Opinions
Sean Willett/the Gauntlet

Put your mouth where your money is

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You’ve heard it time and time again: the Students’ Union is there to support you through your university experience. Or maybe you haven’t heard that enough. Whether you care about the SU or not, you pay mandatory fees for their existence. 


SU fees are $55.50 for a full-time student per semester. A student will pay $555 for SU services over a five-year degree. You also support the SU every time you eat at The Den, buy something at the Stör or go to a concert at MacHall. Even if you think the SU is an ineffective or pointless organization, or simply have no idea what they do, they still control some of your money, and it is prudent to have input over who gets to spend your money. 


Think about the power the elected officials have. The SU’s operating revenue in 2011­­–12 was $17.5 million. That’s not a huge amount of cash in the corporate world, but it’s more than any students’ personal budget. 


The SU also gets to hand out around $1.5 million per year in Quality Money grants, as well as the money in the SU Sustainability Board and the Committee of 10,000. 


Either five executives or the entire Student Legislative Council approve every single financial, business or policy decision for the SU. Although permanent staff members can help or make recommendations, it is the executive or the SLC — depending on the bylaws — who make final decisions. 


Each year, the executive creates the strategic vision, which directs the staff of the SU. The executives create the initiatves and projects the SU executes each year, so if you elect someone who doesn’t understand the need for concrete and attainable goals, they are wasting your time and money. “Increase student engagement” might sound like a great platform point, but more than anything, it shows that the candidate has not thought about an actual program to address the problem. The new executive can also inherit projects from past years, so they need to be able to carry these forward, again, to avoid wasted time and resources. 


The executives you elect are also the main point of contact between the students and the university administration. Yes, you can email U of C president Elizabeth Cannon with your problems, but you probably won’t get much of a response. The SU president has more channels to administrative powers and a better chance to have your concerns heard.


The SU president and board representative can vote on the Board of Governors. They also sit on different committees that make decisions for the university, which means the executive must have the ability to articulate students’ concerns. 


The executives are also the ones talking to city counsellors, MLAs and MPs on your behalf, so think about the face you want to present to the country’s leaders. 


For their hard work, the executives earn $37,000 a year for approximately 50–60 hours a week. Yet the minimum is 35 hours a week, so slacking off is possible. 


If you are going to vote, vote for more than the poster, or who has made the niftiest pun with their last name. Try to see past the corny/colourful/funny/lame/hero-inspired/offensive slogan and see the student who will be spending your money for you. Would you be willing to hand your $111.00 to them next September? 


Student government faces the same problem that government at every level does: people not giving a damn. Yet student government still takes students’ money and enacts policies that affect students’ lives, so it’s really a student’s own loss if he or she doesn’t care. 


If you’re reading this, you’ve already picked up the school paper, hopefully to check out candidate platforms. Great job. The next step for you is to tell your friends about the election, ask who they are voting for and remind them to vote from March 5–7. You can go onto your Student Centre and vote there if you don’t want to find a polling station on campus. Maybe you can influence your friends to vote for your favourite candidate. If they complain about how boring student politics are, remind them of how much money flows through the SU’s hands. Caring about the next Board of Governors meeting can be difficult, but thinking about how your cash is spent might perk some interest. 


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