We Need A New Start

Our cover is not a mistake: we need you.

Concordia students haven’t seen a detailed budget from their union. There’s been no consultation on a student centre project that’s failed twice. We were passively represented on our Board of Governors in the midst of an administrative crisis and Council’s decorum both in and out of union meetings has been deplorable.

The fact is that your education is about to get a whole lot more expensive. Student space in this university is receding. We have a $43 million contract to buy the university a building, and an administration that has consistently shown it is indifferent to student concerns.

This, coupled with an increasing contempt for the student press and the desire to avoid dealing with a student presence at council meetings, is all troubling and unacceptable.

This can change. But we need you. You should care.

Did you know, or like, how your union represented you this year?

Do you know what a student union could be doing for you?

If the answer to any of those questions is “No,” now is the time to do something about it.

Though Fusion/Vision/Action swept into power three years ago with the best intentions, seeing candidates from all sides of the political spectrum put aside differences to fight the Canadian Federation of Students, they are now being criticized for lacking what they once fought for: proper representation, financial transparency and, ironically, action.

At the time, we cheered the “-ions” on precisely because we thought they were replacing a dying dynasty. And now, three years later, they are the dynasty—and we want a new start.

Our union is broken. Its internal structure is toxic. And nothing has changed in three years.

But most of Action’s leadership has had the last year to show us their commitment to reforming the business-as-usual approach that has permeated politics in this school for the better part of a decade. And they didn’t.

Culminating at a Council meeting nearly three weeks ago—one that devolved into a screaming match between councillors and students, with the executive calling security on their own constituents—it is pretty clear that the state of our union is troubled.

Part of this has to do with the fact that almost all of Council ran on the same slate as their executive. In a way, that defeats the union’s entire system of government. Council is designed to keep executive in check, not push the executive’s agenda onto students.

This lack of opposition has created an atmosphere where any criticism is met with hostility. What most of these elected representatives fail to grasp is simple: it’s the student’s job to be critical of their government and the politician’s job to take it. Even the most critical student is a dues paying member of the union.

The tradition of dismissing and censoring criticism has also crept its way into these elections, with Action heavily censoring what students can post on its Facebook page and YouTube videos. This was done under the guise of keeping the election clean and positive, but freedom of speech isn’t something to be left up to a handful of candidates running for political office.

To be sure, it is not the entire Action slate that has gone wrong. Most, if not all, of those running truly care about students and there are many competent people on the slate who Concordians could be proud to call Councillors. However, the Action leadership is relying on old tactics that have contributed to the fetid atmosphere currently enveloping the CSU.

On the other hand, you have a campaign that raised the bar for transparency, student engagement and consultation. Many on Your Concordia have a real track record of fighting for students’ rights and are decidedly not tied to the present executive.

We are not saying that we are cheering for a clean sweep. Just the opposite, actually. Not everyone can be friends in a democracy. The time you’re supposed to be afraid is when all the politicians get along. What the CSU needs, and what it has been missing this year, are divergent opinions held by passionate people who can challenge conventional wisdom and keep each other honest.

So who do you believe will actually fight for students’ rights next year?

It’s certainly not going to be the university administration, nor the Board of Governors, and it certainly won’t come from the type of student leadership currently dominating the discourse on our student council.

We need you. And we need you to know that, just because you have the right to vote, doesn’t mean that the democracy in this school is working.

So decide. You actually have the choice to re-elect the status quo or vote for something better.

We need you: strong, passionate, innovative and intelligent students to choose who will lead our union next year. But we need you to not only vote for them, but to fight them and fight for them and with them.

Our student union depends on it.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 28, published March 29, 2011.

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