The AGM marching band and the hypocrisy of the UTSU.
With the crashing of drums and a half-dozen horns, last October’s UTSU Annual General Meeting was brought to a halt by the over-the-top stylings of the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad [sic], a marching band of engineering students.
Over the course of the 10 minute musical interlude, UTSU executives groaned, angrily interjected, and lamented the interruption to “important budgetary decisions.” Sure, the marching band was even less articulate, but I think they had a good point.
The UTSU and the LGMB are two sides of the same coin.
Just like the LGMB gathers amateur musicians, the UTSU is fundamentally a student club for make-believe politicians. The only difference is—we let them play with real money.
Let’s try another comparison. The UTSU having access to the cash register is not unlike letting the debate club determine school policies. No doubt, the members of the debate club are smart people, but being bound to the outcome like “this house resolves that everyone must be vegetarian” (or some such abstract debate resolution) is laughable.
Nonetheless, students are just as bound to the operations of the UTSU. Each year, thousands are compelled to hand over money to the Students’ Union and all of its projects. Some of these costs are fairly agreeable—things like legal fees, health and dental plan—and remain fairly static from year to year.
Other costs however, take the distinct shape of the pet political interests of that year’s executive committee. These come in the form of advocacy campaigns. This year, “campaigns and equity” accounted for $92,850 of the UTSU’s operating budget.
Among the scattered advocacy, no one is campaigning to keep funds down.
This may have more to do with the shape of the union more than anything else. At your run-of-the-(steel) mill workers’ union, members want to keep benefits high and costs low. Quite simply, no worker wants to put up with decades of union fees before they retire.
The pressure isn’t there for the executives of a student union. When a fourth (or fifth) year student is handed the budget, they have every incentive to have spent the student money, and no incentive to cut the budget back for next year. What do they care? They’ll be gone—must be fun!
There was some attention paid when severance money was described by some as "stolen" in one big installment of $247,000 earlier this year by Sandy Hudson, a former UTSU executive director. For this moment, the Union was superficially interested in being careful with student funds. But in Hudson’s defense, she’s closely involved with various advocacy campaigns. Had she followed the right procedures at the UTSU, taking a similar cut of the budget would have been perfectly fine.
As the marching band played on through the Annual General Meeting, the UTSU exchanged furious looks, thinking, “How dare this club continue its fun at the expense of students who just want to be left alone?”
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Yes, how indeed.