Posts Tagged ‘whining’


Posted: March 25, 2011 in UWO
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For the first time in my life, something is screwing with my brain.

I don’t just mean that I don’t know – that happens often enough on its own.  I mean that I don’t understand how or why.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.

And it’s doing a number on my head.

I just can’t figure out exactly why World University Service Canada Western and/or the Student Refugee Program were protesting outside the University Students’ Council’s offices this week.  Their stated purpose was to protest undemocratic actions by the USC after the referendum concerning a student fee for the SRP was disqualified despite having an overwhelming number of votes in favour of the “YES” side (for my opinion on that phenomenon, see my previous blog post).  Their claim was that the voice of the people is more important that proper referendum procedure.

Their claim amounts to saying that just because a number of students voted in a certain way that therefore the rules do not apply.  If the shoe were on the other foot, i.e. if the referendum was invalidated due to the disqualification of the “NO” campaign and the “NO” campaign was protesting, I doubt that the WUSC and SRP people would have any problem with the system.  Their claim is simply down to not getting what they want.

This is where my lack of understanding comes in.  The sole reason that the SRP does not have a student fee right now is the inability of their campaigners to follow the rules.  It is entirely their own fault that the referendum was invalidated.  Basically, the protest they staged was protesting their own inability to follow clearly-defined and broadly-communicated rules (which no other candidates in any other election seem to have problems abiding by) that are designed to promote fair and equitable campaigning.

Bylaw #2 is one of the USC’s most talked-about documents.  It gets more airtime than most motions that are passed through council on a weekly basis.  Each year during elections season it is trotted out and displayed for all to see.  It is readily available to any UWO student who wishes to peruse it.  There is no excuse for not reading it – if that is indeed the case in the scenario at hand – especially if you plan on running any kind of campaign in a USC-run election.  It should be your Bible…

Now, there are complaints about Bylaw #2 being hard to decipher and therefore hard to follow, and I understand that sentiment, but as it stands, there are many ways to get clarification about the Bylaw.  The first is the MANDATORY All-Candidates meeting on the eve of the campaign period.  I can say from attending two such meetings under the current CRO Adam Smith that it is clearly outlined what candidates can and cannot do in simple and easy-to-understand language.  Candidates are also given a package with all of this information as well as the CRO’s contact information in it to take home.  The second way is using the CRO’s contact information.  The CRO gives you this information for a reason, they’re not just looking for a few more BBM contacts.  The CRO wants you to ask about Bylaw #2 and elections procedure.  They would much rather iron out issues beforehand than have to hand out demerit points for it afterwards.

This brings me to the rules themselves.  The only way to institutionalize democracy is through rules that protect the equality and rights that are necessary for a democratic society to exist.  They allow for every voice to be heard rather than just the loudest or most forceful.  This is what Bylaw #2 is: rules that protect the fairness and equality of the elections procedure as well as ensure the rights of the voter to not only vote, but do so free from pressure to vote in a certain manner.  If one says that these rules should not apply, they are basically saying that the democratic process should be biased in favour of those who shout loudest or who are best able to force their beliefs on others – in short, the tyranny of the majority.

If you want to protest that the rules are unfair, fine.  There are channels that you can use to make constructive changes.  If you want to protest that the rules should be ignored, that’s a completely different and completely unacceptable position.

So, let’s get to the root of the problem: that the “YES” campaign broke the rules.

The “YES” campaign was found to have broken a number of rules including rules against campaigning during the voting period, sending unapproved mass-emails, and not campaigning in the the spirit of fairness.  The rules that the “YES” campaign were found guilty of carried a maximum punishment of 52 demerit points.  The threshold for disqualification is 30 points.  Eight more points and they would have been disqualified twice over.  However, the Elections Committee was fairly lenient with the points that it chose to dole out, giving the “YES” campaign only 35 of the 52 points.  Yet, despite this leniency, the sum total of the rules broken was still enough to pass the threshold for disqualification.

If a USC Presidential candidate were to accrue 30 or more demerit points, their name would be removed from the ballot and they would cease to be a valid candidate.  The same applies in a Registered Interested Party referendum.  If one side, “YES” or “NO,” accrues 30 or more points, they would be disqualified and their position would be removed from the ballot.  The SRP referendum was a special case in that the points were given after the voting period ended, thus making it impossible to remove the “YES” answer from the ballot.  Therefore, the referendum itself was invalidated.

Given the availability of the rules before and during the campaign period, I just can’t wrap my head around why so many rules were broken.  Between that and the leniency displayed by EC, I also can’t wrap my head around why the people who protested on Wednesday thought that the USC was involved in some conspiracy to stop a student fee for the SRP.  Because, if that were actually the case, the referendum would never have passed through council in the first place nor would there be a policy whereby students could initiate a referendum by collecting a number of signatures.

The bottom line is that rules are rules.  You can’t break them whenever you see fit.  And if you do break them, it is the responsibility of the Elections Committee to punish you for doing so.  It makes perfect, logical sense.

It also makes perfect logical sense that if you argue that the rules can be overturned when one sees fit to do so, then I have every right to kill you.  Let’s say that overturning the rules is acceptable so long as I (or whichever party is in question) benefit from it.  We have a rule against murder.  It is a very well-founded and generally accepted rule.  I see a benefit in not having to listen to people protest because they annoy me.  You are protesting.  In order to end my annoyance, keeping in mind that doing so is a benefit for me (and undoubtedly countless others) I kill you.  Because it is okay to overturn the rules whenever it benefits me, I am entitled to kill you.

This scenario is certainly absurd, but it is logically valid.  These are the potential consequences of overturning rules whenever one sees fit.  In no way am I condoning murder as a way to end annoyances, but in a world where the rules can be overturned for the slightest benefit it is certainly a valid way of doing so.

The sum total of these reasons is why I just can’t understand the SRP protests.  All the logical signs along this path point to one thing: the rules were broken and punishments were handed out.  It falls down to the people who broke the rules to admit that they screwed up.  It falls to the leadership of the “YES” campaign to take it on the chin and realize their mistakes.  They shouldn’t blame the USC and they certainly shouldn’t be deflecting blame away from themselves in doing so.

Perhaps the people who should be protesting are the 5700-odd students who voted “YES.”  They should be protesting against the “YES” campaign leadership screwing up and taking what was a landslide victory and turning it into a sham.  Perhaps who should be protesting is Nathaniel, the current student sponsored by the SRP.  He should be protesting the way in which the “YES” campaign leadership has deprived fellow refugees the opportunity to come to Canada to study by failing to understand the simplest of campaigning rules.

Because the protest in front of the USC offices didn’t help.  For those with any logical sense it only showed desperation on behalf of a group of people that are unwilling to admit their own mistakes.