There is a river flowing now very fast

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I’ve written quite a few weblogs in my day. 284 after this one.

A lot of people have ignored a lot of my weblogs in my day!

Much as I’d have loved it if, inexplicably, my style of arcane prose that circumvents almost all aspects of popular culture had somehow captivated the imagination of the online community, that hasn’t happened and, knowing human nature, I’d have been shocked and surprised if it had.

Lately, my posting volume has been so low that I’m sure even those who occasionally tuned in have more or less forgotten my writing. (Facebook’s failure to give the “Notes” function high profile doesn’t exactly assist aspiring writers either).

Today, though, I feel there are things that should be said that nobody is saying. I’ve listed some questions below. If any of them strikes a chord with you, please say so. Please add thoughts. Suggest things that need to change. My sense (and maybe I just read the news too much) is that this world is in a precarious place, a spiritually bereft place, and may need superhuman commitment from all of us to bring it to a better place. I’m talking genuine concern, thoughtful communication, a general abstinence from consumption, more mutual appreciation of each other, mutual support, a transition away from industrial farming, recognition of ecological limits, but also (maybe especially) prayer and meditation. (And more bikes!!)

Question 1: Are there others concerned about the lack of apparent control that we have over our lives? Why do so many seem content for somebody else to make decisions about how they live their lives and how their money is spent?

Question 2: Are there others that are distressed – literally distressed – at the almost complete lack of genuine, constructive communication within our communities about important, local or trans-local issues, including why so many people are made dysfunctional or marginalized or why are our lifestyles are dependent on consuming so many resources?

Question 3: Am I the only one who feels strongly that the growth paradigm is very flawed and wants to puke at the newspaper headlines implying national catastrophe if the economy fails to grow? Why isn’t stability an achievement to be proud of? You’ll think I’m crazy, but if we keep getting force-fed this pablum, should we ban the toxic publications that continue to spew this rubbish?

Question 4: Is anyone else upset that all action, frustration, irritation, disappoint, and disgust seems to have been relegated to the virtual sphere, and that nobody seems to have the ability or willingness to speak, critically if need be, in person? I definitely don’t consider myself immune from this problem as you can tell from this note being distributed virtually, but as a solution why do we not have a public square where citizens can come and debate issues and construct solutions to our social problems?

Question 5: Would you do more to change these things if you had more economic freedom? Do you consider yourself a slave to ‘the economy’? Would you actively seek ways to lessen/thwart economic burdens even if it meant giving up luxuries such as mobility and private space?

– Last Question/End Note –

I look forward to reading all your comments and ideas. I realize it’s not the best format to respond in, but please comment if it’s only to voice support for the creation of a better forum for communication. I could write a lot more (trust me!), but this is a start towards the kind of constructive dialog that I think our communities desperately need if we are to stand a hope of emerging from this state of universal fragmentation & disconnection. Please send me a PM if you would prefer I not tag you in such a note in the future.

Also, FB will only let me tag 30 of you through it’s “Notes” function, so if you can, please re-post the link to this page or just copy and paste the note itself if you think it worth doing. Thanks!

Small World or Bust

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Well, frick.

26 years old – I was supposed to have this shit figured out by now. 

Instead, here I sit – an all-night diner – after a day of questioning literally everything about the world that I live in. 

Today, none of it seems legit.

I truly live inside of my head in a highly analytical, pseudo-intellectual sense. I don’t live or care for sensation or feeling of any kind; I merely accept it when it’s available, but I do not seek it out when it isn’t. 

Beyond health and survival, I don’t really have material aspirations. I get little enough out of life these days that if it wasn’t for the risk of sacrificing a more rewarding future later on, I could probably waste away without being overly put out.

I just see a seething mass of flesh circulating and revolving around seeking out cheap sensation, not working together with others to attain at least a bit more freedom, and just following their cues, and the whole thing just kind of rankles me.

We have usurped a comparatively massive portion of the Earth’s bio-productive capacity for our own uses, and have put to work all the knowledge and abilities that we’ve developed to, as they say, search for life on other planets while we destroy the life on this one. We’re given an amazing home where the stuff of life literally falls from the sky onto our heads and nutrition is quite widely available, and we insist on being dissatisfied with what I perceive as luxurious riches, and we wage war on other individuals and other species, as if doing so could possibly solve a single one of our problems.

