I’ve heard a lot of students express curiosity and concern about LUSU in the past week. Whether it is about the problems with the elections through word of mouth or The Argus, many students are upset, and some of my friends have already told me they won’t be voting. They don’t have faith in their student union.
For students who rely on The Argus to form their opinions, I think an alternative perspective is important. Full disclosure: I work for LUSU part-time, and I am a candidate in the elections. That said, I will try to present information that students can check for themselves.
Last week’s issue included three separate editorials by Argus staff that are highly critical of LUSU. They make some good points: the union does a poor job of engaging students, the debates were a disaster, candidates often make unrealistic promises when running for office, and LUSU can’t seem to run an election to save its life. Unfortunately, the editorials don’t discuss potential solutions, such as hiring a third party to co-ordinate the election instead of Lakehead students (as many other student unions do).
Criticism is important for LUSU. But the criticisms this paper makes are based on some misleading information.
In “Calling me apathetic only makes things worse,” for example, Gary Musson refers to the Outpost’s “massive deficit” which, inconveniently, does not exist. LUSU’s audited financial statements are available on their website, including the Outpost budget.
Furthermore, Musson bases his article on the fact that “LUSU thinks students are apathetic.” How do we know? Well, one candidate in the debate used the term “student apathy” once. In my experience, the people involved in LUSU recognise that the union has a problem in how it engages its members, and don’t spend time blaming students for it. Most of us are students, too.
Editor-in-Chief Mike St. Jean’s claim in his editorial last week that “you have no idea where your student fees go” is equally untrue. Lakehead’s website breaks down the fees collected for LUSU – most of which have been voted on by Lakehead students, while LUSU’s financial statements show how that money is used. Students vote whether or not to approve the financial statements every year at the Annual General Meeting.
LUSU allocates over $100,000 each year to subsidise The Argus so students can be informed about their union and important issues at Lakehead and beyond. The Argus has failed to cover the big stories on LUSU this year – the extended U-Pass, representation on LU’s Board of Governors, the creation of a VP-Orillia position, advocacy for international students, and more. Newspaper staff also failed to attend the Board of Directors debate, inform students about times and locations for the original advance polls, or post candidate profiles online.
Musson closes his article by saying, “I’m apathetic about LUSU… I have no idea what the fuck is going on.” My question is, then why are students paying you to work for our campus paper?
I hope students will keep the yearly election drama in perspective, and take the time to choose the leaders of their union. It matters who sits in those seats.
Editor’s note: while the operating cost of the Argus’ does sit around $100,000 a year, the projected cost to the student union is approximately $45,000 after ad revenue is taken into consideration, as per the 2012-13 LUSU Budget.
Dates for the original rounds polling were listed in “News Briefs” in the January 28th, 2013 issue of The Argus, while polling locations were listed in an advertisement on page 2 in the January 21st, 2013 issue.
For information about the results of Lakehead University’s vote on the conflict of interest by-law, see “Student’s regain right to vote on tuition hikes” in this week’s issue.