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New UNBSU needs to pick sides

To say that UNB has seen a lot of action over the past two years would be an understatement. Most of the university’s current students have experienced a faculty strike, turmoil in the faculty of law and a deterioration of trust in the senior administration by faculty.

Through it all, the UNBSU — the elected representatives of all full-time undergraduate students — has maintained one stance: that of neutrality.

This sentiment can be summed up by a response given by incoming UNBSU president Katie Davey at the UNBSU election debate:

“I think the job the Student Union did this year on staying neutral on many issues … is a very good move because we really need to make sure that we consider the fact that the Student Union does not represent one interest, one group of people; we represent students as a whole.” she said.

“If the Student Union takes a strong stance on any issue that may be controversial, it’s very possible that they’re going to alienate maybe half of the student body that they represent, and that’s not necessarily he job of the Student Union.”

Here’s the thing: As a union, taking a stance on behalf of your constituents IS your job.

What Katie does not seem to understand is that we as students vote for the people whom we trust to make the tough decisions for us. We vote because the majority of us believe that our representatives will choose the right stance on our behalf. We vote because we are trusting that the Union will fight for our concerns and in our best interests.

Neutrality is like staying home curled up in a blanket in bed instead of facing the world and doing your job — it’s safe but you don’t get anything done.

Where was the UNBSU when students were risking their lives to come to school in a snow storm because the university admin didn’t close the campus? Where was the UNBSU in calling out the admin for its lack of transparency surrounding sexual assault on campus? Where was the UNBSU when rising tuition costs and insufficient student loans have crippled many students financially?

Maybe student voter turnout is low for a reason. If you try to represent everyone, you end up representing no one.

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3 Comments

  1. JaneBraemore Reply

    I get what you are saying but ultimately, having been involved in an SU at another university during a faculty strike, it really is in the best interests of the students/constituents for any SU to maintain neutral between faculty and admin. The SU needs healthy working relationships with both parties… to have a disconnect between the SU and admin, or the SU and faculty (a thick line would be drawn whichever side they went with) would be pretty disastrous in ruining important connections needed in order to best serve students. It’s tricky, but I get it because I’ve been there, too. Neutrality is the best option for sustaining good healthy working relationships in the long-term.

  2. Jordan Thompson Reply

    The problem with this editorial is the equating of neutrality with doing nothing. Not the same thing. During the strike, the SU pushed both sides to get back to the table and, once that happened, basically wrote the regulations surrounding back to work protocols (what the SU submitted was basically adopted by senate and all parties). 

    Where is the SU with snow closures, sexual assault, and tuition? Lobbying admin and government. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that is done that students don’t necessarily hear about because, get this, it’s slow work. Keep in mind, there are only 5 execs, so some priorities don’t get the attention they deserve because of lack of time and resources. 

    The problem with picking sides is that it doesn’t get to the complexity of the problem. Both faculty and admin have good points and grievances. To pick a side does nothing. This is the difficulty the SU faces. Both faculty and admin claim to be doing what is best for students, but in my experience, neither have students as their main focus. The only ones who do are students themselves. 

    What you seem to be suggesting is that the SU should just pick sides and run with that side. Ignore the complexity of the issues and just latch onto one side or the other. That’s not representing students, that’s parroting one party line, which isn’t real leadership. You want a union that choses sides, I want one that will weigh each position and side, look at the interesest of the student body, and advocate on behalf of the students. Not get in bed with the faculty or the admin. 

    I note that this editorial also doesn’t mention the work the SU has done with student loan improvements, international student services on campus, metal health awareness, UNB act revisions, lobbying, improvement to services, student financial aid, and the myriad other things the SU has been engaged in and achieved in the 100 years before.

  3. Alumnae1 Reply

    I agree 100% with everything Jordan just said. The only question of yours that they didn’t address that they should have is the snow closures, but as Jordan said there is only so much time and resources to allocate to covering issues.

    Where was the UNBSU when tuition costs are rising? A couple of the Exec and Councillors were in the legislature a couple weeks ago working on this very question through Advocacy Week, and accomplishing quite a lot. Where was the UNBSU in calling out the admin for lack of transparency surrounding sexual assault? They were working with various groups on campus to develop a sexual assault policy.

    Just because they aren’t flaunting what they are doing, doesn’t mean they aren’t necessarily doing it. As the new Editor-in-Chief, I’m disappointed that you aren’t getting your facts straight.

    If I’m not mistaken, no one on behalf of the Brunswickan was at the Annual General Meeting that was held a couple weeks ago, where the SU went into detail about everything they were doing this year. But I guess the Brunswickan would rather make blanket statements about what they think the SU isn’t doing, rather than taking some effort to learn what they actually are doing.

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