Wednesday, February 29, 2012

SU Elections: VP External

Vice President External looks like a really fun job. Think about it: you get to fly across the province/country/hemisphere, you get to attend lobby conferences, sometimes you get to be on TV, and you get interviewed for pretty much everything when something happens on campus. Cool, right?

Next year's VP External will either have the fun of dealing immediately with a Linkprovincial election, or dealing with all the fall-out of a very recent provincial election, and will probably have their hands full with all sorts of juicy provincial politics. It promises to be a pretty cool year all-in-all for the next VP External!

Without further ado, here are this year's candidates for Vice President External:

Dorothy Roberts: Dorothy and I go all the way back to last year, when we were councillors together. She's been involved with the SU for quite a long time, and this last year worked as an external policy researcher for the organization. Her platform features Accessibility, Accountability, and Engagement.

Petros Kusmu: I've worked with Petros through Students' Council for three years now. In that time he has been involved extensively with the Bylaw and Policy Committees, chairing both, and has never been afraid of taking on his own initiatives. Petros's platform is hiding somewhere in cyberspace, but based on his SU supplement he promises Fighting Increasing Costs, Investment in Student Work Programs, and Engaging Students.

Adam Woods: Adam has been a student councillor for the last year, and in his first year of council bravely took on the task of chairing the Bylaw Committee. From what I gather he is also extensively involved in other groups on campus, including his fraternity (several greek letters of which I do not currently remember). Adam's platform planks call themselves Removal of LinkParental Income Consideration, Lobby Training, Residence Property Tax Removal, and Increase Scholarships and Grants.

Before I analyze, I would like to define two things:

Students' Union Political Policies: The Students' Union has a set of political policies. According to our Bylaws, these policies are directives to the executives "dictating on what issues Students’ Union advocacy efforts should be directed", and prohibit any executive from representing a divergent opinion as that of the Students' Union. These policies cover everything from deferred maintenance to quality instruction, and it's safe to say that any Vice President External will be advocating for the positions outlined in these policies.

Plagiarism: The practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.

A quick glance at the Students' Union Political Policies reveals the following:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Studentsʼ Union advocates for a financial aid system that does not consider parental income as a factor for loans;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Studentsʼ Union advocates that the Government of Alberta and the City of Edmonton remove the burden of municipal property taxes from residences

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Studentsʼ Union shall lobby the University of Alberta and the Government of Alberta to increase the relative and absolute amounts of scholarships and bursaries that are awarded based on the studentsʼ financial need and/or involvement

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Students' Union shall lobby for a provincial regulation on mandatory non-instructional fees such that proposed new fees and increases for existing fees beyond their established price inflator be approved by a referendum of the students to whom the proposed fee would apply.

These are of course taken from various points throughout the document, and aren't meant to be interpreted as consecutive statements.

ALL THREE candidates currently advocate for all or some of these points. All three. The fact of the matter is that they simply do not have a choice to do so - if they are elected, this is what the Students' Union rules say they will advocate for. I sincerely doubt a single candidate has told potential voters this fact.

This appalls me. At the very least this is gross ignorance of the mechanics of political policies in the Students' Union (frightening seeing as they nearly have a collective 6 years on council), alternatively this is a misrepresentation of the imagination and lobbying gaps of the candidates. At the very worst this is an attempt to pass off ideas that the SU already pushes as ideas of the candidates, which is plagiarism.

Ignoring the platform promises covered in the above rant, all three candidates promise some form of advocacy training for other students on campus. I love this idea. The more skills that students can be taught on campus, the better the overall learning experience, and I'm thrilled that the Students' Union could be taking a leadership role in some of this. Because none of the candidates go into great detail about how to bring this about, I don't particularly think anyone stands out in how they make this promise, but I am fairly excited about the prospect.

Now that I've blasted through the aforementioned campaign promises, the pieces that remain are pretty decent too. Dorothy's ideas about advocating for undergraduate research opportunities is something I totally appreciate (and her expansion to appeal to government actually takes it a step further than its related policy - hooray), and Petros' ideas about student work opportunities seems well-intentioned, though I imagine quite difficult to bring about.
As for who what I think will happen, I think that Petros has had by far the largest presence on campus. Apart from being a part of and creating a large number of student groups, he's also conveniently had his face on Profile Magazines on stands all over campus for the last month. Because of this, I think Adam and Dorothy will have quite an uphill battle against them. I'm not convinced it will be a blow-out, though, and I'm looking forward to what the rest of the campaign is like between these three.

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