I never thought I would be the one to do this, but after reading both Andrew Zerzan’s opinion piece and Paul Barrett’s letter in the Mar. 3 issue of The Varsity, I have decided to come to the defense of our beloved student government.
First there was the article calling for all colleges to detach from SAC, as Trinity has apparently discussed doing. To be fair, the fact that Trinity wants out of the “union” isn’t really surprising (they would probably declare themselves their own country if they could), and Mr. Zerzan is not the first to voice the opinion that SAC should be scrapped. I have read similar pieces in practically all the college newspapers lately and for a while my reaction was along the lines of “right on.”
Not being a fan of the current SAC administration, I think many of the criticisms of SAC that have been heard lately are valid, and are being said for good reasons (oh, the scandals!). However, there is a difference between having a problem with the way SAC is being run this year, and suggesting that these problems are inherent in the institution itself. Mr. Zerzan asserts that he did not vote in the last election, then he goes on to complain that SAC does not represent his views or those of the majority of students, but only the “radical” ones who actually voted. Why participating in your own student government is radical, I don’t know.
Here’s an idea: if you want SAC to represent your views, why don’t you get off your ass and vote? Or don’t. But don’t start crying when SAC is not run the way you want it to be. And don’t suppose that the answer is to simply dismantle the whole thing. Do you really think that the same problems wouldn’t arise if student government were only run on the college level? If you want change, shake off the apathy and take an interest in how your school is run. Because U of T is your school—we are all U of T students no matter what college we belong to, and unity is what we should be working towards, not more divisiveness.
Then there is all the student politician bashing that has been going on lately (Mr. Barrett, you’re not alone). Being on student government takes both time and energy, and it is a commitment that people make for various reasons, some more altruistic than others. However the perception that all SAC members are merely resumé-padding, money-grubbing, ladder-climbers is unfair. There are student politicians who work for the students. I can’t speak for them all, but I have a friend who is University Affairs Commissioner, and I know that he works very hard at his job and stands up for the interests of U of T students. It must be extremely disheartening to be met with a constant barrage of whining about how much SAC and its members suck. And again, if you do not like the way these people run your student government, voting for different people, or even running yourself, may be an idea.
So although we may be young, urban, cynical academics, I believe a little cheerleading is in order.
Yes, SAC has problems, yes, there have been many issues that have come up this year which made many of us question what the hell is going on over there (it’s been said before, but the Guvernment, Rocco?), but might I suggest that these things should be an impetus for students to work towards making SAC into what we feel it should be, not a call to take back our toys and go home.