State of the union: sick

By Jesse G. Hamonic

Revoking its official group status, the University of Calgary Students’ Union put a final nail in the coffin of Campus Pro Life. In doing so, the SU has proven that not only does U of C administration have little tolerance for free speech, but neither does the SU. This reprehensible action has caused irreparable damage to the SU, placing it on the fast track to irrelevance.

At the end of the hearing, one could easily get the impression that the SU had already predetermined the fate of Campus Pro-Life. President Dalmy Baez and the rest of her stooges avoided all material questions by simply repeating the same propaganda, that Campus Pro-Life broke an SU bylaw. This little defined, yet ultra powerful rule, simply states that student groups can be punished for breaking policies. Curiously enough, not one person in the room who was ready to rule in favour of de-sanctioning the CPL could name a single policy that was broken, let alone how one can extend the word punish to mean banishment.

This recent altercation between CPL and the SU has brought to light many deficiencies within the SU. The first major sign for concern is with respect to the obtuse regulations and rules imposed by the SU. The majority of the regulations are vague, ambiguous and place far too much power in the hands of the SU executive. In its current form, the laws and bylaws wouldn’t even be able to get approval from a first year law school student.

Many SU regulations are horribly written and thought out. For instance, the regulation currently being discussed is written as such: the SU can punish student groups for breaking policy. What kind of punishment is allowed? What policies are being referred to? Ones made up by the executive or legitimate policies previously in place? The idea that a powerful group like the SU is allowed to have such poorly written regulation is mind-boggling. The SU should immediately create a commission, composed of independent professionals, to review all its rules and regulations, providing advice on how their legislation can be improved and provide more accountability to students.

The second issue with this process is the fly-by-night manner in which the hearing was conducted. It is nice to see some individuals on the committee with enough professionalism to understand the importance of their job and excuse themselves for fear of conflict of interest. This is precisely what one member did because she was an active member of FIRE, a feminist group who have protested the CPL display in the past.

However, not all members had the same sensible judgment. Alarmingly, the chairwoman of the hearing committee, Alex Judd, also happens to be the past-president of FIRE, an obvious and extreme conflict of interest. This heinous act demonstrates how much of a lack of respect this hearing committee and the SU holds for due diligence and proper process. Imagine suing someone and having the judge be the wife of the person you are suing. This kind of back alley justice would never stand credibly in the real world. It is galling that the SU welcomes such inappropriate behavior.

The third and major issue arisen by this sad tale of events is the further decaying relations between everyday students and the SU. When unions were first created in the late 18th century, they were put in place to help protect and defend the little person. Joe and Jane public, tired of being pushed around, spurred the union movement. People united to fight back at the powerful elite.

The SU offers a gambit of services to students, but their fundamental raison d’être is to protect and defend student interests. It seems as though the SU has lost sight of its true purpose and meaning. They have a budget of $17 million, yet they can’t afford to create a fair and just system to defend students.

When one thinks of CPL’s official group status, they should not ask whether they believe in abortion or not, but whether they believe in students access to free speech and expression. The U of C administration is trying to encroach on one of the most fundamental rights we have, free speech. If the SU can’t even attempt to defend students on such an elementary student right, how can we trust them to work on our behalves on less obvious topics.

The instance that a union forgets its true reason of existence is the precise moment they set themselves on a one-way track to irrelevance. The SU needs to remember that they are there for students, not to defend the administration. CPL must be given a proper hearing with an unbiased panel and a detailed judgment. Unless the SU soon realizes how out of touch they are becoming with the student base, they might inadvertently be nailing their own coffin shut.

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