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Student body, not Union, is the problem

In the last Student Union election, 17.7 per cent of undergraduates voted. There’s every bit of room with that number to point a finger at the SU. I worked for the SU for two years during my undergraduate degree as council’s secretary. I’ve watched good and bad decisions be made. During the strike, I heavily criticized the SU. But not today.

The real problem with the SU is the student body. On council, there are some hardworking students trying to bring better representation, advocacy and services to students. However, we’ve all taken advantage of them.

Maybe the cure to get students involved is to encourage council to start making really bad decisions. Advocate for tuition hikes. Only hire Milli Vanilli cover bands for concerts. Cut the finding to clubs and societies. Completely ignore new students during orientation. The SU should cut every service they offer to students so we can all see for a year how much they organize, fund and provide.

However, I don’t think President Greg Bailey is going to go for it. What I do think he would go for is increased services alongside an increased SU fee. Right now, there are everyday services that can be broadened through extra funds to offer students new services. The best example is SafeRide.

I sat down with former SU president and current UNB law student Ben Whitney to talk about the possibilities of expanding SafeRide. Basically, if SafeRide was given a third van, not only could they manage their full-capacity winters better, but they could offer new transportation services. During my undergraduate, I was a single parent without a vehicle. I would have given anything to have a drive to pick up or drop off my son. That extra hour of walking back and forth every day would be an invaluable extra five hours a week to do school work amidst a part-time job and child-rearing.

With an expanded SafeRide, the SU could even consider a band-aid cure to our province’s refusal of abortion access. Discrete transportation could be offered to an out-of-province clinic. While the SU, I imagine, would be unwilling to cover the costs of a student’s abortion, it is entirely appropriate to, at the very least, offer the transportation, giving some semblance of access for students.

To fund a new vehicle, an increase to the SU fee is vital. And I hear you. I can’t believe that I am advocating for a fee increase either. But wait, I have an idea on how to do this without introducing any new costs to your fee statement.

In Feb. 2012, during the SU election, a referendum question was placed on the electronic ballot: “Should University of New Brunswick policy and the provincial University Act require a student referendum on the implementation of ancillary fees?”

The question was posed as a reaction to the aptly nicknamed “Curry Centre/er Fee” (if you don’t get the spelling, contact our former Chancellor, Richard Currie) of $150 that was instituted under more than sketchy circumstances. The reply from the student body (who voted, that is, 22.3 per cent) was definitive. 798 students voted yes, 297 voted no. Yet no action was taken.

While the anger and reaction towards the Curry Centre/er fee is now long past, I think we could extend an opportunity to our Board of Governors, administration, and UNB President Eddy Campbell to make amends on the whole issue. Decrease that ancillary fee by $75 and make way for the Student Union to increase their fee by $25. Students save $50 which is often gouged by way of UNB’s foolish “late payment fee” anyway and the SU would now have what I would surmise to be adequate finances to support a third vehicle.

The problem is that our administration and its glorious leader are not much for listening to the votes of various bodies at UNB. Whether it be non-confidence votes by faculty or a referendum on ancillary fees by students, the administration’s latest tagline should be “Ignorance is wealthy, comfortable bliss for some of us.” Alongside, a new photo of Eddy giving a thumbs-up would be nice. The reaction from the administration on definitive and obvious decisions by faculty or students is often a nice pat on the head.

But why shouldn’t they go ahead with my flawless plan? Like I said, the SU offers innumerable services to our students. They take our money, but they hand it right back to us. Take 10 SafeRide drives and there’s your SU fee paying for itself. While I may think removing those services for a bit would remind the student body of what they’re taking advantage of, I also think that increasing services and advocacy would raise a massive banner that states “LOOK AT ALL WE DO FOR YOU, YOU UNGRATEFUL STUDENTS.” The least you can do in return is vote in SU elections, take advantage of their services, and if nothing else, go to their concerts and drink your face off.

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