Debating student politics

What a sad state of affairs.


I found last week’s UTMSU debate a perfect symbol of how our union continues to operate and the role they play in representing students. Just plain sad.


I wonder if the “Engage” candidates were able to step back for a second, like Thomas Kristan, and recognize the absurdity of the situation. The debate (if you can even call it that) was more of an inaudible conversation between a handful of stubborn people—all hand gestures and half-understanding—made even more awkward by the fact that the conversants were separated by about four feet of stage, and the majority of the attendees were people from this newspaper who were covering the story.


And the irony. Who could forget that? A team whose primary promise, as far as I can tell, is to “engage” students, spent over an hour in the pub looking like those lonely guys at pub nights who stand in the corner and pretend to send fake text messages. The real kicker: it’s their pub. You can’t make this shit up.


I know I’ve been critical of the union this year. But that belies the fact that, for the most part, I truly respect the work they do. I believe that those in office really care about helping students and I know they work exceptionally hard. But there’s something fundamentally wrong with the way they go about it. And you need look no further than their elections to see that.


When an incumbent slate has been running unopposed for four of the past five years, you should be worried. I’m not saying the process is undemocratic; it’s actually quite easy for anyone to run for a position, and everyone on campus gets a vote. I’m saying there’s a culture of succession, one that our union has done nothing to renounce. It’s this culture that dissuades different students from running. Thomas Kristan is an exception, but you get the sense that any independent opposition is a lost cause, no matter how qualified they are.


The result is that our union is hardly representative of students. No matter how many different points of view or cultural backgrounds VP candidates may collectively represent, no matter how many “debates” they hold, and no matter what experience they may have, we still have no real choice about who gets the job. And that is a serious problem. For elected officials, nothing is more delegitimizing than that.


Something has to change. A good place to start would be for our union to remove itself from the wider political spectrum (think Drop Fees and all that other nonsense) and focus on student affairs at our campus. Maybe then more students would care about what’s going on, and when that happens there could be room for some real debate.



Michael Di Leo

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