The natural systems around us have so much to teach about health, wellbeing, and healing, and yet we insist on forcefully rearranging the genome to better suit our purposes, and then using our ‘inventions’ way before they are tested and proven to be ready for use.

On a more local level, we act as if every entitlement ever invented is our God-given right, as if there no limits that could ever apply to us, and relentless expansion and growth is our very highest calling.

I grow weary of it all. I don’t see good choices in front of me. Raising a family in the age of drone-warfare and arbitrary presidential “kill” lists? No thank-you. Pushing the boundaries of civilization further into the little patches of nature that still exist relatively un-trammeled by homesteading uninhabited land? Yes, that’s really going to change the rapaciously consumptive course of this society.

Aspiring to an indigenous life lived on the land where I was born? Were it a possibility, I’d consider it as a desirable option.

Living the way that everybody else does, unquestioning and obedient to the established rules and norms? Well, who am I to question anything anyway. It’s not like our lifestyles are obviously unsustainable or anything…

Have confidence that the industrial economy will come through and capitalism will carry the day? I thought I was being preposterous with the earlier propositions…

Where is there hope? The hope that I see is in laughter, humor, and music, and so, thank goodness for those who seek to provide those things. But in those things, there still isn’t necessarily a way forward that breaks ranks with the terribly short-sighted trends and actions of species-centrism, colonisation, rampant pollution and depletion of common resources, and actions that have exacerbated global tensions, that have brought us to where we are today.

How, I ask, can anybody be happy with where we are today? How can it be that most of us accept the status quo and don’t devote all our energies to changing it before we cast votes in affirmation of this system by living and functioning inside of it? I think the answer must be that most just don’t think. Well, fair enough. Can’t force it.

So yeah, this is a far too unsettled way for someone who’s been here for more than quarter century to be thinking – isn’t it? When will I simply cast my lot with those who take the advantages this system can confer, even as new inequities, tensions, and class-ist structures are built up around them every day, in part due to their own actions?

When will I cease to be a gadfly in the side of the status quo even while grudgingly accepting the sustenance I am (so far) able to procure through it?

That time will be when I start to see some real solutions – and that will inevitably mean that the people both need less government, and resent its pervasive presence more strongly. When I start to see people working together to free each other from the working treadmill and the tenacious hold of the twin maestro’s – the mass media and popular culture.

Or just the day that I start living for fun, pleasure, and sensation instead of truth. Really, how far off can that day be given the current state of affairs?

SUS at 35 DSS (Days Since Solstice)

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Here we are, 26 days into January and 35 into the annual ascent of the sun, and having seen barely an inch of powder in these parts. It’s never correct of course to blame isolated occurrences on ongoing phenomena, but to my perception, this ranks as one of the warmest winters in memory. Climate scientists say that on average, Canada has warmed by 1.2 degrees Celsius from 1945 – 2005, and my on the ground observations certainly seem consistent with the trend that scientists are identifying. One might say there is a crisis unfolding before our eyes, but human nature being what it is, we seem powerless to act.

 Since my last update, which was mostly about the upcoming referendums and some of my thoughts on them, a few things have changed. The math was found to be inadequate with the Chilliwack – Abbotsford shuttle bus levy being set at $6, so we bumped it up to $6.75. The CASA referendum questions have more or less been scrapped for the time being. To date, I haven’t gone in on the two Health and Dental referendums in any detail.

 All members should be aware that there will be a referendum on bumping the Health and Dental premium from the currently $159.99 to $229.92 – a $70 increase – to pay for essentially maintaining the current services offered inside the plan (note there is some confusion on whether the increase would increase services or merely maintain them – I will obtain clarification on that).

 Why the sudden shortfall, you ask?

Well. Interesting question, that.

There was a SUS board….many years ago. This Board of Directors looked at their Health and Dental fund, and said, “Hey! There are a whole bunch of reserve funds sitting here that aren’t being used! We could cut the H&D premium substantially and still maintain the services! But then the Student Union would lose revenue….and we don’t want that to happen…” (even if it would benefit the members).

