Katie Larson, President of SSMU, in a recent interview with the McGill Tribune condescendingly accused students of ignorance. The Tribune quotes her as saying the students “did not do their part.” Katie Larson, and the SSMU executive, you did not do your part.
She’s cross because the students rejected a referendum for a student fee increase. The increase would pay for a recently negotiated lease for the student union building. This lease is the university’s upper administration’s way of meeting its budget targets.
Instead of cutting their own opulence, the admin are trying to destroy the student union. McGill’s student politicians in the executive of the student union, or as I call them, SSMUcrats, have been extraordinarily weak to respond.
There are essentially two reasons why someone runs to become a student politician. The first reason is to represent students, advocate for them, and provide leadership to them. The second reason is to add some spice to a resume. If those SSMUcrats were truly involved for the first reason, they would not be chastising us for the student union’s eminent destruction because of the lease.
The lease itself is shrouded in mystery. The SSMUcrats must think the student body is pretty stupid, because they made no attempt to explain it while it was being negotiated and after it was negotiated. Insultingly, they expected the students to vote yes to everything they threw on the election referendum. Like a bunch of sheep.
But we are not sheep, and if we are, those SSMUcrats are not good herders. If SSMU is a democratic civil society organization, than like any democratic civil society organization, it is the leadership’s responsibility, if the leadership is responsible, to explain what is going on.
SSMU members pay the salaries of the SSMUcrats, they have a duty to inform us. But they don’t. Almost never. And now, with the lease, their culture of superiority and thinking the students are a bunch of idiots has backedfired.
Preceding SSMU executives were not much better. The lease has been an ongoing issue. Most civil society organizations, such as real labour unions, would set public demands in a negotiation, even if the negotiation was confidential. If the conditions are unjust, they might even run a public pressure campaign with clear demands, write letters, and cause a ruckus.
People might disagree about tactics, but no one can deny the presence. Even for the most unimportant contracts and issues, many civil society organizations would do this. But not SSMU, the executive clearly thinks its members can’t handle the information. This isn’t unimportant, this is a matter of existence. Nothing could be more important. This is life or death of the union. And they don’t think and didn’t think we’re worth the fight.
I used to be a Student Senator with SSMU during the years 2012 and 2013. I sat on the University’s Senate, and stood up for students the best I could. I fought against McGill’s support of the Asbestos industry, McGill’s support of Dr. Arthur Porter, and even fought for SEDE.
I remember when I heard about the lease, I was outraged. I spoke out against it at the Senate and wrote about it in the McGill Tribune. I tried and I tried, last year and this year, to convince other student politicians to do the same. To stand up for students. They could not be convinced. And when they could have spoken out, they cowered. It was confidential, they said. The lease negotiations were confidential, sure, but the issues were not. The demands didn’t have to be.
The SSMUcrats chose to be secretive. They chose not to advocate for us. The students who voted no to the referendum understood this much. If the SSMUcrats decide to care, they can still run a public campaign and put some pressure on those bullies up in James Administration (who don’t pay for their building or their lavish offices, funny how student unions and student services are not considered essential to running a university but fine wood decor and Group of Seven paintings are).
It becomes clearer with this line of logic that there are two possibilities. If the SSMUcrats do care for us, they must accept they messed up and apologize. They have no right to blame us for their mistakes. If they don’t apologize than it is clear: they don’t care about our clubs, they don’t care about our daycare, and they don’t care about the great things we’ve built together as a student society.
If they don’t apologize, they’re just in it for their resumes.