Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Brock Press.
*This article has been updated from the printed version*
Every year the Brock University Student’s Union (BUSU) holds referendums that are open to the student body to vote on. Often times these referendums pertain to student fees and levies, funding for programs provided by BUSU and so on. However, this latest referendum is a bit more consequential.
This latest constitutional referendum would result in virtually all of the legislative power of Brock University Student’s Administrative Council (BUSAC) relinquished and given to BUSU’s Board of Directors. In other words, BUSAC, the governing body elected directly and solely by students to represent them, would no longer have the power to act independently of the Board of Directors if the referendum passes.
They will be a surface level seal of approval and nothing more.
This has major implications for the future of democratic representation for students in their student union, something that should be troubling to everyone. To only guarantee BUSAC as much power as the Board of Directors is willing to give them doesn’t really inspire hope in me as a student that BUSU will be entirely representative of the student body.
Phrases that I’ve taken directly from the “Yes Side” campaign website, such as “review the approved budget as passed by the Board of Directors, “provide political direction” and so on, do not sound entirely democratic or representative to me, as the power is still ultimately in the hands of the Board of Directors to determine whether they want to listen to BUSAC’s ‘direction’ or ‘review’ or not.
This isn’t to say that the Board of Directors can’t be trusted or that they won’t listen to recommendations brought forward by BUSAC, but the power shouldn’t be in their hands in the first place to determine whether or not student’s voices are heard. I take issue with the broader implications that this referendum has and how this power may be used.
It’s also important to note that the President of BUSU is running the “Yes Side” of the referendum, someone in a role with a clear vested interest in seeing this referendum passed. The optics of him running the “Yes Side” campaign given the position that he is in similarly raises red flags to me. It feels like a conflict of interest, to put it bluntly.
Similarly, the fact that there is nobody running the “No Side” of the referendum doesn’t look great either. If nobody wanted to step up and fill the role then BUSU should have taken the mantle themselves, or, for the sake of fairness, not been allowed to run a “Yes Side” campaign.
Having the BUSU President run the “Yes Side” campaign with no opposition on a referendum that directly impacts BUSU’s future and ongoing accountability to students or lack thereof, looks heavily biased.
I really hope that students take this information to heart and really consider what this referendum means for their representation in the student union going forward. Putting so much unchecked power in the hands of people who are not elected by us students really doesn’t sit well with me, especially given that we pay fees, some mandatory and others not, directly to BUSU as Brock students, which I think should guarantee us a degree of representation and accountability.
A stronger case needs to be made for why we as students should vote away virtually all of our representation and BUSU’s accountability.