Omni-bust the Bylaws

The November byelection is now in full swing, with Concordia undergraduates being asked what they want from their union. But the big question is, do you really care? I’m going to assume you don’t.

Let me make one thing clear: this is not a rant about the perils of student apathy. No, I completely understand student apathy; in fact, if I weren’t the news editor, I probably wouldn’t care about this stuff either.

The reason I’m writing this is to inform you of the direct consequences of both not bothering to vote and not informing yourself about the issues before voting.

Like most byelections, there are a few councillor seats to fill and some student groups asking for fee levy increases•pretty standard stuff. But unlike other referendums, students are also voting on a complete overhaul of their union’s bylaws. And unless you’re actively engaged in student politics to begin with, you probably won’t realize the importance of the changes on which you’re voting.

One major change the Concordia Student Union Council has recommended is to eliminate the electoral slate system, which sees candidates run on teams so as to align themselves with an identifiable set of beliefs, or policies.

The CSU is making this major change because of the vicious nature of elections involving large teams of people. Eliminating the slate system, however, comes with its own set of potentially troublesome consequences.

In the last CSU election, over 70 candidates ran for councillor positions, all but a handful of whom were associated with one of two slates. Can you imagine the incomprehensible mess that would result from that many people trying to grab your attention? How are you going to select who to vote for?

I predict campaigning disaster.

Another thing to keep in mind is just how hard of a job last year’s CEO had managing only two slates and roughly three independent candidates. Is this year’s CEO really going to be able to handle the management of potentially 70-plus candidates, not to mention all executives running in associations? I think not.

The CSU is also trying to reduce the number of people required to make quorum at Special General Meetings, wherein major decisions can be made on behalf of the entire undergraduate student body. Sure, a reduction in quorum will benefit those wanting to pass motions, but what about the representation of the vast majority of the student body who will never vote at an SGM?

Presently, the CSU needs 2.5 per cent of the undergraduate population, or approximately 885 students, to meet quorum at an SGM. The CSU is asking students to change that number to 450, regardless of what percentage of the undergraduate population that number represents.

How can it possibly be considered democratic to corral a few hundred students into an auditorium with the promise of donuts, and then keep them there for as short a time as possible to vote on matters that affect over 35,000 undergraduates? On top of this, they’re trying to halve the number of students necessary to do such a thing. This is not democracy, not by any stretch of the imagination.

That being said, it should also be noted that the questions on the ballots ought to be phrased in such a way that students know exactly what they’re voting for. The questions as they stand right now are vague and leave the voter with no more knowledge then when they arrived at the polling booth.

For example, “Do you agree to ratify By-Law 2011-01, as approved by the Council of Representatives on November 3rd 2011, to replace all previous versions of the By-Laws of the Concordia Student Union, to be effective March 1 2012, with the exception of the replacement of Special By-Law E, F and G with Special By-Law I which shall remain in effect, if adopted by the members?”

Does this make any sense to you? No? Exactly.

The Union should never have packaged all of these contentious bylaw changes into one question. Instead they could have broken them up into separate, manageable chunks.

If the CSU wants to be the beacon of democracy that they’re so fond of claiming to be, they need to get their act together.

Pulling the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting voters to then pass contentious omnibus bills is something I expect from the Harper government•not my student union.