IT’S ELECTION TIME at the University of Ottawa. Brace yourself for the onslaught of poster campaigns and classroom presentations where Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) candidates plunge into brief yet vague explanations of their visions for 2012–13.
What’s the importance of student politics, anyways? It’s just a bunch of political science kids practising for their totally obtainable future careers as the next Stephen Harpers and Bob Raes of the world, with the slight chance of Nycole Turmel. What’s funny is most students don’t even know who the aforementioned politicians are, so why should we worry our pretty little heads over a silly school election?
It’s not like these positions could be considered real jobs, with legit paycheques. The fact that the majority of executives make about $30,000 a year—more than most of us have earned over the span of our university careers—can and should be easily ignored, especially considering we contribute to their salaries by drinking ourselves stupid on Toonie Tuesdays or buying coffees at Café Alt and books at Agora.
Oh, wait—as of last summer, 1848 still hadn’t broken even. Well, maybe by this summer they’ll become an SFUO money-maker—doesn’t matter to us!
Come to think of it, where does that $80 fee on our statement of accounts mysteriously disappear to once it filters out of our bank account and into the black abyss of the U of O administration? Well, $23.74 goes to the SFUO. Multiply by around 40,000—that’s a lot of money toward a student federation we couldn’t care less about.
After salaries, the remaining revenue is managed by the SFUO, divided amongst their services, such as the Student Food Bank, Foot Patrol, and the Bilingualism Centre. The SFUO is also responsible for negotiating U-Pass prices, setting up our health and dental plans, and funding student clubs.
It also invests in campaigns. This year, nearly $106,000 was set aside for campaigns, including Education is a Right and the National Day of Action. The larger campaigns were organized mostly in conjunction with Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), an organization we pay twice for the privilege of our membership—once to CFS and again to CFS-Ontario.
The SFUO also decides how students spend the money they haven’t handed over to the federation yet, collaborating with the City of Ottawa on potential price increases for the U-Pass.
But playing around with a budget of over $14 million must be easy as pie—the SFUO does it every year, so we don’t need to put much thought into who’s toying with this kind of money. We all have a little extra cash to blindly throw away, don’t we?
When you think about it, so long as the finances of the federation are looked after, who cares about anything else the SFUO does? All those services, clubs, and programs that enrich our student experience at the U of O—they don’t affect us.
Like student spaces. It didn’t matter much when the SFUO heard our desperate pleas for longer library hours during exams, and then proceeded to collaborate with the U of O administration to provide us with 24-hour library services during December and April.
And certainly everyone would be opposed if the SFUO similarly advocated for better cafeteria food once Chartwell’s contract with the U of O expires in 2013. Our current model of providing students with $4 pizza slices is flawless and leaves nothing to be desired.
Let’s face it: Politics is… political. Who wants to spend more than a minute contemplating the fact that recent SFUO efforts have been devoted to the promotion and organization of the National Day of Action, a CFS-led effort of the Education is a Right campaign? The SFUO represents the political views of our diverse campus, after all—why wouldn’t we support their alignment with the politically charged CFS and the participation in all of their campaigns?
Multiple views or not—who cares? Tunnel vision is an asset to a governing body, anyways. Our current prime minister would attest to that. Serious discussions where alternative opinions are valued and respected have no place in politics. Slates are much more effective in achieving results, even if they are in no way beneficial to the general population.
But rest assured, dear students, with the knowledge that we don’t need to rely on the SFUO to suppress our voices—we are doing a fantastic job of that ourselves. Voter turnout last year was an outstandingly low 11 per cent. Way to stick it to the man! We can only hope it is even lower this year. I mean, voter apathy is the new big thing, right?