Student politics are likely no more broken than politics of any other level. Still, the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union election remains a confusing and occasionally infuriating spectacle.
It’s that time of year again — temperatures are rising and the snow is melting, and yet — for U of S students — interest in student politics remains pretty fucking lukewarm.
I should preface this by saying I have voted and will continue to vote in every USSU election during my time in university. Likewise, I certainly recognize the importance of student-politicians and student unions, even if I don’t always have my finger on the pulse of what exactly it is they do. However, most people don’t even have that base level of interest — and can you blame them?
Election season — does 10 days qualify as a season? — on campus is a bit of a feverish nightmare. Each year, it seems that candidates just materialize out of thin air and start soliciting me for my support.
School elections basically have the market cornered on this phenomena. In a federal election, people might come knocking on your door canvassing for a party or specific constituent. In local politics, you might even talk to your city councillor from time to time. In student politics though, you just need to live your day-to-day life — walking the halls or sitting in the library — and candidates will approach you and launch right into their campaign spiel.
It’s only made worse if you and one or more candidate share mutual friends and your friends then try to push you to support them because of it. Again, this seems to be something limited specifically to student elections — “they’re my friend” is not a particularly persuasive argument in higher levels of politics.
Don’t get me started on the advertising campaigns, either. Holy Toledo can those be soul-sucking. Over the years, I’ve seen everything from classic films to artery-clogging foods to meme culture appropriated by campaign posters, all for the sake of convincing the public that you’d be a good person to trust with our student fees.
I understand the old adage that any publicity is good publicity, but sometimes I look at people’s advertising campaigns and have to wonder if this rule of thumb stills rings true when your publicity comes off as self-sabotaging.
Puns have become so central to these campaigns that if I ever began to seriously consider entering university politics — hey, pigs might fly someday — I’d feel I was at a serious disadvantage if I couldn’t figure out how to make some kind of play on words out of my name. “Put the U of S back on the right Zach?”
Everyone knows that class president in high-school is a popularity contest, plain and simple. I would never claim that university politics are this insincere and worthless, even if this time of year can make us feel that way. However, what really separates USSU elections from popularity contests is the lack of popularity.
People in this country can barely be bothered to vote on a national level, but that still doesn’t excuse the dismal showing that’s come to be routine at the U of S. In 2015, voter turnout for the USSU election accounted for a whopping 23 per cent of the student body. If it makes you feel better, though, 2014 only brought out 19 per cent, so at least we’re making progress!
Like I said, I recognize the importance of student-politicians, and I’m grateful for the service they provide us, but USSU election season always seems to put me in a blue mood about the whole process. Let’s just look forward to once we’ve elected these people so we can all forget about what they do for another year.
Photo / Graphic Illustration: Jeremy Britz / Graphics Editor & frankieleon / Flickr