The problem with student politics are the students in student politics
They’re supposed to represent the students. So why do we hate them with a passion?
All universities in Australia have student unions. They are run by students for students. They are meant to represent the student body, and protect the interests of the students.
So, why do many - like me - feel like they’re not doing their job?
Here’s the thing about student unions - especially with the MSA at my university (Monash University Clayton): they don’t represent the entire student body. They represent those who actually elect the student body. And largely, it is the really politically active, or members of political groups like Go and Switch (and Left Action/Socialist Alternative - the crazy socialists whose policies don’t really represent the students but more “Let’s hijack a cause so we can spread propaganda about ourselves”) that end up voting.
There is only one reason why we don’t vote.
We don’t like you guys.
We really, really don’t like you guys.
You are the most overzealous, ambitious and really annoying people in the world (and that’s saying something - because I see the current state of federal politics in a better light compared to you guys).
You don’t represent the students, nor have any intention to. You only are interested in furthering your political career. First participate in the student union, get elected to the committee, then work your way up the party ladder to become a parliamentarian in federal or state politics.
And most of all, you guys do really stupid acts or make really stupid (and often fucked up) decisions - all just to get attention.
Take for instance, your protest about the Gonski education reforms (which we support) and the cuts to universities in order to pay for those reforms (which we are all against). You guys came into the Matheson Library and started protesting when people are studying or trying to complete their assignments. Your justification: “No place is safe from education cuts.”
Edit note: Yes, I know. I wrote “you’re” instead of “your”. I’m kicking myself over that too.
Yes, we don’t like the cuts as much as you do. However, we don’t do stupid shit that harm our fellow students’ or our own education. We want to actually finish the degree we started and get a good job - if there are any jobs available left.
Then you decided to trick people into going into your student protest on May 14 by putting up posters claiming to be from Monash University (it was really obvious that it was a poor imitation). And (allegedly,according to rumours) one of the protesters set the fire alarm off in the Campus Centre the same day.
My guess was that they wanted to boost the numbers for their photos. Didn’t really work, because apparently 150 students showed up to that protest.
150 people. Out of the thousands of students at Monash University at Clayton.
This doesn’t apply to just the MSA. The University of Melbourne’s Student Union recently passed a motion to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher. Regardless of your politics, it is tasteless. Also, please explain to me Patrick Alves (the student councillor from Left Action who passed the motion), how the hell is that relevant to the student body?
At RMIT, one Socialist Alternative member running for a seat in the council “harassed a senior female RMIT lecturer of Jewish faith”; while the University of Sydney approved a motion calling for a boycott of an Israeli university (and if you can explain how this affects the student body in any way, please explain that to me)
Yes, there are times where we should be in solidarity with others and support their cause. However, simply supporting a boycott of Israel? No. The protest simplifies the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict to being one side is right and one side is wrong. It should be viewed in its entire complexity.
But that’s an opinion for another day.
Student unions are great for students to combine and make sure their interests are heard - especially on the education cuts. However, it’s you guys - the student politicans and all the political activists - that are making it unrepresentative.
The only people who put their hands up to be part of the MSA Committee are Arts or Law students. All of the positions filled by the MSA Committee today are Arts or Law students. Next year’s committee will be filled by Arts or Law students.
See the problem?
There are more than just two faculties at the university - there are Engineering, Information Technology, Science, Mathematics, and Nursing (just to name a few). So why aren’t there more people from those faculties coming over?
Well - most of us don’t focus on left/right (and far-left) politics. We don’t align ourselves to be a member of Go or a member of Switch. We see ourselves either a member of the MSA or a member of our club. Also, we’re time-poor students, so we don’t the have the time to be President, Secretary or Treasurer.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still be in the Committee - education affairs, women, queer, welfare, environment and social justice, and editing Lot’s Wife (the student newspaper) portfolios we can still perform
So how to fix this?
The only way to get more people involved is to cut the crap. Our committee should be elected by merit not by politics. Our committee should be elected by their desire and what they want to do to improve student life not by their political ambition.
Also, stop the stupid actions. (And please ban the Socialist Alternative from getting people to sign petitions because everyone hates them and find them really annoying)
We need to get more people from different faculties in. Make it more open to people to have their say, as opposed to being another student club just for Arts/Law students.
But most importantly: we need to change how we vote.
We need to have online voting - it’s simple; quick to do (especially amidst assignments and labs); and, most importantly, we can avoid the entire week of campaigning around the university campus that bugs the hell out of everyone.
Of course, there should be checks and balances to make sure that there are no voting irregularities. Paper is all well and fine, but given the fact that most university students are on laptops, smartphones, etc. these days, it makes sense to do this.
But you may be wondering? Why the hell did you write this piece? Does this mean you’re running for a position in the MSA committee?
I run a technology blog on the side - I don’t have the time.
And that brings the ultimate problem: no one wants to be part of the MSA committee - or in student politics in general - except the crazy political people.
N.B. According to one person (who stumbled on my post), I need to proofread this post. I really should do that.