The “Lister Issue” | By Erica Woolf

Over the course of this campaign period, no other subject has been more controversial or recurring than the ever-infamous “Lister issue”. Lister as a focal point for candidates is not a new occurrence; the Lister voting block has always been pursued by potential candidates who seek its support. It has also, conversely, been the subject of resentment, due to its apparent influence over the elections. While Lister may have seen its fair share of attention this campaign period, due to the substantial changes made to the residence over the summer and the SU’s subsequent involvement, the “Lister issue” has been both a necessary and important issue for candidates to discuss. However, the question still remains as to if this voting block is really as powerful as is perceived, and further, has paying special attention to Lister actually helped the presidential candidates, and will they see the results of such come election day?

This campaign period again has demonstrated platforms catered specifically to Lister, and this is not just due to the emergence of the “Lister issue”. The Lister voting block has long been seen as highly influential to the outcome of the SU elections, especially the presidential race. Indeed, a substantial amount of SU executives saw their start in Lister Hall, especially through the LHSA. While Lister does provide a large amount of voters with one particular concern in mind – namely their home – I believe over the years the priority this voting block has taken in candidates’ platforms has become inflated. A fair number of points should be kept in mind when evaluating the potential of the Lister vote. Firstly, as can be seen through voter turnout for their own students’ association elections, as well as extremely low attendance to SU forums, the amount of students in Lister who actually prioritize casting their ballots is drastically lower than may be believed. Secondly, those Lister residents who do come out and vote come election day, I believe would be out there voting whether their specific residence issues were the target of a campaign or not. Thirdly, while residence issues are on the priority list for Lister voters, it is not their only priority, because contrary to popular belief, Lister residents are in fact students and integrated members of the larger university community. Lastly, with Lister’s recent demographic shift towards a primarily first-year residence, the playing field has been slightly leveled; candidates who have a history with Lister may no longer be remembered within the residence as well as has been the case in previous years. Therefore, contrary to what many believe, winning the support of Lister residents does not guarantee victory. Listerites, if you disagree: please show me come election day.

Of any year, however, the special attention paid to Lister has been warranted this election, due to the amount of time, effort, and money that has been devoted by the SU to addressing the changes implemented over the summer to Lister Hall without student consultation. Due to the varying opinions surrounding what has come to be known as the “Lister issue”, the topic has been reemerging in forums over the week, with candidates, especially presidential, prepared with the answers they think appeal to Lister voters. Both serious candidates, however, have taken two substantially different positions on the matter.

As most will know at this point, Sumar is a prime example of a Lister born and raised leader. He is not shy about his history, rising through the ranks of the LHSA from Floor Coordinator to tower Vice President. He has cited this experience, as well as his involvement in dodgeball, as invaluable to his present pursuits. Lister has accordingly responded very well to a leader they are proud to call one of their own. Further, Sumar has pledged to continue to push the “Lister issue” and work with the LHSA to mend ties that were broken with the university administration. The mandatory meal plan has also been mentioned by Sumar as something he would like to address, another tough issue within the residence. Overall, Sumar knows that Lister Hall forms a significant portion of his voting base, and has used his internal knowledge of the organization to cater numerous platform points to garner these votes.

Kusmu, on the other hand, has never lived in Lister Hall, and has fully embraced this perceived weakness. From the beginning, he has played up his limited experience with Lister, citing a “fresh face” as beneficial to the “Lister issue”. Specially, he has argued from the beginning that having an advocate from outside of Lister is needed at this point, to demonstrate to the administration that lack of student consultation is not “just a Lister issue, but a student issue”. However, Kusmu has also made it a priority to appeal to other residences, arguing that better marketing of the issue is needed to unite all residences behind the issue, which has not been done as of yet. Also notably, Kusmu has appealed to international students through his platform, many of whom also call Lister home.

While both presidential candidates have gone above and beyond to appeal to Lister residents, I can’t say I’ve seen them do the same thing for all the other residences on campus. Further, I think focusing so exclusively on the Lister vote, especially as seen during the “residence” forum that quickly became a “Lister” forum, alienates the other residences on campus. There are many pressing issues that are equally as significant as the “Lister issue”; namely HUB security, that I have scarcely heard mentioned by candidates. Further, focusing so exclusively on Lister has the potential to create resentment amongst the other voters who live on campus. While I will say that this year’s presidential candidates have given a slight nod to all the other residences, they have done so shallowly, and will most likely see the results of that come election day.

While I definitely believe that attention to the “Lister issue” has been warranted and necessary, I also believe both candidates should have taken more of a precaution against being perceived as solely Lister advocates. For those Listerites who will be turning out to vote on the big day, they have a substantial decision to make, specifically, if they believe a fresh face or a well-known ally would be more beneficial for their home. I would also encourage these voters to delve into both candidates’ platforms beyond the “Lister issue” and see what each candidate is doing for their educations as well their homes. While Lister will always be a demographic that SU candidates will cater to, I would like to remind all candidates (and future candidates as well) that no amount of talk about dodgeball can win you an election.

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  • Alexander

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure “Fresh Face” to any issue is just a political buzzword meaning “I don’t know much about this issue”.