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DSU president will have it tough

It feels like we should endorse a candidate here. Instead, let’s just ask a question: does who wins the Dalhousie Student Union presidency this year actually matter?

Let’s start with the candidates. Jamie Arron and Sarah Bouchard are running for president. Both are experienced in DSU politics, having served as vice-president (student life) and vice-president (external), respectively this past year, and on countless initiatives and committees in the past. Both are hard-working, compassionate, ambitious and motivated people. This is a can’t-lose for the Dal student body. The worst part is that only one of them can be president.

That new president will inherit a union in fairly good shape, along with a fairly apathetic student body. He or she will serve as a figurehead and rallying point for Dal and Halifax students, from frosh week to next year’s day of action. She or he will do good for the union. It will be a fairly good time.  It’ll look great on the resumé, too.

In the end, though, tuition will still go up, fewer students will vote than turn up to varsity games, and nothing will change.

That’s Dal. We can be proud of our union, which is reasonably well-run as these things go, and active. It represents student interests to the university, it does its job well. It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, either.

But Nova Scotia is in a difficult place financially. The how, the why and even the what of that issue are subject to debate, but there is not, nor is there ever, enough money. We’re a small province, with a small income. We are not metropolitan, planned-convention-centre or not. We have a lot of young people and a lot of old people and not enough in the middle. Health care needs money. Education needs money—a lot of money. There is not that much money, at least not right now.

1,000 or so students just protested tuition fees with very loud voices. Hopefully that protest will keep education on the table, but there are a lot of other diners in this restaurant—they all want service.

Poor Oliver Burrows in last week’s streeter, saying “tuition fees don’t make sense.” Were it so. Universities are private institutions, funded only partially by our cash-strapped government, and for good reason. Some fees have to be charged. They are too high, without a doubt, but in Nova Scotia, they’ll never be nil. There were 40,000 students in N.S. in 2009, spending an average of $5,731 on tuition. It would cost the province $229 million to cover all of that tuition, and even with tuition at current levels, many universities are in dire straits: Acadia, NSCAD, King’s and even Dal all have budget problems and really need more money in grants from the province. They can’t really afford tuition reductions right now.

No student union, or union of students’ unions, can solve this problem. Even if the government made drastic cuts, other sectors would protest, too. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives could only find a way to reduce tuition $1,100 in their 2009 alternative budget. It is not an easy time to be a university in Canada, nor is it an easy time to be a student union leader.

Dal can’t win the tuition war this week, but it can’t lose in the vote for its student leader. Our website has profiles on the candidates, as well as other information and a place to make your voice heard. Someone will win the presidential race. That person can, and should, continue to push the government. But let’s also set real expectations. Tuition is here to stay, and it’ll probably stay high, too.

Dylan Matthias
Dylan Matthias
Dylan served as Editor-in-chief of the Gazette for Volume 144. He was the Sports Editor for Volume 143.
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