Student Politics 101
With six weeks of classes remaining in the semester, crunch time for midterms and final projects are approaching quickly. Academic deadlines are not the only pressures that are on students’ minds as some, or a minority of students, are aware that the URSU nomination period has just ended. With the inevitable elections to follow, students who are considering running for a position on the URSU executive, URSU board of directors or the University of Regina senate, should consider the following if and when they are elected.
First, your personal opinion on all student-related issues takes a back seat. When your opinion on the issue is in the minority, by the other executives and the board of directors, you do what the executive and board wants and above all what the majority wants. You were elected to carry out the needs, wants, and issues that the majority of students want, regardless if it goes against your views. Worst-case scenario: the majority is wrong and you can’t be blamed because you were against it. But don’t try to sabotage things by spreading false information about the side you disagree with. Yes, I am referring BDS issue that was poorly handled last year.
This brings me to my next point; distribute information from both sides of most issues. Since URSU has been accused of being partisan and biased for the past couple of years, it is important to re-establish URSU as a credible non-profit student organization that can be taken seriously on and off campus. When there is a political election – federally or provincially – you distribute information from all parties that are running. Whether by holding forums, tabling, or otherwise, you do not use URSU resources or URSU affiliated social media accounts to advocate for a particular party. You will alienate students, destroy the students’ union’s credibility and would become a detriment to the political party that you are abusing your authority for. Just use common sense.
Next, put the welfare of the organization and students at the U of R first. You wanted this job to advocate for students. And while it is true that working at URSU does provide a good training grounds to work in politics, administration groups and other nonprofit organizations, it is not your first priority. Your first priority is to advocate for students in a respectable, civilized and professional manner. If you disagree with a board member, co-executive or a constituent, arrange a meeting (preferably where both parties are comfortable) and discuss the issue until an amicable solution is made. Cliché, I know, but it is possible. Do not bully or troll them from your URSU affiliated social media accounts.
These are only a few suggestions for students who are interested in getting involved with student politics. You may become discouraged at times when you feel that no matter what you do, your constituents and colleagues hate you. Don’t worry, it’s not unusual. A wise former URSU executive once said that at the end of the day, you need to be able to sleep at night with the choices you have made.
It is a juggling act between your own personal opinion and what is best for who you are representing and what is good for the organization. You will make great decisions as a student leader and you will also make some bad ones. This is a guarantee, despite having good intentions. I hope those running for an URSU position want to advocate for students and love the challenge of making the U of R campus a better place. Don’t campaign for a position to agitate students (or the university administration, the legislature and city council) by shoving your opinions and political agenda down their throats. Regina is a small city, and Saskatchewan has a small population.
Lastly, this is not 100 per cent foolproof. I just wanted to share what took me a few years to learn, whereas you can take this advice (or leave it) and focus on the issues that really matter.