Monday, March 11, 2013

Running for the SU?

Now that we're between the Students' Union executive elections and the Council elections, I'd like to take a second to clarify a bit a point I may not have successfully made during my post on the presidential platforms.

In very general terms, the portfolios of the SU Vice Presidents can be spectrumized (scientific term) like this:

On the left hand side we have portfolios that deal with issues external to the university, and on the right hand side we have portfolios that deal more with the running of the SU. The President would be expected to assist with and coordinate all of these, and balance their time accordingly.

An alternative way of looking at the internal/external label is, to quote Pirates of the Caribbean, "What a [duly elected executive] can do, and what a [successful student politician] can't do."

Before anyone gets upset at me, let me clarify - electoral promises that are made on the external side of things are still important. Being the elected representative for 30,000 undergraduate students is not insignificant. Sitting on the board of governors commands a fair amount of respect, and working with other student unions across the country on coordinated lobbying efforts is the most effective way to get the opinions of students heard.

The problem is that, at some (perhaps hyperbolically-simple) level, externally-oriented electoral promises are promises to bring things up and talk about them in meetings. Both candidates for president in the last election promised to research things or start dialogues. And though the SU's research team is phenomenal, and their arguments could be solid, fundamentally anything the SU brings up externally is subject to someone higher up just saying no.

On the other hand, as an executive of an organization, in control of the $10,000,000 budget, it is relatively straightforward to perform internal changes to the SU. Though it's not a great idea to have massive swings in the internal workings of the SU year after year, it is something that an exec would have the definitive say over, and as campaign promises they are much more tangible.

I mention all this also because a fun time is soon to be upon us: SU councillor elections. Yay! While exciting, it's important to keep in mind, once again, what you can do and what you can't do as a councillor when you're developing a platform.

If you're running for council to get the SU to use its considerable lobbying power for a pet project of yours, chances are it won't happen. At best you may be a member of the policy committee, which debates and votes on policy suggestions to council, where they're debated and voted on before being brought up in meetings with officials. On the other hand, if you want to have input on how the SU handles its advocacy, then an externally-oriented platform is legitimate.

More realistically, running for council can be a great opportunity instead to work on the internal portions of the SU. Maybe you hate/love APIRG and other dedicated fees students pay? Maybe you want an influence on the businesses the SU runs, like RATT and Dewey's? Maybe you want to help your Faculty Association regain its FAMF, get generally more involved, and overhaul the electoral system [LAME]?

I strongly encourage anyone even vaguely interested in running to run. The point of all of this is that there are plenty of actual important things you can run on, and a campaign based on external pet projects is likely to result in disappointment for all involved.

Good luck! And remember to get your nomination packages in before 5:00 on Tuesday...

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