Print Edition: February 26, 2014
“Who cares about this stupid election? We all know it doesn’t matter who gets elected president of Carver. Do you really think it’s gonna change anything around here — make one single person smarter or happier or nicer? The only person it does matter to is the one who gets elected. The same pathetic charade happens every year, and everyone makes the same pathetic promises just so they can put it on their transcripts to get into college. So vote for me, because I don’t even want to go to college, and I don’t care, and as president I won’t do anything. The only promise I will make is that if elected, I will immediately dismantle the student government, so that none of us will ever have to sit through one of these stupid assemblies again! [The crowd cheers, standing and clapping] Or don’t vote for me. Who cares? Don’t vote at all!”
— Tammy Metzler, Election
As you read this, polls are open for UFV’s student union society elections.
Did I bore you to death with that opening? I bored myself to death with that opening.
Here we are on the eve of elections, and the only thing it brings to mind is the opening line from that Election speech. Who cares about this stupid election?
SUS receives roughly $600,000 of student money every year, not including the funds specifically collected and dedicated towards the U-Pass, the student union building, and the shuttle. I should hope we care. But do we?
About 9000 students are eligible to vote in SUS elections and referendums. Results are considered a roaring success if even one tenth of those students cast a ballot. Even that doesn’t sound so bad; a tenth seems like a decent amount.
But that means — on a good day — 90 per cent of the student body has better things to do than pick people to run student government.
Believing one person can change an organization is idealistic. Impossible? No. But idealistic. About a tenth of the student body is willing to be idealistic about student government, and those are the people who vote. Good for them. I applaud them.
The other 90 per cent is cynically aware of the state of things: in all likelihood, anyone we vote into office is going to do approximately the same job. Even if they make an absolute mess of things, no one is likely to notice. Why not? Because the same 90 per cent of people who skip voting in elections also skip paying attention.
Blame lies with the students. They don’t care enough to pay attention; it’s sheer, inexcusable laziness. Even that accusation is unlikely to elicit more than a shrug.
But blame also lies with SUS. Transparency and communication should be first on the docket for government, no matter how small the government.
Last week’s all-candidates meeting in Abbotsford was attended by six people; two outgoing SUS members, two members of student media (one from CIVL and one from The Cascade), and two other students.
Nine thousand members, and only six students in the audience.
In class and following the meeting on Twitter, I asked presidential candidate Ryan Petersen what measures he would put in place to support transparency within SUS and communicate to the student body. He said he would “chat with more people.” He said he would engage with students at events like orientation.
Let’s talk about that word for a minute: engagement.
Engagement is a two way street; a sharing of information on both sides. Ideally, students engage their government by explaining what they’d like to see, and student government engages their students by telling them what’s going on.
My biggest beef by far with the 2013-14 SUS board is their unwillingness to share information. Since their website re-launch, meeting minutes have been posted irregularly at best. The most recent ones posted to the website are from December. This is both concerning and confusing, considering the new, abridged formatting of minutes this year, which should theoretically hurry the process along. Fewer quotes are included than ever before, and some minutes are little more than a list of motions and vote results. It’s hardly ideal to sacrifice detail for speed, but it seems detail has been sacrificed for no reason at all.
SUS continues to state that, despite issues with the website, all minutes are available upon request. We’ve put that to the test time and time again, requesting regular board meeting minutes, committee meeting minutes, EGM minutes, AGM minutes. Minutes are always promised and rarely delivered.
It’s one thing to stonewall nosy reporters from a campus paper; from what I understand in talking to papers at other schools, that’s not exactly an abnormal practice. But this week I conducted an experiment; I asked four friends with no ties to the paper to ask SUS for recent minutes. Each received a cheery email reply, sans attachment. Our repeated requests for the same information have yielded the same result: nothing.
This is transparency; this is communication. It’s one thing to identify student apathy, another to accept it, and a third to encourage it.
So who cares about this stupid election?
No one. And it’s our own damn fault — for not paying attention, and not demanding better.