Buzzwords abundant during USSU elections

BuzzwordsThe University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union has just completed its elections for the 2014–15 executive, but I’m still wondering what platforms the successful candidates were actually elected on.

Buzzwords are used to impress so it’s no surprise this year’s USSU candidates all embraced certain slogans to create campaigns and to answer questions without ever really telling students what it is that they plan to do.

While I did not attend all of the forums, the ones that I did attend were frustrating in several respects. The primary one being that candidates would be asked a question but would never actually answer it. I know it’s very difficult to give an appropriate answer when you’re asked a question on the spot, but throwing out buzzwords is not what the voting body needs or wants to hear.

Aside from the forums, the only other opportunity there was to hear from candidates was from their videos posted on the USSU website or through their individual Facebook pages.

You’d think that candidates would expand on what they say in their videos when asked questions at forums, but for the most part each candidate had their list of buzzwords that they produced to answer questions. This made them sound like they had some kind of clue as to what they were planning to do if elected but left many students at these forums without the answers necessary to make an informed decision at the ballot.

Phrases like “progress,” “student voices,” “engagement,” “positive changes,” “better resources” and “accessibility” were thrown around by all of the running candidates, but I still haven’t a clue what any of these words really mean to them. What does it actually mean to have “better resources” for students or increased “accessibility” — as promoted by both candidates who ran for vice-president operations and finance?

Such words and phrases sound great, but how is it all going to be achieved? Maybe it’s too much to ask that candidates actually do some research into how they would achieve these “positive changes,” but I think that’s a necessity if you want to be taken seriously in the political realm.

A really low moment for me was at the first forum held at Louis’ on March 18. A student from the audience asked both presidential candidates how they intended to approach Aboriginal engagement, enrolment and other services on campus. David Ogunkanmi responded in such a way that allowed him to never actually answer the question.

In response to the question, Ogunkanmi told the forum how he lived with an Aboriginal family when he first came to Canada and how he’s eaten bannock. He basically told the audience that he’s accepting of Aboriginal students and welcomes them with open arms — but never truly addressed the question.

As an audience member I interpreted his answer as, “I have Aboriginal friends and that shows I will seek better services for them on campus.” Telling us that you’ve eaten bannock does not mean you know how to address Aboriginal issues on our campus — it only shows that you like bannock. This has absolutely nothing to do with an election.

Elias Nelson said in his video for vice-president operations and finance, “TransformUS: it’s complicated, it’s controversial, it’s a can of worms.” Well, yes, Nelson, TransformUS certainly is all of those things — but what are you going to do about it?

Each candidate probably could have answered most of the questions at the forums with the simple response of, “TransformUS is bad.” That likely would have warranted a tremendous round of applause, later accompanied by a win in the election no doubt.

The fact of the matter is that true voters in a democracy want to hear the plans of their future leaders. They don’t need to hear buzzwords that are essentially empty commentaries meant to impress.

Frankly, all the candidates running for USSU positions in the future should want to engage students, increase communication with them and create positive changes, all the while being an advocate for students’ needs. All of this really shouldn’t have to be said over and over again.

However, some candidates did give worthwhile answers to questions when asked by keen students who care about student governance. I thank all of the candidates for any substantial answers they provided during the course of their campaign.

Next year I hope that USSU candidates will move beyond the obvious and actually challenge themselves to have an action-based platform. Students want results and actions, not buzzwords to provide a false sense of comfort.


Graphic: Pascal Dimnik

  • Mash

    I had to read this over again for me to believe this kind of
    self-glorifying, hateful, almost senseless, racial article will be allowed in
    student funded newspaper, still unbelievable that it was even made front page
    news! An opinion piece for that matter!!! It’s either Travis had issues with
    hearing properly, sleepy or drunk at Louis during the forum. All the candidates
    answered questions both at the forums and online the best they could…yet you
    could not make anything out of it except a complaint, it shows you have a
    serious personal problems. There are just three forums which all the candidates
    managed to attend and you can only speak of one and entirely negatively. and the one you attended you sounded so dull
    and expect everyone to be like you.

    If the candidates have to make research before running then
    you Travis ought to have made your research on how to write a reasonable piece
    without personal prejudice. Sure this is an opinion piece, but so are the
    candidates’ responses – why do you not run and allow everyone to question your
    statements. I wonder how all the candidates could possibly have answers to all
    the questions that everyone could possibly ever ask.

