Did you know that after each council session, the University of New Brunswick Student Union publicly posts their minutes? No? That’s okay. Nobody reads them, including the council itself. As of Feb. 13, the council still hasn’t posted the minutes regarding the strike/lockout debate, which are arguably the most important minutes in the history of the organization.
But let us take a look at their most recently posted minutes, those from Dec. 1, 2013.
Vice-president external, Greg Bailey, put forward a motion to repeal the recommendation of a referendum on whether or not students wanted to keep paying our membership fee to the New Brunswick Student Alliance – a professional lobby group for students. The referendum question was to be added to this year’s general election ballot.
If my travels through Quebec have taught me anything, it’s that nothing galvanizes a base like a good old-fashioned referendum. Furthermore, the Student Union has a history of flip-flopping on the NBSA and a referendum would clear up the inability of the council to make a decision.
There were, of course, detractors.
President Ben Whitney does not believe in the need for a referendum to fully understand the wishes of the students because, as he stated, “I really believe that council is the best educated group to make this decision.”
President Whitney, you understand that your council exists within a university, right? And you also understand that a group of 46 out of 5726 undergraduate students is probably not the best educated group to make any decision, let alone one that deals with inter-university relations?
I assume you know this because that is why you didn’t just appoint yourself to the presidency; you respected the fact that the student body is smarter than you and you therefore act in accordance with its wishes.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that Whitney is correct and that council is the best educated group at the university. Except we can’t pretend that for long because the vote was tabled for the following session since multiple councillors said that they did not feel prepared to vote on this issue. Residence representative, Arielle Rechnitzer, stated “I would not feel comfortable asking my constituents about the NBSA because with that comes the question about what it is.” Arts representative, Nicole Saulnier, echoed Rechnitzer’s point: “I feel uncomfortable voting on this motion since a lot of people don’t understand what it does.”
Not only does our Student Union president severely underestimate the capacity of the student body, but he also severely overestimates the capacity of his own council.
This mentality is not limited to Whitney. Within the same minutes, vice-president finance and operations, Marc Gauvin, stated that he was against a referendum because “There’s going to be a whole lot of uneducated voters out there.” Once again, Mr. Gauvin, I would encourage you to go to the entrance of campus, look at the sign, and read the word that comes immediately before “of New Brunswick.”
If students do not know what is going on with the NBSA, or even that we are a part of the NBSA, it is because we have not been properly informed. If only our student fees paid for someone whose job it was to tell us about stuff like the NBSA.
Because, I mean, that would be really embarrassing if someone did have that job and were accepting their paycheques despite the hard evidence that they are doing terribly.
Like, that would be the worst.
Well actually, it turns that job exists: the vice-president external, Greg Bailey. Mr. Bailey vindicated himself from the fact that nobody knew shit about what was going on by arguing, “I like to think that it’s sort of a ‘no news is good news’ thing. If I’m not talking to you guys hopefully I’m off working getting stuff done.”
Yes, Mr. Bailey, “hopefully” you are “getting stuff done.”
If no news is good news then your job obviously has no relevance. Forgive people for not knowing what the Student Union does anymore when the Student Union itself does not know what the Student Union does anymore.
Council’s minutes are full of little gems, like at one point Oliver Gorman-Asal, the law representative, openly admits that when he was on council last year he voted to push the referendum back a year because “Maybe I thought I wasn’t going to run this year and that’s why I did it.” Typical Gorman-Asal, always letting the lols roll.
But the underpinning ethos of the entire session is that the UNBSU could really care less what they say or do because we don’t care either.
It is with soul-crushing irony that the Student Union, a once noble idea, has mutated into a mirror image of Eddy Campbell’s administration, and in doing so has come to symbolize what hinders this university.
The UNBSU’s incestuous upper echelon consistently takes advantage of youth apathy, internalizing and exploiting it. Hence their position of “neutrality” during the strike actually being one of “Please blindly protest and we’ll still pretend like you’re contributing to the outcome.”
Finally, and perhaps most debilitatingly, the governance of the Student Union has become a stepping stone for those who have much loftier goals. During the strike, one of the things that the UNBSU executive showed us all was that they are solely interested in the shine and shimmer of their own professional images and have thus adopted the attitude of “If I don’t piss anyone off I can probs get into UofT’s MBA.”
Last year’s election saw a dismal 17.9 per cent voter turnout. Furthermore, the vast majority of seats were run uncontested – including three of the four VPs’ as well as the president’s. The 2008 Zimbabwean election was a better representation of democracy.
However, both president Ben Whitney and VP external Greg Bailey only received about 90 per cent of the vote. Meaning that, despite running against a blank page, 10 per cent of voters would rather we just burn this mother to the ground than let yet another business student grab one more resumé topper.
Yes, it is true that the entire student body’s indifference to the happenings of the Student Union cannot be solely attributed to the UNBSU. But, as the NBSA debate clearly demonstrates, the UNBSU’s leadership thrives on self-preservation, isolation, and actively assumes student apathy and ineptitude.
So, was the NBSA motion repealed? Are we having our referendum? I have no idea. Council still hasn’t posted their latest minutes.
Immeditaely before publication, this story was leaked by an undisclosed friend of Ben Whitney, Greg Bailey, and Marc Gauvin. UNBSU has since updated its webpage with recent minutes along with the dates of when future minutes will be posted.