EditorialInstitutionalOpinion

Editorial: SU elections should attract, not repel students

Welcome to the Students’ Union elections, where everything’s made up and the platform points don’t matter.

It’s no secret that the Students’ Union suffers from a perception problem. But the problem isn’t that students have a bad view of them; it’s that they have no view of them. A record 22.5 per cent of students voted in the last election, about 7,000 out of 35,000 students. That’s not a number to be proud about. Luckily, the SU is in the midst of its annual advertising blitz: elections.

This is my fourth time covering elections in some way or another, and it seems like we publish an opinion piece or editorial about buzzwords every year. Looking at this year’s posters and platforms, it’s obvious that the message isn’t getting across. If the posters didn’t have candidates’ faces plastered over them, I would have no idea who is who based just on their points. This presents many problems. For one, it’s obvious that there’s little political diversity in the Students’ Union. I might agree with most of their political leanings, but confronting opposing views are always a good way to keep our own in check, especially in professional politics.

But the second problem is worse. The conformity of the candidates points to elections being nothing more than popularity contests. If I can’t tell the difference between the candidates of a race, I’ll vote for the one that had the luck of talking to me in HUB — but only if I liked them. If I didn’t, I’ll vote for the other one. Unless you live in Ward 12, that’s not the way voting usually works in Canada.

I see a way to fix this: use the election season to heavily promote the Students’ Union. Don’t just tell people what you’re going to do, tell them what you’re currently doing, what the Students’ Union is currently doing and how you’re going to improve on it. This is the best time to inform campus of what the point of the SU even is, and to convince them why they should care. I’m still not positive if I care, and I work for The Gateway — what does that say about the 77.5 per cent that didn’t even vote?

We keep seeing examples in more important elections of politicians lowering themselves to the level of us commoners to wild success. Voters love it when politicians pretend not to be smug, arrogant scumbags. Take a look across the border. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have the most fervent supporters, and both are doing the same thing: telling it like it is to look less fake and more relatable to ordinary people. Voters, especially in an election where all the platforms are the same anyway, will turn to the candidate they can relate to the most.

The SU needs more relatability, and that starts before the next crew even steps into office. Candidates shouldn’t just campaigning to get the seat, they should be campaigning to make sure students care when they’re actually sitting in it. I’m sure a number of SU hopefuls want to enter politics after university, too, and there’s no better way to start building up a voter base.

Last year’s corruption and vote tampering during elections definitely didn’t help the SU’s image, or the image of politics in general. Future politicians are already stooping to shady tactics at a level where only 5,000 people care. I hope there’s none of that this election because it really doesn’t pay off. Someone will find out eventually. Instead, just get out there and tell people what actually sets you apart from other candidates.

Maybe one day the SU can represent the entire student body instead of just 22.5 per cent. When they do, we’ll have a better experience not just for the students, but for the SU itself.

Kevin Schenk

I was the Photo Editor in 2013/14, and Online Editor for 14/15 and 15/16.

11 Comments

  1. Or maybe the backlash this poster is receiving from a person or persons contemporary to their time there is symptomatic of the very problem they’re pointing to. Because we’re all too chickenshit to say who we are, we’ll never know.

  2. Hmmm. You know these people and this organization personally yet you’re trash talking them on one of their articles under a pseudonym? Maybe you were part of the problem?

  3. I hope you’re a weirdo alumni who can’t stop shitposting like me and not actually still an active contributor getting mad in the comments.

  4. If you were truly involved for over a year, you would know 3000 signatures were collected in a matter of WEEKS, saying we were unable to do so is unfair. The Gateway is not your high school paper. If you screw up, you’re gonna take shit. If you cant take a joke, you’re gonna have a bad time. Grow up and don’t defame a hard working student paper.

  5. As someone who used to be very much involved myself, I’m sorry to hear that—but couldn’t possibly comment with this blatantly obvious pseudonym.

  6. I tried very earnestly for a year to help out in various capacities and I just feel bitter and resentful for the experience. Great people, for the most part, are involved, but something about the culture felt very off from the beginning until when I left and it continues from what I observe from a distance.

  7. All of print media is experiencing an identity crisis and is trying to figure out its relevance in a context no one’s used to.

    The Gateway is making an effort. They’ve hosted events, held contests, they have ads everywhere and they’ve improved social media presence. Finding relevancy at the U of A isn’t an easy thing to do. The SU experiences similar problems.

    Saying that they had over a year to collect 5000 signatures is simply untrue. It was much less time than that.

    If management and ambition are your problems, keep an eye open for next year. Management changes every year and they’re making a magazine. I’m interested to see what they do if they concentrate on long stories like the sex work one or the alcoholism one or Evan’s story about having a stroke. They tell stories no one else will.

    It’s also an organization that trains student volunteers and that offers a place for a lot of viewpoints from students. It’s actually really unfair that the university is making that Pro-life group pay $17,500 even if their views are totally wrong. And a lot of working journalists have come out of the Gateway even in the last few years.

    To just say they shouldn’t exist is losing faith too easily. I’ve talked to the staff and they really seem to care. And if you’re unhappy with the Gateway I’m sure you could just talk to them rather than leave anonymous comments on the website.

  8. I’m pretty engaged and I wanted them to succeed, but they repeatedly let down students with their poor management. Content is generally good, but it’s hit-or-miss. The Gateway is an even worse circle jerk than the SU.

    What efforts have the Gateway done in the past year since losing their referendum to reach out to the general student population and merit its renewal? I think they should have reached higher and asked for an increase if they were so confident of their value to students. Do something worthwhile and ambitious if you wanted to change and build for the future.

  9. Suggesting a media organization is irrelevant by reading and commenting on one of their articles is somewhat contradictory, no?

  10. Use your logic on yourselves as well, Gateway. Didn’t the Gateway fail to go to referendum last year because they had less than 3000 student signatures when they had over a year to collect just 5000 signatures? Time to pack it up, Gateway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles