Student democracy inaction

The failed effort to boycott politics

Student democracy inaction
written by Matt Stickland
September 14, 2017 1:27 pm

It’s excusable to have missed the Dalhousie Student Union’s Canada day boycott, because they did too. They had every intention of boycotting but the motion was not introduced with adequate notice, and was struck down on a procedural review. So the resolution didn’t pass until mid-July. While some may find it in their hearts to excuse that lapse in effective governance, it seems strange to me, to forgive an organization for failing at something that is their primary job. It would be like forgiving a baker who didn’t know how to use flour. 

The good news is, the boycott on Canada day is done already. It was only for Canada 150. Was Canada day 149 not colonial enough to warrant a boycott? Is the assumption that by Canada day 151 the colonialism will be gone? Or perhaps it’s just not as politically expedient to grandstand about the colonialism of 151? 

Either way the resolution is missing any sort of meaningful way to actually help solve colonialism 

Whereas the DSU recognizes the struggles of Indigenous students and strives to advocate and support them, it lacks any resolutions to meaningfully do that. However limited in its scope, the DSU has agency. How is the best use of that agency to remove itself from the conversation where it could help Indigenous students? 

The same problem exists with Pride boycott. As The Gazette covered last year, the Pride annual general meeting was overrun by the Halifax Jewish community. They controlled the meeting because they mobilized their people. Had the Halifax Jewish community boycotted, they would not have used their agency, and the DSU boycott would not have been necessary.  

Would marching in the parade and handing out information been a better use of resources? Would spending the money to mobilize 15,000+ Dal students to march and protest been a better use of resources? 

No matter what your beliefs on the Black Lives Matter protest at Toronto Pride in 2016, they were only effective because they showed up. 

Student activism used to be the driver of political change. The debates on campuses were fierce and the protests loud. If there was a group being marginalized there was no organization that was too big to take on. The outcomes of student activism eventually shaped the world as those students came into power. 

The thing about boycotts is they don’t work on their own. 

The thing about power is that it can only be wielded by those who show up. 

Students used to be the vanguard of social change. Student government used to make decisions that mattered. They rallied students to be a constant presence, available at a moment’s notice to show up en mass to be heard. 

Now the student government thinks the best course of action is to stay away from the action. Raise a flag and make some speeches to a supportive audience. 

At the flag raising in Dalhousie’s quad, the DSU president Amina Abawajy said “Pride has been, and always will continue to be, political.” 

She’s not wrong. The DSU representatives played perfect politics with the situation. A safe course of action, that appeased their voters, saying the right things at the right time. In other words; the vacuity we’ve come to expect from our political leaders. 

Our future looks bleak.  

To actually make a difference at Pride they are soliciting for information, check out dalgazette.com for the link, and board members can be nominated in advance of the AGM or at the AGM.  

To make change happen – mobilize, don’t stay at home.