Remy the Rat took second place in the AMS presidential race. Why did students vote for a joke candidate?

In this year’s AMS elections, a rat came close to becoming AMS president.

According to the official AMS election results, Remy the Rat, one of two joke candidates, won five of its six head-to-head matchups against other candidates, only losing to President-Elect Eshana Bhangu by a margin of 1,597 votes.

Remy the Rat ran as a joke candidate to increase voter turnout and shed light on social justice issues on campus, said Esme Decker, the main student behind the Rat. Many students said they voted for The Rat due to dissatisfaction with other candidates and with the AMS itself.

Second-year business student Tommy Zhang said he felt like student politicians were “out-of-touch” with the student body.

“I just didn't feel like there's a lot of substance with a lot of [the other candidates’] platforms, and I was a little bit frustrated about that. I think voting for Remy was sort of a sign a lot of people kind of [felt] the same way.”

Fourth-year integrated sciences student James Gardner said that Remy getting elected wouldn’t “necessarily… have been a bad thing” and would have revealed a general lack of engagement from the student body.

“I think that falls under the broader umbrella of opening [the AMS] up more to the student body, rather than it being a sort of closed off organization,” he said. “[It] sort of seems to be… inhabited by the same sort of social group over and over again.”

Fourth-year anthropology student Amancio Le Roux said Remy winning would be an “ideal scenario” and said that he connected with Remy’s platform to freeze tuition for a semester even though they “knew it was a long shot.”

“As a student relying on financial support to attend university, a platform that includes the tuition freeze is… very appealing,” they said.

Decker said that they believed running as a joke candidate would increase engagement with the student body and bring up voter turnout. It did. This year, the turnout was 17.4 per cent, a 10.5 per cent increase from last year. They added that they wanted to see the AMS become “less of a corporate service provider” and more of a student union that fights for students.

“The Pan brought up a good point in that the AMS is not even called the Student Union, it's called the Alma Mater Society and who knows what that means,” they said.

Climate Justice UBC’s co-student director Anna Brookes said the Remy the Rat campaign was started by a few members of the organization, and was intended to be both a joke and a “vehicle for getting a lot of the demands of social justice groups on campus.”

“We totally launched this campaign as a joke, hoping to kind of change the conversation and did not expect the success we saw… but that was really awesome that [Remy went] so far,” Brookes said.

Remy’s platform points on food insecurity and climate justice came from Climate Justice's current work, according to Brookes. The Rat called for the AMS to cut ties with RBC for its role in funding the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

In the end, Decker and Brookes both said that they were glad that Remy didn’t win. Decker said they were “pretty happy” since they “personally would not have really wanted to do it.”

“We always envisioned this as a jumping off point for our platform demands, as a way to organize more of the student body around their demands … into the conversation,” Brookes said. “We never really envisioned actually becoming president.”