So they said….“…let’s cut the cost of the H&D….but let’s only do it if the members agree to replace the money they’re saving with some other fee! Hey! High-five! Let’s reduce the Health and Dental by $40 annually….but only if the members will institute a $70 annual Capital Building Fund to pay for a Student Union Building! We’re brilliant! ‘Nother high five!”

And wouldn’t you know it, that referendum to reduce the Health and Dental by $40 while creating a Capital Building Fund of $70…passed with a 2% margin, with only 12% of eligible students voting!

 Fast forward a few years….and…hey, guess what! The Health and Dental fund kept having overages? And now the reserve fund is gone? What about that! Who could have guessed! Well, we’d better raise it back up again!

Do you see how, by temporarily eliminating the ability to build up a reserve fund, and then using the reserve fund that had been built to fund cost over-runs, the SUS that you like to believe you can love and trust has essentially used a bait and switch tactic, whether intentional or not, to replace sufficient coverage inside the Health and Dental network with a Capital Building Fund Levy…only to now give members the option of reinstating the initial cost of H&D – and then some – but not giving the option to remove the Capital Building Fund in a manner that would have been consistent with the original question?

In the past few months, I’ve been agitating a bit here and there because I don’t get how people can blithely sign over $30 plus various fees for various programs without doing some due diligence to see how that money is being spent. All in all, my opinion is essentially the same as it was when I started; the Student Union functions in this awkward grey zone where its fees aren’t high enough for it to be worth members’ time to object in any kind of a meaningful way, but the mandatory nature of them without many concrete results is succeeding at causing members to be apathetic or cynical about the student union. This is the situation more or less at every student union across Canada.

It’s actually quite funny to be privy to discussions among student leaders when they inevitably lament the cliched ‘student apathy’ and ‘lack of involvement’ as if it’s some kind of unsolveable mystery. It’s totally not. When you commandeer someone else’s money, then earnestly argue that it is your right and duty to ‘represent’ them (when did they ask to be ‘represented’ anyway?), and don’t do much more than provide a forum at which to, yes, engage in debate and discussion, but not without becoming immersed in stifling political procedures, of course you are going to get apathy and cynicism.

What do you expect you would get?

(To be  totally fair, it’s governmental legislation that legislates student unions into existence in the first place).

Anyway.

The sentiment worth clinging to is potential. With a $650 000 annual budget that is essentially to be spent at student’s discretion with almost no restrictions, this student union, and student unions across Canada (most of whom have much larger budgets with which to conduct research, lobbying, and advocacy, as well as host events) student unions have a tremendous amount of potential. Now that our President has shifted the budgetary development process over to the student leaders outside of SUS – both a political and organizational stroke of brilliance – control over the budget is shifted outside of the hands of a few directors, and into the hands of the members. There is of course, a risk of a “too many chefs in the kitchen” phenomenon occurring, but I have long thought that the allocation of this budget is SUS’s single greatest creative opportunity, and this move promises to free up that creativity.

At the same time, with the October hiring of Meghan McDonald, SUS has a really wonderful general manager, who, I will say, understands exceptionally well the role that student organizations play, and will be one of SUS members’ greatest assets in developing an effective organization that delivers more value to students. Working with Meghan, our future members and directors can really accomplish a lot. There is tremendous potential housed within SUS, and if future editions of this organization can overcome the really crippling obstacle of the annual turnover of directors and members, that potential can be exercised. I would say that the really poignant potential that lies dormant here almost outweighs the really questionable value that our members get out of SUS’s existence. It’s what has kept me around anyway.

 There is one other point to be made: I say there are almost no restrictions on the dedication of student union budgets, but there is one huge caveat. In Australia, when student unions started to be especially critical of the governing parties, that government got fed up with the criticism, and make student unionism optional – which goes to show that if student unions ever started to be really effective at lobbying and opposing senior government spending, it’s possible to simply have the rug pulled out from under us.

