The majority of university students don’t care about student union politics, and at this point, I don’t blame them. Being bombarded by dozens of tacky posters with vague points and shallow promises wears away at your psyche until everything blurs into the same unimaginative mess. And if you see the same buzzwords, and the same promises every single year and still don’t notice any worthwhile change then it might as well all be gibberish.
Everyone knows these buzzwords, and candidates love to throw them around more than anything. Words like affordable, tuition freeze, explore, empower, advocate, mental health, etc. These words mean something, and they’re important in conversation, but the next time you hear these in a lecture pitch, or see them on a poster, or in an obnoxious email from the Students’ Union president, ask yourself: does this person even know what the fuck they’re talking about?
Take this year’s vice-president (student life) race. This particular position includes planning campus-wide events, as well as advocating for campus residents, student groups, and mental health resources. Year after year, the people in this race love to spew the word “affordable” when talking about university residences. But what does that even mean? Who is it affordable for? What’s unaffordable? Why? What will you do to fix it? Who the hell knows! Out of the three candidates running, only one platform, Michelle Kim’s, actually has tangible figures and actions on what makes housing unaffordable, including the university’s scuzzy-used-car-salesman use of the academic price index (API) rather than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to raise rent. One of Kim’s counterparts, Stephen Raitz, gives laughably vague points in his platform like “provide argumentation for residence affordability” and “identify the utility and implementation of an affordable housing policy,” while the other candidate, Andre Bourgeois, doesn’t even mention campus residence rent a single time in his. I haven’t had the chance to hear these candidates in a forum, so I won’t completely give up hope yet. But, damn, it’s hard not feeling sad this early on.
Unsubstantiated claims and buzzwords aren’t just a problem in SU elections, but in every area of politics. These do nothing but distance the public from real issues and give people an excuse to tune out after hearing the same thing with no results. So, remember: every time a candidate tells you that they’re going to “advocate for students in order to improve the sustainability of learning progress in the university classroom,” or some other shit, without any plans to back it up, they think you’re dumb enough to believe them.