By Dominique Blain
Last night, your student union proposed a motion to prevent student groups from being affiliated with political parties.
There is nothing about RSU’s latest attempt at reigning in debate and discussion on campus that isn’t ridiculous. Each reason listed in the policy amendment created by the student union is equally ludicrous to the last, but some ring particularly false to those of us championing for a campus that encourages the right to freedom of opinion and freedom of speech. For instance, the fifth reason on the list against allowing groups with political affiliations is that “some of the partisan policies … may from time to time contradict RSU policies and may undermine student interests.”
Wait a second — so you’re telling me that if students choose to affiliate themselves with a political party with which the RSU doesn’t agree, the RSU’s opinion trumps the students’? How are these people our student representatives? Representation means that they stand for us. Representation does not mean that they tell us what our opinion is. Speaking of which, reasons six and seven in the list say that we don’t need politically affiliated student groups on campus anyway, since RSU is funding an “educated voter campaign.”
No offence, but I hope that student voters are wise enough to use a multiplicity of sources in their decision-making process. I would hope our union would suggest the same, especially considering the particularly low voter turnout for our age group. If it were available to you, I’d suggest visiting the Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green, etc, student groups.
Since it isn’t, though, I guess you’ll have to wade through tonnes of pamphlets and listen to hundreds of political drones talk to you without considering who you are. Or, you could visit the party-affiliated student groups at the University of Toronto or York University or Queen’s University or McMaster University … Huh. We’re seemingly the only university in the region that doesn’t have any student groups attached to a major Canadian party. I think it’s a good idea that the RSU is funding an educated voter campaign — students need a strong, cohesive voice, and need to work together to decide what that voice is.
But by preventing student groups that are affiliated with parties the student union makes itself appear insecure and vulnerable. Each RSU student group receives $900 — this is actually reason number one listed against having political groups, by the by — whereas RSU works with a multimillion dollar budget. But the student union is worried that a combined budget of, say, $2,700 for student political groups would diminish their hard work. (Funny thing how all dictators, benevolent or not, have tremendous insecurities over power issues.) Reason number two listed by the student union is that it “strives to remain non-partisan.” Right. Well, you could ban all politically affiliated groups and call yourself non-partisan, or you could accept them and still call yourself non-partisan.
This is a filler excuse at best. I kept my favourite for last. Reason number four of the student group policy amendment reads, “Board members have expressed concern with funding groups whose purpose is to recruit students for membership in a Provincial and Federal political parties.” Just for kicks, replace “Provincial and Federal political parties” with “religious group.” Go back, reread, ponder. First of all, should your natural assumption, when a group of students approach you to create a religious group, be that it is aiming to recruit other students? And if so, is that wrong or right?
Those students are just trying to share what makes them happy with the rest of the student populace. There is no reason to assume any differently of political groups. In any case, two students who have been attempting to start student groups with party affiliations have insisted it is not their intent. Moreover, the inherent implication of most religions, though by no means all of them, is that they preclude any other religion (including the “no religion” types).
Now that could surely come off as offensive to some students. The inherent implication of a political party, on the other hand, is that it needs at least one opponent to be relevant. Its presence is irrelevant without the inclusion of other parties. This policy is half baked.