SUB mandate stone highlights SUS’s lack of focus

by MrContentGenerator

image1From time-to-time a students’ union will do something that makes you laugh so hard that the milk you were drinking comes out your ears. With the possible exception of students at the University of the Fraser Valley (who have to pay for it), most people will find the Student Union Society’s brand new “SUB mandate stone” to be a hilarious waste of time. The project not only is itself a waste of money, but it highlights a greater lack of focus within the SUS.

SUS not an active representative group

Despite spending over $40,000 on lobby group memberships and related conferences this year, the UFVSUS does little to actually represent the students of the University at a provincial of federal level. The $40,000 gets spent on the sickly Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the fledgling Alliance of BC Students, both of which have been losing member student societies in recent years.

The problem with the SUS representing students to governments is a chronic one. Very infrequently does the board of directors do anything together that would resemble a political campaign, despite the fact that transit, education costs, and sustainability are visibly important to students at UFV. Efforts that are taken on usually promote the proponent board members as much as they do the goal of the campaigns.

Where are UFV students’ goals even written down?

Despite the SUS having a whole webpage dedicated to policy on its website, not one of these documents speaks to the real challenges faced by students. Every policy is about how the SUS sees itself – it is all inward thinking. The SUS makes a significant effort to report its finances to its members, maybe even too much time, but doesn’t provide any venue for students to voice their real concerns about the education system. UFV faces budget challenges on a consistent basis – and is using international students as cash cows to fill the funding gap – but the SUS remains more or less silent on funding for post-secondary education. It is sad.

Food banks don’t solve student hunger – but fighting for more accessible education and better work for young people might help. Where is the SUS’s focus on issues that really matter to its members?

Equalities Resource Centre – an example of poor leadership

An example of the poor leadership embodied by the SUS executive is the way the coming Equalities Resource Centre is being introduced on campus.

Don’t mistake the message here: a resource centre for marginalised constituencies on campus is not at all a bad idea.

The issue is that the SUS let itself be hijacked by the University into paying for something that should be covered by our taxes and tuition fees. Student services are the responsibility of the University, not something students should pay for on top of our sky-high fees. Further, the SUS only took the initiative to develop the Centre after pressure from students and faculty, not through proactive engagement or real leadership.

The press release about the Centre doesn’t even speak to what the purpose of it is. It is simply an opportunity for members of the SUS executive to congratulate themselves about how wonderful they are.

Student executives get a bonus despite poor performance

In a move that would outrage any taxpayer, the SUS budgeted $138,300 for “student jobs” in 2014-2015. This includes $106,600 in pay for the elected students on the SUS executive. With a revenue of about $700,000, the Student Union Society spends a whopping 15 percent of its revenue on paying its board of directors. This doesn’t include the $4,000 they spend on “retreat & teambuilding” or other self congratulatory activities. Essentially, a good part of SUS membership fees just go into a lottery and the only winners are the students that win the elections.

Long road ahead for UFV student activists

With a union like the SUS, it is no doubt that students at UFV who want to fight for lower tuition (or higher minimum wage, or better transit, etc.) have little voice. Students’ unions shouldn’t just be an echo chamber for the self obsessed.

Students have the power to change the SUS for the better. Through elections, referendums, and social pressure, the SUS can be made to take on the work that students’ unions are supposed to do – the things that make a real difference in students lives.