Jenny Lau/the Gauntlet

United behind the Students' Union

Publication YearIssue Date 

I care about the Students’ Union and what they do for my university experience. Four years of working here at the newspaper has let me closely watch the SU and each team of executives.

I strongly believe that the SU does an effective job. Yes, I like criticizing them as much as possible to keep them accountable, and yes I love grilling potential candidates who think they have what it takes to be an executive, but overall, the SU runs a tight ship.

They are one of the more powerful students unions in the country, and their hold over MacHall is one of the main reasons for this. If you’ve never studied at another university, you might not appreciate what we have here at the U of C, but just know that not every student union has a $18 million budget with only a $32.50 per semester fee. Not every university has a building as useful and student friendly as MacHall.

So come SU election campaigns, I worry about what would happen if a candidate got elected because of apparent popularity rather than their ability — and I’m not talking about the roulette wheel that is the race for arts representative, I’m talking about president. When candidates don’t know about mandatory non-instructional fees or they don’t realize that they will have no control over the registrar’s office, I get worried. Candidates need to realise that there are a lot of things they won’t have control over and they are making empty promises. I can only hope that the 25 per cent of students who vote will care about more than a poster.

While you may not know the history of MNIFs or MacHall lease negotiations, candidates need to have an in-depth knowledge of current issues that the SU is facing. I’m always alarmed when I find myself knowing more about the SU than these candidates who claim that they are capable of actually doing the job.

But I ask myself, what could a horrible president actually do? The SU has 55 full-time staff members who keep the place running. And even the most talented and capable executives quickly learn how much they can’t control, how long projects take and how even the best idea can be soon forgotten. So when I hear candidates promise completely unreasonable reforms to be brought in by September, I can only laugh.

Despite their challenges, the SU will continue to do great work, and they will continue to serve a student body who doesn’t understand or care.

For example, a lot of the candidates are running on increasing communication and transparency. Yes, communication can always be improved. However, the SU doesn’t go out of its way to keep students in the dark. It’s a very transparent place. It’s up to the students to meet the SU halfway by caring and getting involved. Either that or don’t complain.

I know that the SU wants nothing more than for every student to care about this university, be involved and have their voice heard. If you want to get involved on this campus, there are almost endless opportunities. If you want to know about the Students’ Union, there is a ton of information on their website, on social media and around campus. Hell, if Robert’s Rules are your thing, attend Student Legislative Council on Tuesday nights. Snaps for Jacob. The executives are open to email or face-to-face meetings. All you need is something to say.

So maybe you don’t know what the international college is or how the SU is involved in Calgary’s battle for secondary suite regulation or how the SU voted on tuition increases this year. And you probably don’t care. But the SU’s work helps to define this school, so if you do vote, make sure you know what you’re doing.