Where does all this leave us with Health and Dental? Even though I have a hard time getting over my frustration at the fact that this organization temporarily reduced a premium, in order to institute another (larger) fee, only to bump the other fee back up plus a bit a few years later, we are where we are. In the big picture, it’s not a big enough deal for students to have a revolution over since we are already the beneficiaries of a large subsidy from senior governments, and these developments only slightly reduce the impact of that subsidy. I am certainly not going to tell or even suggest how anybody should vote on this. Beyond being frustrated with the ramifications of one referendum several years ago that I have argued to little avail was un-representative even if it wasn’t illegal, I don’t currently have a large role to play in this. Do the research, and vote whichever way you think is best.

To close, what am I working on until the end of March?

  • Continued U-PASS business discount program expansion

  • a broad level survey of what members would like to see as SUS’s financial priorities

  • open houses/all-candidates meetings for the upcoming Provincial Election

  • Cinema Politica films – starting with Edible City and Eau Trouble en Bouteille

  • whatever else I can squeeze in of provincial and federal lobbying, a series called “Viewpoints” for UFV students to express and debate their political or philosophical leanings, etc.

13 Days of 2013 with the UFV Student Union Society

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January 13. Two weeks into 2013. Here’s my perspective on what’s been happening at the Student Union Society so far in the new year.

From the beginning of my term, right from being elected, I’ve made it my number one goal to ensure that the $30+ that every student spends on SUS actually delivers some value to you – because before my term, if it was delivering a tremendous amount of value, I wasn’t seeing it. Yes, we’re students without much organizational experience running a large-budget organization and so some waste is to be expected.  But honestly, I didn’t see value for students even close to what you would think could be achieved with a $650 000 budget.

What I’ve learned since then that I didn’t know before is that the University Act actually legislates the Student Union Society into existence by stipulating that the University’s executive collect a fee equal to the amount specified in a democratic fashion by the students in attendance at a University. So there is going to be a fee; the only question is how large and how well the students end up using it. In essence my role then is to minimize the impact of this fee on you, UFV students, while ensuring the money we do take in is used in the best possible way.

What’s important for you to know right now is that there are a few referendums upcoming that will both affect the level of your fees as well how well we at SUS use our budget.  During the week of February 18 to February 24, members will vote on:

  • remaining a member of CASA or withdrawing
  • isolating the CASA membership as a dedicated fee at $1.20 per registration
  • implementing a universal $6 fee to pay 60% of the cost of a shuttle bus from the CEP (Chilliwack) to UFV – Abbotsford

Potentially, the amount of increase to student fees is only $7.20, with the benefit to UFV as a whole being substantial; a mass transport link between these two campuses would:

  • relieve costly pressure on parking spaces;
  • enable UFV to have its class spaces utilized more efficiently, thereby keeping costs down;
  • defray further deterioration of the eastern Fraser Valley’s sensitive airshed, saving health care costs in the long run
  • save many students a bundle of money in petrol and car wear and tear costs (I don’t think this be a sufficient incentive to spur many students to go car-free entirely, so insurance/car payments would likely not be saved).

Dedicating the CASA fee outside of our regular budget would lend stability to our involvement with this organization by preventing successive SUS boards from continually raising and lowering membership levels. My own feeling is that CASA membership has value on par with anything that SUS currently offers, so I do favour continued membership, but not rabidly…my sense is that maintaining federal connections with other post-secondary lobby groups is the biggest value gained from CASA membership, but that good work can be done at the local and provincial levels as well. Whether that work takes priority over federal work is largely what voters will be deciding on in February.

Well, truth be told, I’m relatively ambivalent on both issues…Would an inter-campus shuttle bus benefit UFV and by extension, its students? Very likely, yes. Would it unfairly penalize those who don’t use it, just like U-PASS? Very likely yes as well. To be clear, I favor collective models that rely on broad participation such as U-PASS and potentially Abby-CEP transit, but these models should be arrived at by first cultivating broad participation in democratic processes such as SUS by slaying debts and deficits and thereby giving people economic freedom, and secondly by cultivating a culture of participation in public life from citizens/members, and I do not see progress on either of these fronts being achieved by top-down higher fee structures.

These views do contain a chunk of idealism rather than pragmatism, and that is something that I admit and uphold. I want the best solution with a minimum of externalized costs, a minimum of side effects, and maximal benefits for the most people at all times, and I would argue that….

…there are times when the best course of action is no action at all….

Island UFV or a Connected, Integrated UFV?

