Photo by Kyle West
When I started out as the Opinions Editor for The Silhouette this past year, I admittedly didn’t care much about student politics or governance. I was unfamiliar with the policies of the McMaster Students Union and had no idea what happened during Student Representative Assembly meetings.
Nowadays, I regularly watch the SRA livestreams and perform my due diligence to be aware of changes occurring within the MSU. A large part of that is for my job, but I’ve found that staying informed has benefits beyond finding something to write about.
The purpose of the MSU is to “represent you and to help build a better community for all students”. As the governing body of the MSU, SRA members have a responsibility to represent and lobby on behalf of their students.
It’s only fair then that we as students hold these members, and the MSU in general, accountable for their actions. In doing so, we are ensuring that any changes occurring are truly reflective of the needs and desires of students.
There’s many ways for students can hold these organizations accountable. They can attend SRA meetings, speak to their SRA representative, voice their concerns online or even protest for change.
Alternatively, you can do what I do, and write about your concerns for the campus newspaper. Perhaps some of my criticisms have been harsh or slightly misguided. But at the end of the day, I’m proud of the articles that I’ve written and edited for The Silhouette. Even if they have stepped on some toes, I’d like to think they’ve helped incite some positive changes on campus.
Not everything the SRA or MSU has done has been negative. In fact, they have made some great, positive changes that are deserving of praise, or at the very least, of respect.
A few weeks ago, I had plans to write about the SRA’s contradictory playing of the national anthem and delivery of a land acknowledgment at their meetings. To my surprise, I found that they passed a motion to stop playing the national anthem at their meetings altogether. Things like these are positive changes that students should be aware of.
Of course, there is only so much that students can do. Given the record eight students who attended the General Assembly on March 20, it is obvious that the MSU must do a better job at engaging with their student constituents.
But just because the MSU and SRA have much to improve doesn’t mean that students are off the hook for staying informed. Without student input and advocacy efforts, organizations are given too much power and can make decisions that negatively impact us all.
For example, without the efforts of a few brave survivors telling their experiences with sexual assault within the MSU Maroons, it’s unlikely that the service would be doing anything to account for the issue, much less propose developing a long-overdue sexual assault and harassment policy.
I encourage students to get engaged with their university’s politics. It might seem overwhelming, and the information is certainly not easy to navigate, but it’s important work.
Especially in light of the upcoming changes to post-secondary education made by the provincial government, it is in the best interests of all students to be engaged with their union’s activities.
My term at The Silhouette is reaching a close. I’ve learned a lot during my time working for the newspaper but my biggest takeaway is that student politics affects us all, including those outside of the MSU bubble. For our own sake, we ought to keep our student organizations accountable for their actions.