Democratize UVM

Khalid AlMubarak

We need a student’s union; a comprehensive and representative body that is elected by the students to serve the students.

While organizations like the Black Student Union and the Asian Student Union are necessary and powerful, we still need one for the whole student body.

It is questionable that  SGA should even be elected when it does not work in the prime interest of debt-drowning students. It seems impractical to have a student government exist that doesn’t have governing power over tuition.

A powerless student government that represents all the interests of the administration, but not all of the students.

This only forces students to accept the idea of being powerless, which is exactly how democracies die; when people are convinced that “that’s the way it is and we cannot change it.”

Unlike the student government in its current form, a representative government body such as a student’s union tends to be much more active about critical issues in academia, and would address the university’s budget, residential life, and student wellness with greater care.

According to the UVM SGA’s website, the legislation activity of the association for the 2017-18 academic year comprised mostly of renaming clubs and providing financial support with the expectation that the clubs pay back the SGA funds, as if borrowing from a bank.

Although there was a resolution that passed Oct. 17 to divest from fossil fuel holdings, the resolution was confined to the powers of pleading.

This is not how democratic student governments work. Rather than relying on fundraising, student-run clubs (like the Cynic) could be funded by a student union. It will also have a strong impact on the university’s financial obligations, like where to spend the budget.

Is this too ideal or too radical? Not at all. In fact, this idea is absolutely normal across the board.

According to an August 2013 CBC News article, when universities in Quebec planned to raise the tuitions, the students’ unions stepped in to represent the student’s voice and defend the students against the hike, and they won.

In the UK, the National Student Survey is used to collect data about students that can be used to raise the tuition fee. The Oxford University Students Union mobilised to boycott the survey as a strategy to control tuition according to a January 2017 Independent UK article.

In India, the national students’ union even had a role  in securing the nation’s independence from the U.K. according to the history page of the National Students’ Union of India.

The European Students Union, which represents 46 national students’ unions, is yet another example of a successful exercise of democratic student power, according to the ESU website.

Can you imagine if all Quebec, the United Kingdom, Europe and India had was an SGA?

It is essential that we create a student’s union at UVM if we want to empower ourselves in the struggle for our rights and the future of academic life.