Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Party of one - News: "Last Thursday's all-candidates meeting was marked by agreement rather than debate, as candidates for this week's SAC election presented their platforms at Hart House to an audience of less than two dozen people, most of them candidates or friends.

A slate of candidates closely allied with this year's SAC executive are running uncontested for all but one position, chairperson. Only one of the two candidates for that position-Jen Hassum-showed up for the meeting
."

There is something ugly, absurd and horrifyingly narcissistic (I'll never learn to spell that word) about commenting on an article that I wrote, but I'm going to do it anyway because I've longed for the day when I'd be able to quote myself. What was most striking at the debate was not that most of the positions are uncontested, few students care about that, but that there was one person there who might have been there just to see the debate. This abject lack of interest from the perspective of the student body highlights the irrelevance of student government in good times as well as bad times. The most significant achievements of the Students' Administrative are discount TTC Metropasses, the expansion of childcare services, and various minor points that I no longer remember.

The argument could be made, then, that the SAC is useless. I would say that the notion is mistaken, if only because I think that the University of Toronto would be worse without any form of student government. The two problems that plague the SAC are, first, its delusional sense of self-importance: a levy of sixty farthings to "improve" clubs on campus and another line-up from which to purchase Metropasses are hardly on par with the Third Midlothian Speech or the Reform Act of 1868. Or, then again, maybe they are exactly on par with the Midlothian Speech. Second, although the SAC is highly adept at advocacy and representation, the language of politics demands accomplishment. The SAC is, of course, more or less toothless when it comes to substantive change in that it will never receive the credit. The ability to effect true change at the university rests not with SAC but, as the name might suggest, with the Governing Council. The Governing Council embodies everything I love about this school: it is an obscure, quasi-medieval body whose function and structure is largely unintelligible. Just what the hell is a provost anyway?

Nonetheless, I can guarantee that very few students have been to the Council's website. The SAC, though it engages as many students as a grade school election for class rep, receives much of the attention as the supposed locus of campus politics. Surely it would be far more productive for students to scrutinize the members of the Govenring Council, both appointed and elected, as well as the Governing Council as a whole.

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