Stop The What?

It’s that time of year again, when critics put on their horns and defenders get their panties in a bunch.

While it may only be the beginning of February, the storm is already brewing. The Varsity has already published a few articles about the UTSU, and even has a weekly column dedicated to the upcoming election just for the sole purpose of keeping us updated. Sadly, if last year’s election turnout is any indication, few people care what really happens. Why? Well, we all say U of T has no school spirit. I really hope that this year we can prove that wrong and perhaps get some dialogue going about something that actually concerns all the undergrads on campus. I’m not just saying this to sound corny and important– UTSU elections actually matter!

Before I get down to it, I want to be very clear that right now I have no particular side I’m writing for. Everything I am saying here is meant to be presented in the most critical and objective way possible. If it appears otherwise, please accept my apologies.

Today, I’m writing about the potential opposition slate, Stop The Salaries. Campaigning hasn’t started yet, but even keeping that in mind, I say “potential” because, as of right now, I really don’t see them gaining much momentum. Why? Well…

1. Their Premise

As a union, UTSU is supposed to look out for our rights and interests. According to Stop The Salaries, our executives have not only cut spending on services, but they have also given themselves a fancy $100,000 raise.

That is basically the whole premise the Stop The Salaries. We are paying a group of elite students and getting nothing in return. Seems valid. Year after year, U of T students are subject to higher and higher tuition and fees. Your regular Joe isn’t going to see where the money is going, or how it’s being used. Even campus club executives, who deal with the UTSU and club funding on a regular basis, can feel the frustration when they see their club funding decrease year by year. As a general whole, it feels like we’re paying more and getting less, and the most logical explanation is that the UTSU are high rollers and that is that.

Current UTSU president Danielle Sandhu has already explained in a response published in The Varsity that the executive board members did not receive any raise, as any salary increases have to be passed by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors are college and undergraduate faculty representatives that we elect along with the president and vice-presidents. The thing is that this is true. Regardless of what Stop the Salaries says, sources say that salaries haven’t been in meeting agendas for the past two years. By basing their whole premise and campaign on something that isn’t true, they have shown that they are taking the easy way out.

2. The Easy Way Out

(┛◉Д◉)┛彡┻━┻

It’s a trend, I think, that when we find something unsatisfactory about the incumbent, we immediately go “rah rah rah” over funding and how the money is spent. Students are no different. We want to know where our money goes, probably more so that your average voter because a good chunk of us are on student loans. It wasn’t until I took on an executive position in my own club that I saw just how quickly money is used up. For an organization as big as UTSU, it would seem logical that their budget would be much harder to balance.

I’m getting off topic… My point is simple: by saying that the UTSU is misusing student funding, they are basically saying “UTSU SUCKS BECAUSE IT DOES.” The “misused funding” slogan is old school. We hear it all the time. Even their explanations are subpar. If you take a look at their website, their “evidence” for the hikes and cuts are too simple. Anyone who has worked with million dollar budgets (that much is true) would know that one line doesn’t usually tell you the whole story. Again, Danielle did a very thorough job going through the budget, line by every contested line.

What I’m looking for are concrete criticisms. Okay, so UTSU is bad. Why?

Is there something wrong with current services?

Are they neglecting or marginalizing any groups on campus?

Is there a fundamental difference in ideology or is Stop the Salaries just there for the sake of being anti-UTSU?

How can you do better?

3. What can they do better?

(I’m seriously on a segue roll here.)

Varsity associate news editor Simon Bredin is starting a column this week covering UTSU elections. Despite a momentous opposition slate campaign in 2008, Bredin discusses how every opposition that had run against the incumbency (which is really what it is) loses steam with each progressive year. Why is that?

The fact that UTSU has been around for so long tells may tell us a few things:

  • Perhaps the student body is so passive that, as long as someone is there to take care of things, we don’t really care who it is.
  • If it’s not that the student body doesn’t care, then it’s because they don’t know, which is just as bad.
  • What if UTSU incumbents are actually doing something right? People only notice something is wrong when it is blatantly obvious. Unless a campus wide scandal with a chasm as soul sucking as Con Hall classes erupts, people are going to go for what they know.

