TRU senate by-election sees low voter turnout

Improved communication tactics may be required to increase awareness

Low voter turnout continues to plague university elections at TRU, as just 522 voters have decided who will sit as the next student representative on TRU’s senate.

The senate at TRU is responsible for academic affairs at the university. Four student representatives are elected to sit on the university senate every two years.

But low turnouts are the status quo for elections at the university. This year’s figure is identical to the previous contest’s turnout, when a total of 520 students cast their ballots in the winter 2022 election.

Bhavish Malhotra was the student elected into the senate position, earning the spot with 130 of the votes. The runner-up had 114.

Malhotra, who moved to Kamloops from India in August to pursue his MBA, said the low voter turnout is unfortunate but unsurprising based on his interactions with students while campaigning.

“A lot of students were not aware about the elections that were being held,” Malhotra said. 

Election information was emailed multiple times to student email accounts and a notification banner was placed on myTRU Student Portal page to spread awareness leading up to the election. 

However, Malhotra said that he felt TRU needed to publicize the election better through media like Instagram, which students likely follow more closely.

“I follow literally all of the pages that are social [media] pages of TRU,” he said. “None of the pages promoted this.”

Malhotra said he hopes that governance elections will follow the TRUSU election model that encourages more campaigning and relies on social media to spread awareness in the future.

If he runs for re-election or a different position in the future, he said he plans on adjusting the amount of time put into his campaign to encourage more student participation.

“Campaigning wasn’t done in a very proper way by all the candidates,” Malhotra said, adding he would also like to see better outreach, including in his own campaign.

However, through his campaign, he found that many students share similar issues, which he hopes to help fix in his new position.

“I spoke to a lot of students … I got to know about a lot of problems, and that actually motivated me to take this very seriously,” Malhotra said about his campaigning experience.

The newly elected student representative on the senate has three main goals on his agenda: increase scholarship opportunities, improve practical experience initiatives for students and create workshops or programs that allow international students to learn about Canadian culture.

During the monthly senate meetings Malhotra will now be attending, he plans on raising these goals with his new colleagues to see if meaningful action can be taken towards them.

“[This agenda] can be my specific viewpoint, and I respect everyone’s perspective. Once that is tabled upon and discussed upon, then we can see how we want to proceed,” Malhotra said about his hopes for his future senate meetings. “Working towards governance as a whole is something I’m looking forward to.”

Nov. 27 will be Malhotra’s first senate meeting as a student representative. Senate meetings are typically held every month at TRU.

Official election counts from the student-rep senate, and all other categories are available on TRU’s election page.