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In the past, I have said that our society, especially here in North America, suffers from a plague of disconnection; disconnection from our elders, disconnection from the lands on which we reside; disconnection from our food supply. As a result, we can’t seem to decide whether we are coming or going, and seem to have a very real identity crisis that permits us to embrace a kind of a footloose lifestyle not rooted in place.

Universities as an institution have not traditionally helped to heal this divide, and especially now that universities have largely become a prerequisite to entering the job market in any worthwhile way, they seem to be widening the divide rather than narrowing it. Working more toward exclusivity and segregation than unity and overall societal progress. When young people detach themselves entirely from their former lives and go to live on campus in the hope of being shown the right way to think and live, there is a detachment and separation that occurs that I cannot see as being positive. I will say that some universities recognize this, and are taking steps to address it through such initiatives as creating smaller campuses integrated into the fabric of the community, as UFV has done with the Clearbrook Centre, and as both UBC and SFU have done with satellite campuses in Downtown Vancouver, as well as studying indigeneity in a specific, targeted way.

I raise these topics because I feel it is a mistake for universities to work towards the creation of alternative communities where students have every service and amenity available at their beck and call. I sense that it is a failed model that will not persist and probably should not persist, and when I see my university, UFV, taking steps in this direction, I hear alarm bells ringing. When we create an alternative community, it is implying that the main community is not good enough, not worthy of our young people, and that our young people can do better than associate with it.

I see UFV – Chilliwack moving in an overall direction about which I am wary, but I will not focus on that here; rather I’ll focus on UFV – Abbotsford. Originally established on the outskirts of what was then a township, likely to take advantage of lower land prices, the city has now largely grown to meet it. You’ll note another large problem here – if our communities cannot afford to locate our institutions of higher learning anywhere but on the outskirts, what does that say about the value they place on said higher learning?.

That aside, UFV – Abbotsford is being integrated into a broader plan called the “University District”; a long-term plan to create a dynamic neighbourhood around it offering better student housing and commercial amenities, and less of the light industry that not characterizes the region. Even as this plan proceeds, UFV is proceeding towards a model that attempts to move in the direction of the creation of that alternative community by building residence buildings, a ring road, and soon a Student Union Building, and I argue, the more such facilities that UFV builds on the campus itself, the more inward-looking an institution it will become – and this is not the smartest path forward.

Other universities have tried this model, achieving impressive things, to be sure. But UFV is not SFU; we are not Queens; we are not UBC.  By emulating their model of separation, we are not distinguishing ourselves from the crowd in any significant way. We aren’t separating from the pack.

My vision for UFV – Abbotsford is as a dynamic, community-centred institution with direct relevance to the citizens that surround it; a University that sets itself apart as a hub of responsible, thoughtful research that adds value to the lives of the taxpayers who are subsidizing it; a university that students want to learn at because it offers a unique, integrated set of learning opportunities that teach the integration of the disparate fields of thought available in mainstream society today into a holistic understanding of the world that values both higher  education as well as the practice of physical labour; that upholds the well-being of the whole community and society as part and parcel of its own well-being. A place where students come to because all their needs are met practically without needing to resort to redundant constructions of facilities that already exist, and as a result is efficient but not excessive. Because efficiency is affordability, and without affordability, we have a system where those who can afford it will obtain university degrees, while those who cannot are out of luck.

Where does the UFV SUS come into this? Nowhere, if it doesn’t want to – but I recommend it does. I recommend it strive for independence from UFV itself to enable it to function as a true watchdog and advocate for the rights of students, while striving to add a layer of education that the mainstream system doesn’t necessarily provide if one doesn’t choose to pursue those areas of knowledge; namely citizenship, in a word. The protection of one’s rights. Stretching one’s dollars in an efficient manner. Living as an individual within a strong community rather than in a disconnected, independent fashion.