Stop The Salaries has to have a platform that is far-reaching, progressive, and realistic. Maybe it’s just me, but Stop The Salaries seems to have been established for the sake of opposing UTSU. If their purpose is to be the new governing body of our campus, they have to go beyond just being an anti-UTSU slate whose sole purpose is to oppose the current office.  They must come up with better campaign methods and introduce changes that actually matter to students.

Since I was in my pre-UofT years, I’m going to have to take Simon’s word for it and go with his explanation as to why the 2008 Change slate was very close to running the election. He said that the biggest reason why 2008 Change was so close to winning is because they had a very experienced team. There needs to be a team in which every single person knows what they’re doing. Stop The Salaries of 2012 has to remember that they’re running against a well-oiled machine that has executive members and officers that have been in the game for a long time.

Last year, executive board candidates of United For Action (which is the name of the incumbent slate) ran virtually uncontested. The opposition slate equivalents were disqualified and voter turnout was dismal. Stop The Salaries must be careful and not commit the same mistakes as its predecessor. They must also have a well-built and solid team.

However, the one thing they must do in order to even stand a chance against the incumbent slate, whoever they will be, is promote, promote, promote. Be strategic. Don’t just resort to traditional methods. The benefit to this is twofold:

  1. Depending on their strategy, they can be perceived as being more in touch with the student population
  2. More people will be aware of elections, which will give students a more representative vote.

If Stop The Salaries does it right, they might be able to tap into a pool of votes that never really bothered to participate before.

Yes. Promote until Anthony Dodson has something to sing about again.

 

Of course, it may just be too early to tell. We don’t know who’s going to be running for what, but something tells me that Brett Chang and current Trinity Representative Michael Scott (infamous for his need to motion for clause-by-clause voting during board of director meetings) will be there. There is no real platform yet from anyone. Hell, we don’t even know who from the current executive board and board of directors are going to be rerunning. A lot of things are still up in the air.

As students and members of the student body, keep yourselves informed. I’m really glad that The Varsity is starting a weekly column covering the elections this year. If we want better services, want better representation, and want a better campus, it is our responsibility to know.

As always, I want to know what you think. Comment below! Any critics ready to rip those panties into shreds? I really have to stop laughing at my own jokes.

If you’re up for it, run for the election. Nominations open Monday, February 13. Visit the UTSU website to learn more about how you can be nominated. Being nominated doesn’t mean you necessarily have to run with a slate.

 

 

One Reply to “Stop The What?”

  1. Hi Crystal-

    Just wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about Stop The Salaries.

    To your first point, we are just taking the numbers provided by the UTSU and showing them to people. Those numbers show that they are spending more on salaries and less on student services. You can look at the budget document for yourself at http://www.stopthesalaries.com/facts. Danielle did a nice job of ducking this criticism in her Varsity piece by saying that the Executive never got a pay raise. First, if that’s the case then why don’t they just tell us how much we’re paying them. That seems fair. But second, the point isn’t that the Executive got a pay raise, it’s that they’re spending more on salaries overall. Rather than hiring more staff, they should be spending more on students — why is salary spending going up and clubs funding going down? That’s our criticism.

    Beyond that, Stop The Salaries is not an “opposition slate” in the way that Change was. We are not running candidates and we don’t claim a position on most issues. We are an issue advocacy campaign with one goal: reverse the UTSU’s salary hikes and service cuts.

    Brett and I, the co-founders of the campaign, have offered assistance to anyone who wants to run for the UTSU because we know how complicated the system is to navigate. We want to help people understand how they can run and campaign because unless you’re hand-picked by the Canadian Federation of Students, a multi-million dollar national lobbying organization, then you’re excluded from campus government at UofT. We think that’s wrong, and we want to do what we can to democratize the campus while advancing our issue.

    You’ve posed some questions in your column — “what is your concrete criticism of UTSU”, for example — that I think are clearly answered on our website. Both Brett and I can be reached through our site, or our Facebook page, and we’ve made no secret of who’s behind Stop The Salaries. If you had contacted us, you could have avoided some factual problems with this piece (the assumption that we’re a slate, for example).

    Anyway, I’m happy to chat with you whenever you want about the campaign or to offer an opinion on the elections. Feel free to e-mail me at info@stopthesalaries.com if you want to discuss further.

    Cheers,

    Taylor

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