As of last week, there are three vacant SU student representative positions. These vacancies will have to be filled via appointments. According to Students’ Union president Stephan Guscott, “[students] appointed by SLC through nominations committee aren’t elected by students, so they can’t vote on substantive motions or resolutions.”
In addition to these vacancies, last year had a historically high number of acclaimed positions, meaning the positions were uncontested. Two executives and all four arts representative positions were acclaimed. Anyone from the 2014 SU election — where 18 students ran for arts rep, would be happy to tell you how far back they rolled their eyes upon hearing the news of the acclamations.
This isn’t to discredit the current SU reps. Frankly, they might have still won had they been given a chance to compete for their positions. But the lack of competition and now these vacancies is damaging.
We need competitive SU elections so platforms are innovative, tangible and actually make a difference to our lives, rather than merely repeating #abpse tweets.
It’s hard to care about student politics. After being involved with four elections in one way or another, working at the SU and sitting on committees, I practically break out in hives upon hearing the word “campaign” or “endorsement.”
But if you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter at the Taylor Family Digital Library or microwaved your food in ICT, you’ve used a service initiated by an SU representative. Some poor soul decided to run on a platform point of having TFDL open 24 hours during exams and now we can all order 2:00 a.m. Domino’s and procrastinate writing papers.
Besides sitting on faculty committees, voting on obscure resolutions and shaking hands with fancy people, SU representatives actually do have the opportunity to make tangible changes. They can sit on Clubs Committee where they decide which club events get funding, club regulations and scholarships. There is a good chance this impacts you.
They can also sit on Quality Money Committee. Quality Money has a budget of approximately $1.7 million — yes, million— and has funded projects such as Q Centre renovations and the influenza clinic that ran in the MacHall Courtyard for the past two years.
Students, faculty and staff can all submit proposals to Quality Money. Faculty representatives are actually able to submit to Quality Money applications called Campus Improvement Fund (CIF) for projects specific to their faculty. But unfortunately, not many people are even aware of this. And with social work and veterinary medicine rep positions vacant, these faculties are missing out on this opportunity.
There are a number of explanations we can bring forward about this lack of interest in SU positions. But student apathy isn’t the only one. With over 300 clubs on campus and the amazing things students are doing every day, there has to be other reasons why we care so little about our student government.
Unnecessary SU election rules, leading to boring elections is probably one. While it’s important to have regulations, rules like the ones that limit the number of posters are utterly unenforceable — ask any current elected official if they followed the 150 poster limit. Obtaining written consent from professors before classroom announcements is also unnecessary. If the candidate is unable to negotiate with professors for a 30-second classroom pitch, how are they expected to represent students to the university, or you know, negotiate ownership of a multi-million dollar building? These rules kill creativity and discourage competition.
Another reason may be that students think the SU gets nothing done. If you think your rep isn’t doing anything, stop by the SU office and ask them — there is a chance you could be wrong. If not, rat them out for wasting an entire year on your behalf.
We should care about these vacancies because of the missed opportunity they represent. With vacancies for faculties of social work and veterinary medicine, students in these faculties do not have a voice speaking for them in SLC or someone initiating projects for those faculties.
Joining the SU is not the only way to get involved — many clubs have done great things to improve the U of C. But under the Alberta Post-Secondary Legislation Act, the SU literally has to exist. And with each vacancy, we’re missing another chance to make students’ lives better.
If something on campus doesn’t work for you, run in the election yourself. Ask your friends to run in the election. Or at least vote for someone that will represent you — and hope they’ll actually keep their job once elected.
Tina Shaygan, Gauntlet Editorial Board