URSU’s problems go beyond the referendum at hand
A referendum is a chance for students to directly decide their answer to a specific question. To require a referendum, the issue at hand has to be a fairly significant one – so significant, in fact, that our elected URSU representatives do not have the authority or mandate to make the decision for us. Last year URSU botched a referendum on our membership with the Canadian Federation of Students – a body that provides services to students across the country and lobbies for lower tuition, among many other things. At the time, the URSU executive had effectively taken an anti-CFS stance. Given the definition and purpose of a referendum, such a stance was entirely inappropriate and quite frankly a dumb thing to do.
This year, we are faced with yet another CFS referendum. The URSU Board has, shockingly given past referendum abnormalities, taken an official stance against continued CFS membership. Not only that, they gave $3,000 of students’ money to help the anti-membership campaign. How utterly Orwellian that the Board should throw thousands of our dollars at a campaign whose main argument is how the CFS supposedly wastes students’ money. Hypocrisy is a light and fluffy term to describe such actions. While all this is happening, the elected URSU executive maintains that they have no stance in this referendum. One executive member, Katelyn Barber, is so neutral that she was, until recently, collecting a paycheque from both URSU and the CFS – talk about covering one’s bases. It is positively laughable when the URSU executive claims to have no position in the referendum. Either they have a stance or they’ve had a deathbed conversion from last year, and an out-of-control board to boot. Which is it?
Unfortunately, however, these problems go deeper than hypocrisy, referenda, and the CFS. Last year’s executive elections were fraught with irregularities, made-up policy, and missed deadlines. One election actually had to be re-opened because there were so many embarrassing gaffes. There was never an official or satisfactory explanation for the calamity that unfolded. I know more about re-branding at the Owl than I do about why our voting process fell apart.
Problems exist far beyond the realm of voting. Current URSU president Kyle Addison and his slate initially campaigned on a new URSU website, and continuously touted its benefits as a new world dawning for the students of this university. After countless, largely unexplained delays, cost overruns, and a notable sense of panic from the URSU offices, the website launched. It has since then fallen flat, living up to neither its promised benefits nor its outrageous price tag. For instance, the website was heralded as an exciting opportunity to interact with URSU executives, mostly via their individual blogs. To date, most executives have only one welcoming post, and one executive member couldn’t be bothered to even say “hi.” In hindsight, it is safe to call the website what it is – a boondoggle.
Useful information is also lacking. Getting meeting minutes from URSU makes pulling teeth seem like child’s play. Asking our elected officials for clarification doesn’t help either – if you ask the same question to four different URSU executive members you will get four very different answers. It would be one thing to suggest that the URSU executive is withholding information or misleading students to hide something, but I don’t think that is the case. I honest-to-God believe that they simply have no co-ordination, organization, or any idea what is going on in their own offices. If the URSU offices were full of chickens running around with their heads cut off, it would be a welcome scene of calm and cohesiveness in comparison. And, being headless, the chickens would wear a lot fewer backward hats.
Rent is going up, tuition is skyrocketing, students are hurting, and what does the URSU executive do? They hire a Communications Co-ordinator who largely does the job of the Vice-President of External Affairs. The Students’ Union used to be a body of ideas, and an effective lobbyist on the provincial scene. But smoke and mirrors about Welcome Week events and new paint in the Owl have sidetracked our student leaders – they are now dangerously out of touch.