to be a huge uphill battle if I had won. In a lot of ways this tells me that the student body just isn’t ready for change yet,” said Mauger.
Mauger’s comments to the Muse about the tuition freeze caused controversy on social media, with many saying it was a deciding issue.
“I’ve started a conversation that I hope will continue on for the next few years so people can notice that there are problems within the union that need to be fixed,” she told the Muse on Wednesday.
“I think in the next budget we’re going to see that it’s time for some re-prioritization here.”
‘Everything is crumbling around us’
Mauger said she stands behind her comments on the tuition freeze, and that the university needs to focus its efforts on infrastructure and improving educational resources.
“Despite the fact tuition is important, [infrastructure] is more important right now. Because everything is crumbling around us,” she said.
“I definitely think we have to accept the fact that the economy is way too bad for us to get off scot free.”
Mauger said that in the past, any kind of discontent within the union has not been well handled and that MUNSU should recognize more diverse perspectives.
She said that she’s grateful for all the support she got during her campaign, especially from people who didn’t usually get involved with student issues.
“We’re in a place now where i think the union is a niche and no one else participates outside of that, no one cares outside of that. And that’s a huge problem,” said Mauger.
7% voter turnout
Less than seven per cent of the undergrad student body cast a ballot for director of advocacy.
Bellows won with 584 votes, while 383 people voted for Mauger.
In last year’s election Leah Robertson won director of advocacy with 971 votes. The losing candidate last year had 589 votes–five more than this year’s winner.
Bellows says tuition freeze debate helped her campaign
Winning candidate Hillary Bellows said she believes the debate around the tuition freeze certainly helped her campaign.
“A lot of students they aren’t sure what the tuition freeze involves, so I think it brought a lot of awareness to it for sure,” she said.
“A lot of people did learn about the tuition freeze, so I think that did help, because a lot of people do believe that tuition should stay frozen so it doesn’t keep increasing and it’s not taken from the students’ pockets.”
Bellows said she’s elated to have won what she called a “tough race.”
She said she wants to work in the coming year to ensure that the board works together and listens to all students’ voices.
“I really want to make sure that students in residence know their rights, and that all across campus people know their rights and know when they’re being treated unfairly,” said Bellows.
All-female MUNSU executive
Bellows joins an all-female executive, all of whom have said that supporting the tuition freeze should be a top MUNSU priority.
Renata Lang, acclaimed director of student life, said she’s happy the new executive will be united on the tuition freeze.
“Out of all the different opinions we have, the one purpose of the student union is to be united and the one purpose of the student movement in general is to provide that accessible education for everyone,” said Lang.
“While it’s great to have differing discourses, one thing we want to have a strong front on is trying to front for that freeze. That’s the one thing that’s our largest purpose overall. So it’s great to have folks on the board who are on board with that.”
The provincial government has asked MUN to find 30 per cent in savings before the next budget, set for April 14.