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I’m probably not the only one who was left feeling discontent following last week’s lackluster UTSU election campaign period. We only had one slate running, the debate was so unremarkable that, even after sitting through the whole thing, I had nothing to say about it, and the platform was typical. Team Renew was trying to renew the campus, no doubt, in the same way you would renew a library card. Same books, new card.
I’ve said before that it seems like Team Renew isn’t keen on talking to anyone, especially since they have no real reason to. Well, now someone is talking, and that someone is ex-VP External Candidate, Sana Ali.
Here’s a quick summary of her letter:
- Her job wasn’t to use her brain (her words), but to fulfill a predetermined set of mandates that haven’t changed much over the years.
- The team runs supreme, and everyone part of it must find a way to conform, apparently without question.
- Different opinions will not be tolerated.
- Most importantly: the people are well-meaning and progressive, but the system is corrupt.
So what does this mean?
Well, first is that there are serious communication issues within our student government. It should be no surprise to most of us that the hottest student politics topic this year is the push for defederation by three colleges and one faculty. The biggest reason for is because many of those college and faculty unions think the UTSU is incompetent and unable to meet their needs (that’s the nicest way I can put it). It’s one thing to have other groups criticizing the big guy, but to have one of their own? That’s huge.
Second, it goes far beyond ideology. She talked about being stifled, and the suffocating nature of groupthink. She talked about how her statements were reviewed, and how everything was submitted by the same person. What she said isn’t anything new, but she was the first to say something about it. By doing so, she exposed the inner party politics that exists within our union. Does this make UTSU any different than any other political body? Or any other organization, for that matter? I don’t think so.
I thought it was very nice of Sana to not point anyone out and criticize people explicitly. As far as I can tell, a major reason why she’s pulling out is that her beliefs didn’t match up with the rest of theirs, and that led to undesirable circumstances. She was kept from talking to her friends and conversing meaningfully during the campaign. But even through all that, she doesn’t name any names. That was very classy of her.
Finally, with all the buzz Sana’s letter is generating, I am hoping that this will get more students interested in how our university works. As harsh as this may sound, this kind of press is exactly the kind of thing that gets people going. Team Renew and UTSU will be forced to address this and, if they don’t, it’s indicative of how our unions are run. I want them to take this chance to really review and think critically about what has happened, and what is wrong with the system.
For Team Renew, I want you to consider just how effective and novel your slate is. Is your platform really a bunch of antiquated mandates, and is there really no plan other than to “work together”? That seems sort of flaky. And are you really not letting your candidates talk to “one of them“? Are you five?
For UTSU and all the bodies under it, I want you to take this opportunity to put it all out in the open. The spotlight is on you now, and if things go the way I think they should go, then more people will be asking questions. Your communication skills are lacking. You need to review your agenda. I know you implemented many suggested changes this year, but most of us don’t know about them, and that’s a problem. If you want to address the discontent that is definitely spreading among our colleges and faculties, that’s the least you can do.
For all defederating student bodies, no doubt you think this as a major victory. It really isn’t. First, if you’re going to defederate anyway, whatever happens with UTSU doesn’t matter to you so you shouldn’t spend your time caring in the first place. If your referenda go through, then focus on making your colleges and faculties a better place, not on rubbing it in the UTSU’s face. Second, if you don’t defederate, then you’re just like the rest of us – we don’t have a VP External. I’m not sure how that will play out but, either way, you’ll be just as worse off as the rest of us.
And to all of you, are you really doing this for us, the students, or are you doing this for your bruised egos, as Sana suggests?
Critical thinking doesn’t mean just being critical of others, but being critical of yourself as well. I dare all of the parties and teams I mentioned about to criticize themselves. Seriously. Can you do it?
There’s this one line Sana wrote that didn’t sit well with me:
The day of the All-Candidate’s Meeting when it was revealed that nobody would be running against the team, I was really upset because I saw it as a massive call for reform. When I brought this up, I was told that it did not mean no-one had faith in the system, it simply meant that people were too lazy to put in the work.
Politics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some people just have no interest or are repulsed by politics in general, which is fair. And others, like me, like to talk about it (some much more obnoxiously than others) but would never run for it, and that’s fair too. But the least we can do is listen in once in a while, and maybe question things that our governing bodies are doing. You may not care about it now, but one day they may bring up an issue that will affect you. Show that you care in your own little way. We’re adults now, and this sort of practice will extend to “real world” things, like municipal, provincial, and national elections.
Besides, I resent being called lazy. Don’t you?
This is probably the most exciting thing that has happened during the UTSU elections in the past few years. This is even more exciting than the tragic campus bar. There is no word on what the CRO will do in response to her withdrawal this late in the game. I also have no idea what will happen to that empty position. Perhaps a by-election in the fall? Everything will likely fall in the hands of the CRO and the rulebooks.