Sunday, September 7, 2008

A sad day for democracy at Nipissing and Canadore.

This was posted by the Ryerson Free Press. I found it rather interesting and thought I would pass it along...

Nothing says the start of a school year more like the talk of referenda.
And, to that end, nothing says counter-democracy more than when a referendum is conducted during the summer or so close to the beginning of the school year that no student could be expected to participate fully.
Over the summer, the Joint Student Centre Executive Committee (JSEC) at Canadore College and Nipissing University, organized to launch a referendum to raise the student centre fee that is shared by students at the two institutions. The referendum is on now.
There isn't a ton of information written about the referendum in an official capacity. Other than a facebook group that wasn't created by the Nipissing Students' Union, their website has a 13 word brief from August 28 directing students to a PDF for information .
The group NipissingYOU, a counter voice to the Nipissing Students' Union, has more information at their website, including the NUSU link to the PDF, and a link to the Campus Free Press, a student paper at Nipissing University. According to their website, the referendum starts SEPTEMBER 4! (Orientation for new students starts on Tuesday, September 4).
And, just to ensure it doesn’t look completely crazy, there will be an open forum on Friday Sept. 5. For everyone keeping track, that is during the voting period. Groups wanting to register a ‘no’ or ‘yes’ side campaign had to do so by today.
Perhaps most undemocratic about this referendum is contained within the question. Rather than a simple yes or no vote, the JSEC has crafted four options: three yes options and one no option. And, to further influence students to vote yes, the question has a list of possible improvements that can be made to a student centre by an increased student centre levy.
Students at Nipissing should be outraged.
And, according to yesterday’s Bay Today, they are. In fact, students are now appealing to the university president (and former Ryerson Vice-President, Academic) Denis Mock to stop the proposed referendum.
There have been many years of questionable conduct at the Nipissing Students’ Union and maybe the tactics driving this referendum shouldn’t surprise anyone.
However, organising in the summer to pull the wool over the eyes of members is just about the lowest tactic a students’ union can take. Sure, the nature of student politics is to develop policy that may not be agreed upon by everyone. But in a member-driven organisation, the students are the highest decision making body (or, at least, they should be). Students need to be equipped and trusted to make the right decision. Boards need to equip and trust students to make the right decision. Otherwise, board and executive members are just fooling themselves.
A proper referendum should be highly publicized, offer enough time for students to register in different camps and learn about the issues, contain no leading information in the question and be a simple yes or no question.
Hopefully students at Nipissing will win their chance for a fair referendum.

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