Have you ever been to a UTMSU town hall meeting or Commission meeting? They generally all follow a script. It begins with a welcome and a slideshow of past achievements. Well, that’s excusable, because you would expect UTMSU to promote itself as an organization. But I have argued feverishly that UTMSU doesn’t advertise itself properly and instead relies heavily on recalling and even inflating past successes.
For example, the U-Pass is the crowning achievement of UTMSU. Almost everyone uses it and it’s essential to student life at UTM. I used to be a math major, but it doesn’t take one to know that the U-Pass was achieved in 2006 and a whole four years later it’s 2010. Why is UTMSU still citing it at every meeting?
We see rhetoric all over UTMSU’s events and writings, from the drop fees campaign to the phrase “in solidarity”. But do you wonder why this happens? I suspect that in the past four years, the union has not seen any new executives. The president of UTMSU was a vice-president the year prior… going back four years. This is fact, but it leads to speculation. Does this mean that all communication between the UTMSU and the Student Body is scripted? Look at the bottom of every letter from the president, and you’ll see “In Solidarity”. And rhetoric at its finest is “Whose Campus? Our Campus!”. Consistent rhetoric is a sign of a systematic attempt “to shape perceptions, manipulate cogitations, and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent” of the union. It creates an “us vs. them” attitude, which creates an even greater need to have a union to stand up for your rights.
Darren Lilleker defines “Permanent campaigning”; as “the use of office by elected individuals and organizations […] to build and maintain popular support.” This is a part of any democracy, but it undermines the idea that leaders will do what’s best for the organization and the people it serves. If no one knows that’s what you’re spending it on, then $9,300 is a great investment in T-shirts. You see people walking around with these shirts on and you can see how many people are involved heavily in the union. It isn’t like the shirts are just given away to anyone who asks… oh, wait.
I brought up the fact that UTM students feel that UTMSU is too political—UTMSU is full of student politicians. This is a sentiment that I’m sure some people reading this will agree with. The directors also agreed, but the executive seemed shocked and offended. At a following meeting I motioned to create a committee for marketing and public relations; it passed in the early summer, but has never met.
Perhaps we’re still busy with the great successes of the union—or it could be a systematic attempt to keep things the way they are.
In the other UTMSU letters and meetings, have you been talked to, or talked with? Were you asked for your input? I look forward to your emails and letters. I will gladly set up a time to meet with anyone about this letter or any ideas you have: Peter@utmsu.ca. I hope my next letter can be a little more cheery.