    So surprising that you will have to pick just two of all the
    candidates and also wonder why you have to pick on David who stated his
    platform openly and you also intentionally pick wrongly his response to the
    question about Aboriginal engagement, picking only a line which you even pick
    wrongly from his response. It makes me wonder about your level of understanding
    or if you allow your personal opinion to cloud your perception of forums – of the
    ‘ones’ of three – that you attended. I think you and the Sheaf should question
    your judgement yourselves if an opinion piece, and an opinion piece like this,
    makes the front page. I personally, here’s another opinion, you should be
    sacked but first made to write an open apology to David and Elias first. People
    like you will only want and wish to create division and stigmatization on our
    campus with your almost senseless article. If you are looking for someone to
    pick on then look further down the road. Maybe you are picking on him because
    he dared to run. I was there and many others and that was not how he answered
    that question. I wonder what you are trying to paint with your tasteless
    caricature equating a response to TransformUS question to bannock. Maybe this
    is why students don’t want to run for the USSU posts- for fear of senseless ridicule
    in articles like this. The election is over, and apparently the highlight,
    according to the Sheaf, is Trevor’s low opinion of it.

    If you want to write your hate article, up to you, but don’t
    hide under Aboriginal issues to do that. Are you not using popular topics
    yourself ‘they should do better’ over and over again, TransformUS, and the
    Aboriginal issues? How does the Sheaf demonstrate Aboriginal engagement? How
    many Aboriginal staff are on the Sheaf? How many Sheaf staff have run for USSU
    executive positions? We know wanna-be junk journalists like you, reacting to
    the past to show how ‘current’ you are with the opinions of the masses. You’re
    just furthering stigmatization, hate and problems – the consequences of this
    kind of action are still evident all around us – why not ask Aboriginal peoples
    about what they have faced thanks to poor media? Please don’t create more
    division in the already polarized USSU and among our varied students on campus.
    USSU and the University as a whole should be for all and not for some selected
    group or clique that has the power to print their opinions on the front page or
    bully people online. It should be a place where everyone is respected and
    celebrated without a disclaimer. So shameful of you guys!

    • Blah

      What racism appears here? I imagine you have some personal conflict here… You either hate Travis our are close to one if the candidates who is highlighted here. Travis raises significant issues regarding the dumbing down and sloganism that is always apparent in student union elections. Good on him.

    • Splash

      ^tl;dr. Since when did holding (“)politicians(“) to a higher standard become a sin?

    • PSK

      Honestly, what are you talking about? You are being absolutely over the top with your accusations of… “hate speech”???? You are being overly emotional and sensationalist.

      This article was written as a statement that candidates for elected positions should try and put more on the table in terms of substance then they have been. It’s a completely reasonable request, one that I’m sure tons of people agree with (including myself). Kudos to Travis Homenuk for putting this point of view out there.

      Your statements about this article being racist or “racial” are disconcerting to say the least. If you’re going to argue against someone’s points, at least try and keep the senseless emotional anger out of it and put thought into the words you post on the Internet.

    • angry foodie

      If one of them had run on the platform of “the USSU should not be in the business of losing money running a bar”, then I’d be down.

      Seriously, $6.50 a pint, a captive audience of 21 000 students, and a deficit which remains in place, you’d think these clowns would finally give up on Louis’ and move on. Sub it out, turning the deficit into income automatically. Don’t force the new bar operator to operate under the USSU (he does want to make money, after all), and watch the deficit disappear.

      I am gobsmacked to this day that Louis’ is pretty much the cause of the deficit. Marquis Hall manages to run thin margins, offer superior product at a better price, and not be a cash sinkhole.

      Maybe it has something to do with actual management. These elections are for figureheads who actually have no power. It is the administrators, the adults with degrees, who actually do things and get things done (or screwed up) around here.

      Maybe if we had someone run on a campaign of trimming the fat within administration and executives that I’d have faith in the USSU doing something of value with its elected “leadership”.

      Max FineDay is like the Canadian governor-general. He might be called the president, but a sycophantic cocksucker like George Foufas has way more power to actually get shit done than FineDay or Jared Brown (both nice and intelligent fellows, I might add) ever did or will.

      Though I doubt that this is why so many students don’t vote, it surely is why I don’t vote. Rather than appealing to nonsense Travis, why not just call it for what it is?

  • PoliStu

    I guess that’s what happens when the majority of the candidates are poltical studies majors…

  • Statesman

    A careful thought about the media this is how it starts out.

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

    • RUhigh?

      Wtf are you talking about

    • PSK

      It’s a cool quote but I agree with the other guy, what exactly are you getting at?

  • lol

    Since the picture accompanying this article is clearly intended to represent caricatures of the candidates who ran for election (unless I’m mistaken, those are representations of Max, David and perhap Elias), and is particularly insulting in its depiction – where can I can submit the picture I just drew of Travis? Okay, actually it’s just a google image of an overflowing toilet but that seems to be on the same level as this article intellectually, so I’m sure it will be accepted. Right?