I’d like to preface this by saying that I’m all for democracy. It’s the smartest stupid idea we as a human race have ever come up with (and will remain such until we decide to collectively drown ourselves in the ocean). In fact, I’d argue we need to extend the workings of democracy further—into the economy, our homes, our private corporations; fully snuff out the capitalist nuclear family myth that chained women to stoves and workers to machinery for so much of the preceding decades.
So naturally the fact that our student representatives have elections every year is a good thing, in my opinion. What I don’t think is a good thing is the state of our SU’s power-base — ie us. See, the SU is a union first and foremost—a collective bargaining organization that advocates on our behalf against people like the illustrious band of Nixonian Enforcers in Administration or the limp-dick ministers sequestered away in the provincial government. And like any union that can’t rely on the powers of organized crime, the SU gains its traction from its members — ie, again, us.
This is problematic, because we couldn’t give a fuck about the union or the problems it’s fighting against if Elizabeth Canon personally inserted a cattle-prod into each and every one of our assholes.
I’d like to try to be fair and say that it’s impossible for us to be invested when the stress level of the average student is high enough to kill any animal without access to alcohol, but honestly that’s not the point. What is the point is that our malignant indifference to the goings-on at the SU makes the election a complete and total waste of everyone’s time, or at least the thirteen people that actually bother to go to the polls anymore.
The SU would have an easier time organizing a group of aquaphobes for a swim-meet than they would getting U of C students to attend a rally, and this is reflected by the pitifully low voter turnout our elections have (the fact that it’s among the highest in the country makes my soul weep). The lack of student eyes means that, despite the best attempts of the Gauntlet to screen every candidate, there’s no student oversight when it comes to who runs for what office. What results is a relentless band of narcissists and morons that could barely name the core functions of the position they’re running for, but seem to have no problem wasting time and precious wall-space on asinine posters that say and represent absolutely nothing. Those of us that care would be better off gauging the candidate’s qualifications by looking at their stool.
Those precious few candidates that can actually find their own asses face a far more insidious challenge — running an organization dedicated to protecting the interests of a bunch of processed sausages. The nefarious bullshit that is the MacEwan Hall catastro-fuck managed to get a fairly in-depth nod in Vice Magazine of all places, but try to ask a U of C student about how getting water-boarded by greedy shit-gibbons feels and they can barely muster up the energy to blink. The injunction, let alone the fucking court case, is collapsing around us like a Soviet Cooling Tower, and yet I’ve seen the student body get more worked up over the Carl’s Jr. on campus. Hell, you’d think that the more academically minded among us would be gnashing their teeth over the cancellation of 1500+ academic journals, yet the only gnashing to be seen is from professors, who at this point ought to not even bother coming into work every day.
If the union as an organization derives its power from how rip-roaring pissed off we are, then exactly how much support are we giving it with our day-to-day ambivalence? Jack-fucking-shit-all, that’s how much. The union is practically operating on auto-pilot with nothing but a wet-noddle in its hand — otherwise the calls for Elizabeth Canon to resign amidst the scandals and the utter indifference to human decency would have actually amounted to something. And yet the brainless parrots on the right still claim that colleges are hot-beds of progressive aggression — au contraire, we’re about as aggressive as a comatose doorman.
So I ask: what the hell is the point? I’ve yet to come up with a sufficient answer, even though I know there ought to be one. But the fact is that our voter turnout is so low, our interest in the politics of student life so non-existent, and so many of our candidates as utterly laughable, that the election is nothing more than a formality we continue just to look make ourselves look good, look official.
I’d love to say that going to the ballot station actually means something to us students, but I’d be lying, and lying is a mortal sin.
Andrew Kemle, political-science student