Ineffectiveness encouraged

By Oliver Bladek

Upon hearing 84 packages have been submitted for the Students’ Union election (enough for exactly four SLCs), perhaps someone might actually read something an old SU hack like myself might write in a student newspaper. But who am I kidding?

Tuesday’s SLC meeting showed if you’re bored, or have nothing better to do, you might as well play the game known as "politics." Those who think the Students’ Union is a business (it’s not, for the record), get frustrated when people make amendments, speak too long, or vote against closing debate. I think you should take it a step further, or as hopeful-MBAs would spout "push the envelope." I’ve prepared this miniature guide titled Encouraging Ineffectiveness: Five Tools and Tricks of the Trade to do just that.

Rule #1: Always, always go in camera

You could use this when you think you might hurt someone’s feelings. Why expose your opinions to the public when it’s much easier to do it behind closed doors? It’s great because guests (and students, to whom council represents) may disagree with your opinions, and will never know what you actually said.

Oh yeah, this "accountability" thing? So pre-9/11.

Rule #2: Set the scene for failure well in advance

Credit is due to Vice-President External Lauren Batiuk (the politico of the organization) for using the rules to her advantage. Providing council with a phone-book of Canadian Alliance of Student Associations information one business day before the meeting automatically gives credence to withdrawing a motion due to "lack of preparedness."

Bonus points: determine council is unprepared, but execute said "strategic transformation" two hours later.

Rule #3: The external element of surprise

While this is the antithesis of rule #2, last-minute politics always leads to happy nights at council. The SU was leaning towards removing itself from having any voice in Ottawa, and I took it upon myself (as a previous Governor of CASA) to inform the group this was taking place. The next thing you know, some councillors get "upset" because the National Director is actually in attendance, advocating for the "other side."

Shame! Of course, if you were a lawyer and you did this, you’d probably be disbarred. Thank goodness councillors only pretend to be lawyers.

Rule #4: Spin, spin sugar

Some call this framing.

Exhibit A: $30,000 is lots of money. It’s also our membership fee in CASA. Since 30,000 is a big number, it is too much to spend.

As they say in Australia, "what the fuck, mate?"

Large Canadian corporations spend 10 times that in political party donations, and still don’t get the access that your SU gets to decision makers (i.e.: two meetings a year with the Prime Minister, among myriad others).

Bonus points: use your question and two redirects to entrap other councillors or guests into saying something you want them to say, then using it later in a completely different context.

Rule #5: Even when you’re wrong, fight on principle

You never want to lose in council, as this will bring shame upon your family, most honourable grasshopper. If no one agrees with you, it’s probably because you’re not loud enough, so you should speak both more often and much louder to get your way. Plus, it’s better to lose tomorrow than face the music today.

Bonus points: bringing a similar idea back so council can do it all over again the next week.

And that’s it, your successful guide to politicking in the SU. It’s a shame most of you candidates never actually came to SLC to see these practices in action, you might have even learned a thing or two about the issues you are likely going to tell students about over the next two weeks. The best part? Even after you’ve become a has-been–or in my case, a never-was–you can still play.

And now back to my sandbox.

Oliver Bladek was Vice-President External of the U of C SU in 2001-2002. During his term, he served both as the Vice-Chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students.


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