Sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, but I have it on good authority that you are too ignorant and apathetic to trust with anything.
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t coming from me. It’s just the message I’ve heard from a very powerful bloc within Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) executive and council lately.
They’re not criticizing you. Perish the thought. They don’t mind your supposed apathy at all—in fact, they see it as a wonderful opportunity to reshape things for The Greater Good™.
You see, the problem with democracy is that it’s messy. Democracy doesn’t care how deeply you believe in a cause. You can spend all year planning a bold new vision for the union, but if you put that vision to a student referendum, there’s always a chance the people won’t vote for it.
That’s why this new breed of politician has so enthusiastically embraced the idea of student apathy. Worse still, even when average students do care enough to vote during the elections, their votes are mired in the tragic ignorance of the common class.
To quote one councillor arguing in favour of removing the constitutional requirement to hold a student referendum before leaving our external advocacy groups, “most students don’t care about this issue or don’t know about it…the truth remains that the ARC (Advocacy Review Committee) committee was set up so that we could become knowledgeable…if there is an AGM, I’m sure that most of it will be made up by ARC members and council members.”
If you don’t care and you’re blissfully ignorant, then it would be downright boorish to bother you with petty little constitutionally mandated things like voting on whether to leave our student advocacy groups. The decision may involve hundreds of thousands of dollars, reverse 20 years of DSU history, and fundamentally reshape the direction of one of the union’s core mandates—but it’s probably safer to assume that you just don’t care rather than risk throwing your poor, simple little minds into a spin by putting the issue to a referendum.
Just look at the process that led up to council voting to leave the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) on Feb. 26. The current insiders don’t like our traditional form of student advocacy. In the past, individuals like VP academic Aaron Beale and Board of Governors representative John Hutton wrote in the Gazette that student advocacy should shift to a more radical approach focused on “puppets, placards, chants and high spirits” and “scar[ing] politicians into respecting our rights.” During their time in power, they and their allies have pursued this end enthusiastically.
Unfortunately, before leaving our advocacy organizations, the DSU constitution used to mandate that we hold a student-wide referendum on the issue.
To change the constitution, you need to win a simple majority vote at the union’s annual general meeting. We had one on Feb. 12. It takes 75 people to reach quorum, though ideally you want to encourage as many people as possible to come out given the momentous significance of changing our very constitution.
Reading this, you may be wondering why you didn’t get so much as a save-the-date email from the DSU about this immensely important meeting.
We can only assume they knew you wouldn’t care. If you weren’t so apathetic, the executives would have known you, and you would have been one of the roughly 100 people who received Facebook invites to attend.
At the meeting, our helpful student leaders explained that the proposed changes were strictly to tidy things up for legal reasons. The constitution was “redundant.” We would have to play the game by CASA’s and SNS’s (implicitly more stringent) rules if we ever wanted to leave, anyway. According to Beale, “it is pretty procedural, it is only to avoid being sued.”
The debate was called to question by Beale after only eight minutes and five speakers, so there wasn’t much time to question or independently fact check. The motion passed.
As it turned, the only requirement to leave both SNS and CASA was a simple majority vote at council. At the very next council meeting, with little advance warning to councillors, Beale championed a motion to withdraw from CASA and SNS, despite never mentioning this plan once at the AGM.
Upset? If you weren’t so apathetic, you would have memorized CASA’s and SNS’s withdrawal policies before coming to the meeting.
Outraged now that you’ve had a chance to read about all of this? Feel compelled to stand up for democracy by running in the DSU elections?
Sorry. Too late.
The nomination period opened on Thursday, Feb. 27 (the day after the meeting) and closed on Monday, March 3, at midnight.
I mean, sure, the union did violate their own elections policy by announcing the relevant dates several days later than the absolute minimum required. But hey, you had two and a half whole school days to find out, plan a campaign, collect 25 signatures and submit your papers.
We can safely assume that if you weren’t so apathetic, you would have known.
Not that you care, but voting for the DSU elections will take place between Wednesday March 12 and Friday March 14.
John Hillman, law student and Punditry blogger, previously ran in two DSU elections.
John Hillman is the Gazette's Opinions Editor. John is a second-year law student, but he has been at Dalhousie for much longer than that. Recently discovered cave paintings indicate he was first observed lurching around campus by Halifax’s original human settlers some time during the late Pleistocene epoch. He started writing for the Gazette back when you were in elementary school, but he unexpectedly went off the grid a half-decade ago to concentrate on helping found Punditry.ca, a DSU-focused political blog. Where exactly was he hiding between the years 2009-2013? Certain individuals would prefer he not comment. Why has he returned? Not because of a top-secret Illuminati indoctrination project known only as the Omega Initiative, that’s for sure.
You can email John at email@example.com.