With the Students' Union election approaching, many students give no more thought to it than a brief glance at an election poster. Chances are there will be more than a few students who won't vote (last year's turnout was 11 per cent) and too many of those who do attribute little significance to it. Students have the power to put the people of their choice into these positions and in so doing have a great deal of influence over the lives and careers of the candidates. The student leaders, in turn, have a vital effect on the lives and education of the students they represent. From picking up essentials at the StÃ¶r to getting a drink at the Den or Black Lounge after class, many services are available to students because they have been asked for and the SU has made them available. Bound and Copied, too, yields a huge benefit to students by offering cheap textbooks and services. Each student contributes money to the SU at the beginning of the year, but where that money goes often isn't given a second thought.
By definition, the SU is responsible for representing the student body and they do so in many different forms and arenas. My brother, Colin Rose, is a vice-president of SAIT Students' Association and explained, "Students' associations and unions were originally created to provide a strong, unified voice to their respective administrations. Nowadays, the administration looks to the students' associations to provide that crucial student input in a quick and efficient manner. Oftentimes, this is the only time the administration considers the requests of students and therefore we need to have the right people to convey the message."
The SU president even has a vote on the University of Calgary Board of Governors. They also get together with other students' unions and associations across Alberta to lobby the provincial government, which relies on special interest groups to have things brought to their attention.
"The two main provincial lobby groups are very effective means of communicating to the government and efforts have resulted in great new policies that greatly favor the student movement," Colin said.
A student's experience shapes the citizen they will become and the SU contributes to that.
Students' unions are arguably one of the most underestimated organizations in our society and this is largely because what they do goes unseen. Student government is much more important than we realize. There are over 250,000 post-secondary students in Alberta, which, if it was a city, would be the third largest in the province. The interests of these students are placed almost entirely in the hands of their representatives.
The elected representatives are entrusted with the money (more than $10 million a year) and voice of the students, so what happens when the wrong person is trusted? If students aren't voting, or are selecting the candidates based on random selection instead of considering who is best for the job, then a name could just as well be taken out of a hat, removing the power to put representatives in their seats through sheer carelessness. These positions carry a great deal of responsibility, the kind that most people won't have until much later in their careers. It is up to them to run this organization and to act in the best interests of students. Therefore, it is up to students to choose wisely.