We get mad when the administration doesn’t consult students. We get mad when the administration doesn’t care about student debt. We get mad when the administration views the student body as President Eddy Campbell’s own personal safari.
So it was no surprise to see our absolute elation upon the announcement that, in response to student demands, the administration was giving each student a whopping $200 for the class time missed during the strike. Yes, it was great to see the Student Union and Graduate Students Association do something other than plan sock-hop socials.
There is something odd, however, about the $200. No, it isn’t the fact that $200 for three weeks of missed school means that the administration considers one week to be worth $67, therefore meaning that a semester of 13 weeks should cost $871. No, it wasn’t even the fact if the administration did not go G20 and hire its own private security firm that the refund would be significantly larger.
What is odd about the $200 buyout was how gleefully the student body has accepted it without ever considering others who were affected by the labour disruption.
During the strike, due to the inability for both sides to reach an agreement, many employees of UNB’s food service union were unable to work the hours to which they were entitled.
While it is impossible for Student Union president Ben Whitney to write about the $200 refund without the excessive use of OMGs, ROFLs and heart-shaped emoticons, there has been no talk of support for the food service union. If food service workers expected fellow unions to act in solidarity with them and in a socially-conscious way within their own communities, they had better go somewhere else.
The Student Union is, after all, a union – at least theoretically. When the word “union” takes up half of your name, you have to anticipate the fact that many people will confuse you with some sort of organization. And a part of being a union is buying in to the belief that not only is our influence greater collectively than separately, but that we can use that influence to aid others, particularly other unions. In other words, the Student Union and GSA can act as the university’s ethical barometer, something against which the rest of the university’s various unions and administrative bodies can measure themselves.
Can we really fault Eddy Campbell’s administration for being entirely selfish and narcissistic when we ourselves are as equally self-interested? The short answer is yes, of course we can. The long answer, however, is (as long answers are wont to be) slightly more complicated.
The Student Union and GSA have been pathetically silent on the injustice done to UNB’s food service union by the administration. While students lost class time, food service employees were losing paycheques. Although it is difficult to say which one was more important, the fact remains that both the SU and the GSA stayed true to their self-serving nature and have turned a blind eye towards the strike’s many detrimental effects that did not immediately affect students.
I understand that students are incredibly busy people – especially with all the sock-hop socials we have to choose from. I also understand that it is not our responsibility to take every injustice within this university upon ourselves. But when our elective bodies actively ignore the attacks on other unions, our own union is seriously compromised.
The Student Union and Graduate Students Association must invest themselves in fostering a vibrant, equitable campus and not just trying to convince people to take one of their crappy student agendas.
A little while ago, the Brunswickan hosted the Student Union election debate. The best candidate, by far, was Lee Thomas, running for vice-president internal. Thomas is a good candidate because she said something other than the knee-jerk catch phrases of “we need to consult students” and “reduce tuition.”
We all know student consultation is an empty promise since our president-in-waiting, Greg Bailey, has actively campaigned and voted against a student referendum. Furthermore, we all know reduced tuition isn’t going to happen and has turned into the “Support Our Troops” of this campus: nobody’s really sure what it means exactly or how it will actually work, but it sounds like a neat enough idea.
Thomas was the best candidate because she has a tangible idea that will better this university’s culture: gender-neutral washrooms. Sure, it isn’t an incredibly sexy idea, and it doesn’t allow for the endless running and rerunning of photo-ops, the kind Mr. Bailey and his bullhorn are always on the hunt for.
But Thomas’s idea isn’t ideological pablum; gender-neutral washrooms force this university to drag itself out of its industrial revolution mindset. Gender-neutral washrooms will remove barriers that inhibit the cultivation of a campus culture that welcomes a larger amount of people.
I grew up in Alberta during the Klein years and like the rest of us Albertans, I gleefully accepted my $400 cheque when the province was giving away money for the hell of it.
But what Albertans, myself included, have come to realize is that everybody has a price and ours happened to be quite low. The $1.4 billion payout came at the expense of our province’s schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. UNB’s payout has come at the expense of our unions, and that should have been worth at least $400 too.