Alex Woznica blamed the problem of low participation in student politics on “radical and unrealistic anti-capitalist” groups. However, this is an entirely erroneous misdiagnosis of the political situation at Concordia.
Woznica subtly accused “radicals” of hypocrisy by suggesting that students who oppose the commercialization of higher education should have no business “purchasing” degrees, because such an act endorses the very changes that they oppose. However, our universities are not (yet) capitalist institutions; they do not operate for profits and are primarily supported with public funds. Tuition payments are not an endorsement of anything, provided that students are not forced to incur the full burden of education costs. The mandate of our student unions is to ensure that this does not happen.
Student unions exist solely to protect student rights and interest. It is their foremost mandate to oppose powers that would otherwise act unchecked. A complacent CSU allied to the university would be nothing more than a means to provide a few cheap luxuries and redundant services 8212; a co-operative of sorts, but not a union.
Woznica argues for the existence of a “rational” silent majority with “moderate” political beliefs. Since a “radical” is someone who advocates reform, demanding that “moderates” rise against political “radicals” is completely absurd, because this very act would make one a radical! But if a moderate belief is one that is held with little conviction, then perhaps those with moderate political beliefs are least likely to vote. After all, if politics result in weak compromises, then why participate? Why vote for someone if you don’t believe in his or her capacity to sway the opposition?
Our problems are not symptomatic of an irrational CSU government, they are symptomatic of an impotent government. Non-voting students are caught in a self-perpetuating cycle of nonchalance. The university knows that 10 per cent 8212; a hardly significant minority 8212; of students voted in the 2010 elections. This empowers it to make decisions without the risk of offending many students.
In a sense, Woznica might be right. Students must vote so that this cycle is broken. It is the role of the CSU government to lead us in opposition to market influences, so that higher education progresses toward becoming a right to Canadians rather than a product. This, not ubiquitous laissez-faire arguments, must be the primary rhetoric of prospective student politicians who seek to revive politics at Concordia.