By Вen Li
Power is interesting.
Commanded by a master, it can do the greatest good, or the vilest deeds. In the hands of envious amateurs, anything can happen.
Students empowered 33 of their own last year to serve them, to represent them, and most of all to lead them in a time of uncertainty. Most Students’ Union representatives tried to embrace their power, some actually understood it. All were given the right to try, but a mere handful wielded it successfully.
Individuals shone. The team failed.
Gaining Rod Love’s alliance against rising tuition, improving the MacEwan Student Centre, drawing record numbers of students to events are all noble deeds paled by the certainty of greater accomplishments had pride subsumed selfishness in officials’ exercise of power.
Individual vice-presidents guarded their own portfolios jealously from who would seek to help, or to criticize and improve on initiatives. Glory was for individuals, not the organization.
The VP Academic lusted power for himself and his tightly-held Students’ Academic Assembly, at the expense of free debate and legislative productivity. He unknowingly yielded much of his power to two commissioners, who wielded it well while acting on behalf of an external agent. Like its superior Student Legislative Council body and the rest of the SU executive, SAA and the Academic Commission were Balkanized beyond resolve.
The External commission’s successes under its right-leaning leader, who did well in the greater provincial circles of power, lacked harmony with the left-leaning members of the commission who marginally succeeded at radical participation. One commissioner neglected his obligation to students to further his personal powers, but failed.
Events allowed its commissioners almost unlimited power to pursue their own objectives with great results for students as two commissioners individually excelled at the task. One of them embraced it well and will become VP Events in May, while another moves to the External commission. But two great commissioners and a passable vice-president do not a cooperative commission make.
Likewise, the Operations and Finance commission lacked unity. Minimal power was delegated from the VP to commissioners who struggled to prevent its escape. No unified objective was fronted by the commission, which gave little support to their VP’s goals.
Some individuals did well, but the organization did not, for lack of a unifying force. Too selfish to lead but too reluctant to fail, President Jayna Gilchrist’s inaction this year garnered a rare unanimous vote in SLC–for her censure. Gilchrist failed repeatedly to demonstrate any understanding of the power bestowed on her to lead the organization, to shape it into more than its component members allow, to draw strength from the commonalities instead of accentuating or causing the differences.
Students and the SU can, and should, be proud of what some individuals did with their power but must be mindful not to confuse this for a successful year for the organization.