USC atrium (Photo)

The USC flexes in the University Community Centre, Feb. 25, 2019.

I don’t trust USC with my VP vote — and I trust them even less when they won’t tell me who they’re voting for.

In March, the University Students' Council voted to take the vice-president off students' ballots. In November, they split the job in two, keeping both VPs out of the election — council will elect the new executives with an anonymous ballot.

This means the average student went from electing two out of five executives, to just one out of six.

The USC has said they hope to get more students engaged with their councillors by limiting the vote for these influential advocacy roles.

On the surface this seems fine. Sure, it’s disappointing the student government feels their constituents aren’t engaged enough to directly elect their executive representatives; but, considering the USC is seemingly incapable of attracting more than 30 per cent of students to vote in its elections, the decision to limit the vote to their own members isn’t all that surprising.

This model isn't unheard of — governments vote on big-ticket items for their constituents all the time. That's how governments work; if everything was put up to referendum, society wouldn't function. But in this case, the councillors — who supported the anonymous ballot with a 98 per cent majority — also broke the rule keeping their votes in check.

It’s impossible to hold your representatives accountable when you can’t see what they voted for — and that’s what anonymous ballots do.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the logic behind an anonymous vote: it prevents the winning candidate from holding a grudge against those who didn’t vote for them. Councillors can vote without fear of self-interested retribution from executives who single out those who didn't support them.

But if defending councillors from vengeful executive members is this significant a concern, council has bigger fish to fry. If our executives are mature enough to run a multi-million dollar organization, they should be mature enough to not hold a grudge.

Beyond that, if councillors are too afraid of the political ramifications of being held accountable for their vote, they shouldn't have supported the motion.

But even if this ballot were public, it wouldn't solve the problem we have here. Like every motion this year, council approved it unanimously. Council meetings are becoming defined by their complete lack of debate — at the expense of their constituents.

Motions that should have spurred heated debate among councillors, like the motion to add an extra VP role, passed swiftly through council, without a word of protest. Unless every student in every faculty agrees on everything, council’s silent agreements show some students simply aren’t being fought for.

The role of council is to hold the executive accountable and advocate for their constituents. Consistently letting motions pass without lifting a finger or batting an eye is doing just the opposite.

The only major exception to this came in January, when a motion was introduced that would ensure councillors were meeting and consulting with their constituents at least twice a month. After an uncharacteristically long debate, the motion was shot down.

Councillors have established a trend of not engaging in their own government’s politics. This was only epitomized by the disappointing attendance at the VP debate arranged for council (where one of the new positions, along with its $48,000 salary, was acclaimed).

Ultimately, in giving the vote to just councillors, the USC has only shifted the election to a smaller, meeker group of voters, and ensured the students they represent can’t hold them accountable for the results.

Right now, I don’t trust council with my vote — and I don’t see why I should.

Correction (March 4, 9:31 p.m.): this article has been corrected to reflect that council supported the motion in March 2019 with a 98 per cent majority, non unanimously. One councillor voted against the motion.

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Hope Mahood is the Coordinating Editor of news and opinions for volume 114. Email her at opinions@westerngazette.ca or find her on Twitter @hope_mahood

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