None of the above, please!
It’s something all of us have been thinking recently, but not wanting to say out loud, out of fear of being labelled as “capitalist scum” by those really cool Marxists in your political thought class. But hear me out, maybe there’s a lot more in dissolving the union than what meets the eye.
This isn’t voiced out of sheer frustration either. Although, when I look at the two options we’ll have to choose between from Feb. 8–11 I admittedly want to puke. This is about the lack of necessity of student unions in general, or at least, the loss of our roots when it comes to them.
The two major roles provided by a student union, in theory, are to represent the students within the institution and provide services to students.
First off, I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of the last time the SFUO has ever represented or advocated on my behalf. For thirteen consecutive years, the university has raised tuition. And yet, fighting rising tuition fees is the first campaign listed on the Canadian Federation of Student’s website. They even hosted an event at Carleton in 2016 as part of this campaign.
While the SFUO has held protests over the past thirteen years in reaction to these rising fees, but they’ve obviously not been successful. The SFUO has failed in advocating for the student population, both at the picket line and the negotiating table.
There’s a disconnect between the theories surrounding unions and their necessity, and actual practice. The SFUO isn’t a collection of students working for the common good of the student community. The SFUO isn’t a grassroots movement. The SFUO’s salaries are more than I’ll probably make 10 years after graduation.
The UOSU doesn’t seem to be any better, if I’m being honest. Their entire platform on their website is based on two main points: built-in accountability measures and decentralized executive structure. This roughly translates into “not being like the SFUO in governance.” As for fighting the rising costs of tuition? The word “tuition” isn’t mentioned once in their constitution.
The advocacy of students and minority groups is an important role in student unions. But when the SFUO took positions on the pipeline or BDS, it was kind of insane. How can a union that claims to represent all of its members, take a stance on issues not every student is sure about? Focusing on supporting communities in the area, rather than dividing their members, should be inherent within a union.
That being said, advocacy, as well as the distribution of funds to different services and businesses on campus, can be facilitated by a different group entirely. Either a department within the university or a different body of students from each federated body. The cutting of salaries for students can aid towards funding for these minority groups, and oversight to these operations can be provided by the university.
I think the university should take a break from unions for a bit, and not just jump on a different train because we think it’s going where we want. Take a breather, return to the roots of what a union is about, and then maybe one day we can collect in unity rather than in opposition to the SFUO or the university.