Congratulations revolutionaries, you won.
The riotous decades of the 60’s and 70’s were marked by left-wing student activism as civic conflicts led to victory for the forces of progressivism. Think of how far we have come in terms of gender equality, rights for queer communities and legitimizing the need to protect the environment.
But for all its victories, the only remaining rallying call for the “progressive wing” of today’s left seems to be a demand for free tuition and free lunches. The issues that galvanized so many students in the past have become mainstream opinions.
That brings us to today: as election fever at Concordia cruises at an all-time low, it will be interesting to see how many actually turn up to vote in a single-party election.
Accusations of student apathy are thrown about with amazing frequency by people either too self-important or lazy to find out what this student body is actually interested in – as if a university with such a vibrant club culture, dizzying nightlife and increasingly successful academic record could be considered apathetic.
But the supposed apathy of our voters is of less interest to us than the fact that the lack of any credible opposition this year means it may actually be time to consider whether the centrist positions of Unity and ilk may be a good thing for Concordia.
Radical thought? Hardly.
What has been missing from this campaign? Serious debate. Why?
From Day One, this election, like so much of CSU politics, has descended into petty squabbles between a party of natural governance and a reflexive opposition. While the opposition has mixed its impossible promises with a smattering of personal insults and libel, it has also now successfully proved that while negative campaigning is a part of politics, it can’t be the basis of a campaign. Not a winning one, at least.
Strong opposition is an essential element of a vital democracy, but the need for a strong opposition doesn’t mean that any group of critics, however inept, should be welcomed.
An opposition must propose real, useful alternatives to the plans of the governing party – and this has not taken place this year.
While Unity has put forward a bill of goods and services they say will make this school a better place, Be the Change’s unfocused campaign has centered on unachievable pipe-dreams: free tuition and a minimum wage hike. Moreover, rather than engaging students’ real concerns, they have cloaked their platform in the language of oppression and injustice, as if Concordia students were not a privileged group living in one of the richest countries in the world.
Unity has admittedly paid little more than lip-service to the tuition debate. Instead, it has focused on small, achievable increases to services: putting course packs online, a student bar at Loyola and expanding subsidized tutoring.
The raison d’etre of a student union is to provide services to its members. While Unity and its previous incarnations seem to have realized this, Change and its counter-parts … haven’t.
Instead, Change, while railing against the CSU’s spending habits, seems to advocate turning the Union into a full-time lobby group. Need we spell it out? Students want services, not pie in the sky and wasted words.
What we need at this point in our school’s development is either a serious opposition that will force the dominant party to be better and more efficient, or else stability enough for this university to grow.
The token opposition thrown up in this election will allow Unity to govern with all the appearance of an opposition, but one that is in reality weak, disorganized and in politics seemingly for the sake of being contrarian.
The simple fact is that today’s student politics aren’t sexy – they’re more about squabbling over the leftovers of what were once real issues to fight for. While many of us may wish we could have participated in the tumultuous student politics of the past, the fact is those days are over. We suggest that those who dream of former glories either get a debate with some teeth, start a service that students will benefit from, or have the grace to sit down and be quiet.
Congratulations revolutionaries, you won.