Opinion: I endorse… civil student politics

Monday, March 14, 2011

  • Nearly everyone involved in this election is guilty of not being kind to each other

    Nearly everyone involved in this election is guilty of not being kind to each other

Written by John Sakaluk

After graduating last year from the University of Guelph, I packed my bags and moved to the state of Kansas to pursue graduate school.

Having left a friendly country—and an even friendlier community—it has been quite a shock to my system to move to a place only 20 minutes away from the Westboro Baptist Church, and where most people give me weird looks for asking others how their day is going.

Guelph is a community full of wonderful, caring people; I miss it terribly. Lately though, my Facebook feed has been plastered with CSA elections material, and a lot of what I am seeing is neither friendly, nor wonderful, nor caring.

In fact, a lot of what I have been reading has been passive-aggressive at best, and downright mean-spirited at worst. Candidates and their cronies are baiting each other with loaded questions, people are being shredded in online media, and many of the individuals involved with elections seem more concerned with why you shouldn’t vote for someone, as opposed to why you should vote for another.

Candidates, supporters, and members of the current CSA: nearly everyone involved in this election process has been guilty of not being kind to each other.  To be clear, there are friends of mine running in this election, and there are people I don’t like running too—sometimes both for the same position—and I think in general, both parties have a lot of room for improvement.

Therefore, I would like to offer 2 examples of election food for thought. The first is an example of a past CSA Executive election that I think embodies the between-candidate courtesies that anyone thinking of running for office should aspire to. The second example is one from the current CSA elections, that I think is another great example of hard, yet courteous, campaigning done right.

Example 1: Two years ago, the Local Affairs Commissioner race had (I think) 3 candidates: Galen Fick, Anastasia Zavarella and another individual whose name I am unfortunately forgetting. What I do not forget though, is how this trio of candidates acted around each other: completely courteous, bordering on fabulously friendly.

I still recall the three of them coming to a class of mine to talk about their individual platforms, yet one topic was consistent across all of their pitches. They each expressed respect and positive feelings about their colleagues. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought they weren’t competing at all.

Example 2: The current Local Affairs race is between Derek Alton and David Nguyen is a fantastic example—from what I can tell—of this same principle. I believe a facebook quote, by Derek, on Derek’s campaign page provides a compelling example:

“I have been very fortunate to have a very classy person in David as my competitor for this position. I am grateful for the respect he has shown me in our campaigning and I have worked hard to show the same to him.”

Both of these situations demonstrate the quality of character becoming of Guelph students, and that quality was a large reason why I fell in love with the school in the first place. Looking at Derek’s comment, I can’t help but feel that the Local Affairs portfolio, one way or another, will be in good hands, and that’s how Guelph students should feel for all of these positions.

Anger has its time and place (sparingly), but more times than not it just burns people out. Guelph students don’t want candidates and their followers fighting and making it seem like choosing one candidate over another will lead to absolute doom and destruction of the student experience. Guelph students want to know that the people they are choosing from are good people, who can come together and cooperate for a common cause of making our school a better place.

Our school was called the most caring university in the world, but caring isn’t just caring about the issues of the CSA, it’s also caring for the people involved in the CSA. That includes the students the CSA serves as well the other people hoping to be elected.

If everyone treated each other with decency and respect—and sometimes it is hard—then everyone would be better off. Students would have functional leadership, and members of the CSA wouldn’t have to dread bumping into coworkers they treated unkindly.

I recommend the following for students, candidates, and ultimately the new exec to consider:

Students: vote for candidates that seem able to put their differences aside, and work as a team with others.

Candidates: treat each other with respect. This is the kind of drama that turns students off of the CSA.

New Exec: you all will have specific portfolio issues you will need to attend to, but do everyone a favour, and make teamwork and courtesy a priority for every portfolio.

With an emphasis on working together and caring for one another, the CSA will accomplish a lot more than as a bunch of individuals sniping and taking pot-shots at one another. Who knows, you might even enjoy your time working in the CSA….

John Sakaluk is a graduate and former student senator at the Univeristy of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question

| More


Back to Top
  1. Posted by: on Mar 14, 2011 @ 8:06am

    Thanks for taking the time write this John! I have posted it on the CSA CEO Facebook profile with hopes to spread your message. Many thanks!

    With hopes for a civil voting week,

    CSA CEO, Jakki Doyle

  2. Posted by: Galen Fick on Mar 14, 2011 @ 12:22pm

    Thanks for the article John, and thanks for the compliment on our approach to campaigning. The third candidate in my race was Jeff Smith, a really stellar individual.

    Though I don't disagree with your point about respect and constructive dialogue, I think both my race and this year's Local Affairs race are different in a way. I think that in both cases all candidates felt that everyone was capable of doing a good job in the position. I think that where the respect is erroded is when there are races with candidates who do not trust in each other's ability.

    The unfortunate reality of the CSA is that there is no accountability for the executive. Currently (in spite of an executive evaluation policy) the only form of accountability is a self-motivation one based on personal integrity. The majority of the Commissioner time is designed to be taken up doing what is is their job description: doing stuff that just needs to get done, organizing bus pass distribution, supervising staff, sitting on CSA and external committees etc. I think one of the main reasons that there are heated races this year is that there are people who don't feel their opponents will fulfil the duties outlined in the job description.

    The CSA Commissioner positions are pretty cush jobs if you slack off or use the salary to do whatever you want. In reality, there is nothing to stop someone from doing that (as has all too frequently been the case). I think that it is worth getting worked up about that there is pretty significant money going into the CSA from students and we want people in those positions who will take their responsibiltiy seriously and serve with the entire student population in mind.

    Personally, I don't really have a stake in the politcal direction that the CSA Executives take. That's for them to work out. But it kills me to see the CSA's potential squandered in the ineffectiveness of the executive. Yes, let's run respectful campaigns, but more importantly, when it comes time for the new exective to take on their role. Work hard and do your jobs.

    Galen Fick
    Former CSA Local Affairs Commissioner 2009-2010

  3. Posted by: guelphstud3nt on Mar 17, 2011 @ 11:13pm

    Enjoyed reading this!

Share your thoughts

Bookstore First Year