a, Opinion

An open letter to the new student representatives

Welcome to the fold—or should I say, welcome to student politics at McGill.

Some of you may be new to this process, and some of you may be veterans; but either way, you’re now involved in the decision-making process within this university. Some of you have more power than others in that you have direct access to the administration, principal, and deans. Some of you have more indirect clout, with relationships to your respective department chairs, field coordinators, and support staff. No matter which level of student governance you find yourself in, you have some tie to the administration. Do not, for one second, take this link—or the potential for one—for granted. This is the key to student governance at all levels. As representatives—myself included as outgoing vice-president academic of the Political Science Students’ Association—we have a voice; and when we are united, we are powerful. Our input is heard.

It’s no secret; many of you ran for your position to improve your resume. You might have also thought to yourself, wouldn’t it be great to have access to some serious money to plan killer events for your friends? You might be in it for nothing, but I beg you to reconsider, and realize that your position is one that can enact real change. I urge you to realize that your position is not meant for you. You are there for the people you represent, be it a small department or the entire student body. You are their voice.

Some departments, faculties, and even SSMU itself are set aside from the administration they’re supposed to work alongside. Some are further removed from the students they represent. This is a two-way street that has been ripped apart by bitter politics and poor decision-making in the last two years, if not longer.

Rebuilding the bridges between the student body and the administration should be your priority. This might sound vague and ambiguous, but consider it: you should be a known face to your direct superior. You should be a name on an email your department chair knows; you should be able to show up at a key decision maker’s office and talk to them; you should also hold office hours or be otherwise approachable by students. As representatives, you are the bridge between two groups of people who believe they have two very different visions for this university. The administration believes in a top-down approach; student representatives, bottom-up. It is your job to help both sides realize that these aren’t mutually exclusive: we need both, and the dynamism that can arise from working in concert would prevent future gridlock and repeated gaffes as we’ve seen in the past term

We as an institution can only move forward if SSMU reaches out to the faculty associations, and beyond that to the departments at the grassroots level, and vice versa. We all have our connections, no matter the level at which we function in student politics. Many of the poor decisions this year have been made because of a disconnect between the various levels of student governance. The faculty associations are out of touch with the needs and direction of their departments, as are the departments with the inner workings of SSMU decision-making.

Success in an educational facility such as McGill is universal; it applies to everyone and comes at no one’s expense. We can be successful if we stop viewing ourselves as separate bargaining parties engaging in zero-sum game negotiations. We all have a lot to give, we all have different resources, and together, we can represent a united front on issues such as course cuts, budget cuts and union negotiations if we remain engaged with the issues.

The year has been long and difficult, particularly in recent weeks. It will not get easier. We all have important choices to make, no matter the level of student governance we work in, but if we make them in an informed united manner we will be able to move forward productively. This starts with the terms you are about to begin as student representatives on May 1st. Hit the ground running, stand united on all issues facing McGill and reach out to your counterparts. Throw out notions of a hierarchy in student politics, engage with the stakeholders, and use the varied levels of access we have in student representation to accomplish the real, much-needed change that McGill deserves.

Share this:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Read the latest issue

Read the latest issue