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.