The path it is on right now in building a Student Union Building and largely subsidizing the UFV does not really act in that direction, and I will have to accept that for the moment, UFV and SUS are choosing to move in a direction that not only acts on an old and fading vision of separation of disconnection, but in the case of our SUB, perpetuates democratic injustice and governmental prejudice. Those who read on this blog more regularly will know what I refer to; namely, the contents of this post: http://streamrambler.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/democratic-representation-statistics-and-the-capital-building-fund/

Had I more time, I would elaborate on the value of independence in truly serving UFV students and members; for now I will accept that the path SUS is on is not the one that I think is wise in the long run, and push for a better direction in the future. I’l decamp from my perch here in Mission and grab the next set of buses to UFV, but I do entreat you to think on these things.

Democratic Representation, Statistics, and the Capital Building Fund

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Image

Democracy at UFV….

At the General Meeting on Wednesday the 28th, I briefly presented on the attached slides (slides are available through the Facebook VP Academic page:http://www.facebook.com/groups/303375253863/) which directly question the process by which the Capital Building Fund that is paying for the Student Union Building was established.

I am taking a firm stance that while it is my belief that the Student Union Building will be beneficial to students at this University, it has never been established that students support this project. While the project is technically legal, it is far from ethical to bind future students to paying for this project for the next 25-30 years on a referendum five years ago with a 12.5% turnout with only a 2% support margin – in response to a leading, biased, and prejudiced question!

““Do you support a reduction of the annual UCFV Student Union Society Health and Dental Plan Fee by $40.00 to initiate a Student Union Building Fund Levy of $35.00 per semester, effective Fall 2008, to finance the operation, construction, and renovation of UCFV Student Union Society buildings and Facilities?”

52% of students voted yes to this question, which in addition to being statistically unreliable, is likely to be an inaccurate estimation of students’ viewpoint, considering that it holds the $40 cost reduction at a ransom to the implementation of a $70 fee – a fact that is disguised by the question itself.

I strongly recommend that a referendum be held in order to establish that we as student representatives are actually acting on behalf of our members and not on behalf of ourselves and our organization in a prejudiced manner.

For Friday’s Board meeting in Mission, I have brought forward a motion that reads,

“Whereas the existence of the Capital Building Fund reflects undue prejudice on behalf of the University of the Fraser Valley Student Union Society Board of Directors and in no way can confidently be said to reflect the genuine sentiments of the membership, BIRT that UFV SUS conduct a referendum with the question, “Do you support cancelling the $35 per semester Capital Building Fund?”

This question allows the maximum possible chance that this project will go forward while giving UFV students the opportunity to express discontent. It allows this because the Board drafted a new referendum policy in August that calls for decisive action to be supported by a 3/5 majority in a referendum, so if the question asked for continued support for the Capital Building Fee, it would need to receive 60% backing. (It’s worth noting that with this requirement, the referendum would not have passed in the first place).

By asking for ‘support for cancellation’, it will require that 60% support cancelling the fee. This would still not fully establish support for the project, but would give students the opportunity to change course if they desire.

As a cooperative student association, acting in a manner that at the very best acts on the wishes of a very slim majority of our students while alienating and financially penalizing nearly or more than 50% of the membership sets a very bad precedent for the future of this organization.

I hope we all learn something from this

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Below is a position paper that I’d written up with the intent of acting on in regards to the upcoming construction of the Student Union Building. Upon reflection, it is clear that this project has advanced too far and had too much time and money invested in it, so that the damage of cancelling the project now might be greater than the damage of going ahead and putting the building up. So I’ll hold my peace, but please read and reflect on the following document – because I sincerely hope that you will learn from the many mistakes made by past and current Student Union Boards and make sure that in your future lives you will avoid situations where the same mistakes can be made again.

VP Academic Position Paper

November 15, 2012

Referendum to Establish Genuine Support for Student Union Building Project Needed

Dear fellow UFV students, members of the Student Union Society, fellow Directors of the UFV SUS, & members of the UFV community;

Very soon I will be asked to sign off on the agreement between the UFV and SUS that will permit the finalization of the $10 million mortgage S US plans to take out to finance the construction of a Student Union Building.

Though I have voted to facilitate the construction of this building in the past, after thinking long and hard about this, I have decided that I would not be able to consider myself a true representative of all students at UFV if I blithely and unquestioningly sign off on this document that will lock each UFV student into paying $35 – $105 per year (with most paying $70) for the next 30 years. The process to obtain these funds has been prejudiced and wrongheaded from the outset, as the following information illustrates.

