EDITORIAL: Whoever’s elected must remember whom and what they work for

So, you’ve been elected. Congrats! Now, in case you’ve somehow got the (mistaken) notion you know what you’re doing, allow us to redirect you in more useful directions, rather than tilting at windmills labeled “24/7 library” and “Vancouver Aquarium beach cleanups.”

Here’s what the students really need:

First, the divisive discourse that permeated the last year has got to be addressed. We understand that it’s easy to dogpile on the new slate that wants to bring in new ideas. (Financial transparency and streamlining of policy is just good practice, regardless of your political stripes.) And it’s even easier to yell at the incumbents for not doing their job properly. But students don’t want petty politics that come down to who can yell about privilege the loudest — and we absolutely acknowledge that there’s a lot of privilege to go around, and everyone needs to be mindful of that. Rather than draw lines in the sand, the electees should offer an olive branch not just to their fellow directors, but to students. Cooperate!

Second, we need a social media policy for directors. Make it official that each lead director and director-at-large assume professional accounts (Facebook, Twitter, whatever) when they enter office, and that they only interact with the student body on official enquiries through a professional account. No misrepresentation, and no opportunity to get into nasty “debates” with students. Make a playbook for what you can and can’t say in your professional role, and then either lock your private accounts down or accept the necessity of wading into troll-infested swamps and vitriolic firesands.

On that note, know your limits, and work within them. There is more than enough work to be done here on campus, without trying for the big ticket items the UVSS has no power to implement. True, you’re our student union, but you function as our governing body. You draft policy legislating our lives as students, and you represent the students on campus, in the municipality, in the province, and in this nation. Know that your role as the voice and face of the student body is a full-time gig. You’ve signed up to be judged; brace for impact and try to bear it out with a smidge of dignity. Or at least some Dicaprio-esque suffering. There might not be any Oscars in it for you, but you’ll be more respected for staying strong . . . and a punchline if you fail.

We’ve said this before (and we’ll stop numbering these), but it’s time to implement better accessibility for student involvement using online platforms — even something as simple as a Twitter or podcast question period once weekly (or bi-weekly, if you’re busy). Give out some surveys to determine the student body priorities that go beyond a fixation on fresh sushi. Let the dialogue flow in avenues that aren’t stuffy committee meetings.

Recognise that student government is meant to be actively improving lives on campus. Focus on taking care of the things you can change here and now and leave the majority of the lobbying to interest groups. Support them, help them get connections, but don’t let futile campaigns subsume more boring but effective policy formation on this campus (like increased student involvement, improving residence security/maintenance, supporting unions and student labour standards, fixing operations between bureaucracies on campus, tidying your lamentable fiscal tracking, and cleaning house before heading to Christie’s or Justin’s).

Cultivate your allies: stay on the good side of the unions, security, the profs, the teaching aids, the secretaries, the advocacy groups, and of course the students as much as possible. You want to get things done, so network. It’s more effective than protest, and when you get to the protest stage, you’ll have more than 12 kids and that Matt guy showing up. (C’mon, Matt.)

But most of all: treat this shit like your job. Because it is, and that job is to be the voice and face of the UVic student body in all its entirety. You are our only hope, you lucky Kenobis you. Use your force wisely.

2 Comments

Avatar joesmoe

“streamlining of policy is just good practice” …

It really isn’t. It’s a gigantic waste of time that board members love to focus on at the expense of everything else they could actually be doing for students, like improving the SUB or putting on great events. At best, policy is a distraction, and an excuse for board members to play politics.

Like this article, the Martlet is partly guilty in this, because their reporters who cover UVSS politics are likely also engrossed with the minutia that is the inside baseball of the UVSS. The inside baseball is what drives student apathy.

The UVSS boards that create transformational legacies for themselves are those that step beyond this bickering, and focus on deeper, more fundamental issues around how the SUB is organized. They don’t take things for granted. They realize the budget they have available to them is a political document, available to be amended or changed. They realize that the “way things are” isn’t necessarily how they should be in the future. They question management decisions, and assumptions, and have the vision for seeing how things can be done differently.

In my experience you only see boards with this kind of maturity once every 3-5 years or so, and their influence on the UVSS can be felt for decades. The most prominent example by *far* in the last 25 years being from Rob Fleming’s tenure as Finance Director in the 90’s. If current Executive directors want to know what a seriously good Executive Director looks like, they should look him up in the UVSS archives. Half the businesses in the UVSS are still named after what he named them.

Rob’s now a provincial MLA, and anybody who knows his UVSS record knows why he did it at such a young age.

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