The First Year Council could be great. At least, it’s a great time for the five first years who get to blow through $4000 with minimal interference from the MSU, and minimal notice from the students who fund it. That would be you, by the way—15 cents of your 122.61$ Student Organization Fee goes to the FYC to do… something.
What the FYC is about is unclear to even its members, who gave a vast variety of answers to my every inquiry. Alexander Coomes, last year’s chair, claimed: “No one will ever seriously change the first year experience from this council.” They have had several successful events, for instance, their club nights were successful enough to recoup their output. This, however, simply makes the rest of the spending more puzzling. The council also hosted a movie night, but the proof is in the popcorn—three out of four enormous boxes linger uneaten in FYC’s meeting room.
The annual FYC survey occurred as well, though we haven’t received the results. None of the councillors I asked could say what would be done with the results if they existed, or explain why the survey needed to be annual – surely the needs of first years do not change that much from year to year. Perhaps this is to inform the advocacy that supposedly occurs. David Campbell, President of the MSU, said that the “FYC is a fantastic venue for first years to advocate on behalf of their peers,” but again none of the four members I spoke could describe any advocacy done, or even ideas for what advocacy could occur. Dmitri Dobrov, who held the advocacy portfolio, could not be reached for comment at the time this article was published.
In the words of Alexander Coomes, former chair, “We are a social club. Sometimes we pretend that we’re more, but we’re not.” This self-awareness is laudable, but also betrays the discouragement felt by some members.
“I think the council has great potential for something amazing, but I believe it really comes down to how much each individual on the council wants to commit and dedicate. The more effort and hard work that is put into the first year council will definitely reflect in the success and the experiences one will have,” said Yipeng Ge, Former Vice Chair.
Unfortunately, the FYC is plagued by resume-builders and MSU bubbleheads, who gleefully describe the personal benefits of the FYC while glossing over the benefits to the student body. During a conversation with one member, he pulled out his discount card not once, but twice, as well as regaling me with tales of using the room as his personal gaming sanctuary, saying it was “convenient to have a little bit of authority now and then.” Other members described to me the invaluable connections they made higher up in the MSU echelons, and the importance of the FYC on their resumes. “It’s the best value-to-workload ratio,” said an unnamed councillor. Coomes said, “You can put as much effort as you want to into it… if you mess up, no one’s really there to get mad.”
There is someone there though: me. And you should be mad too. $4000 is a lot of money for some lines on a few people’s resumes. But we can’t just blame them, this is on us too. The fact is, we get who we elect, and what we demand. The FYC started a first year street team, which met twice and fizzled out. A night in Bridges to discuss the first year experience which was mostly attended by friends of the exec. And that isn’t their fault – it’s ours. If we want more than just some club nights and some flops, then we need to elect people who will give it to us. And while it’s easy to blame the election protocols, where five dollars will buy forgiveness for even the most blatant of abuses, we’re still the ones (not) voting. As Coomes says, “If the idealists don’t step up, the cynics take over.”