The funds to build the building were obtained by a very, very, slim majority vote of 1105 voters in 2008 – 575 Yes, 530 No. I can not in good conscience allow a vote nearly 5 years ago that is statistically unreliable to financially govern all UFV students until 2040 & beyond.

Each of the referendums addressing the SUB question has been marked by at best a lack of clarity, and at worst deliberate manipulation. The first question packaged the question of reducing Health and Dental by $40 annually but implementing CBF @ $35 per semester (for most students), when those questions should have been separated. Packaging them was a form of manipulation. The second question did not specify the increase in the overall amount of the loan, and even though it was supported by a strong majority of voters, I fear it was not clear to voters that the amount of money being committed to by SUS was significantly increased.

While the building is justified on the basis of being good for collective interests, I suspect that the last referendum (to approve the mortgage) was justified on individual grounds with the argument, “This won’t cost YOU any more money” (I was repeatedly subjected to this line by SUS referendum ‘information agents’ when voting before I was elected to the Board of Directors). In the first case, unnecessarily packaging a fee increase with a separate fee decrease would have exerted a psychological influence on a voter’s thought process. In the second, the justification is the absence of individual harm – hardly a compelling argument for the construction of a student union building.

For this, and a multitude of other reasons, I call on my fellow directors to recognize the basic, fundamental, ethical principle that allowing a 52% majority of a very small minority of students almost 5 years ago to significantly influence the financial lives of students for the next 30 years is shameful. While technically legal, I don’t believe that the students who voted for me want me to make decisions on the basis of technical legality when a higher principle of representative democracy and trust in elected representatives is at stake.

Further, this board has voted to implement a referendum policy that calls for a clear majority to be achieved for a referendum proposal to be acted upon. By this Board’s own standards, the 2008 referendum does not have sufficient validity to be acted upon in any sense except a legal one.

The following points also reflect poorly on this project: 1) The negotiation and building design processes have had very limited involvement from the students or even the SUS board of directors; yet now, when asked to sign off on this, I am receiving strong signals that signing is a “you have a choice but you don’t have a choice” type of decision. My belief is that this building ought to have been a highly collaborative process that builds excitement right from the start; instead, the project has barely been mentioned outside of SUS offices in my recollection.

2) Many sacrifices to the ideal building design have been made over the years in order to meet cost objectives that I have not been privy to as they were made behind closed doors. Now when I see the final plan, if the sacrifices turn out to make the building not worth the money, I need to have full leeway to vote accordingly if I determine that the building is no longer worth it.

3) I am very wary of the final approval of this building process, as I have heard some very faulty logic coming from various people involved with SUS. Without naming names, I have heard several statements such as, “We’ve been negotiating for 5 years”….”The university is getting tired of delaying this project….and are sending signals of losing interest in the project”….”The SUB is our future…we need to ensure this goes through”.

Each of these statements is grounded in faulty logic that suggests that SUS will be giving up ground in getting the building that it needs, to be replaced with a building that it only wants – at a steep price.

Students will use a SUB building if it becomes available to them, but it must be considered that adding fees makes it harder, not easier, for students to have the free time to be involved on campus, so it is a classic example of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing. By continually adding programs and service at the expense of more debt, we are not only shooting ourselves in the foot, but actively taking advantage of the inexperience and financial naivete of our youth. As the sequence of referendums illustrates, manipulation and governmental prejudice has been integral to the process, so we are not only adding debt through a non-representative process, but teaching distrust of governmental bodies.

Over the next weeks, I will be recommending to my fellow directors that a referendum question with clear choices about whether to continue with the SUB project or rededicate the funds thus far accrued to other purposes be held in the New Year.

This is about the genuine representation of UFV students rather than the triumph of special interests.

As I stated, I hope that we all learn something from this, because I certainly have. As a member of a collective, I’ve learned to be more watchful. As a director of an organization, I’ve learned never to vote in favour of something I haven’t fully investigated.  Most of all, I hope my fellow directors learn never to ram something through because you think it’s a good idea, because as a result, we now have not only a tyranny of the majority, but more than likely a tyranny of a false majority.

Daniel van der Kroon

SUS Vice-President Academic

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