If Western administrators thought they had heard the last of Homecoming — they couldn’t be more wrong. On Sunday, the University Students’ Council passed a unanimous motion condemning Western’s decision and the way they went about it.
I've been sitting in council meetings for four years now and this was the first time I saw the USC actively take a stance against something the University has done. At a school with very little student activism (I'm reminded we are a student 'council', not a union), the University has exploited this passivity.
Two recent examples come to mind. In the recent rapid transit consultations, the USC publicly supported the City of London in whatever decision they made to improve the city’s transit infrastructure, including a light rail option going through campus.
Senior Western administrators, however, were not on board. In their transit recommendations to Western's Board of Governors, they wrote open letters voicing their opposition to any light rail going through campus. They also solicited limited student feedback, exaggerating student opposition to the plan and made a point to highlight letters that said the USC didn’t represent student opinion on the matter.
But only a year earlier — at a time of turmoil at Western with President Chakma’s pay scandal, the USC executive attended a Senate meeting and threw their unequivocal support behind the administration. This was a controversial decision considering there were students in the meeting and outside protesting and who booed the USC president as he made his statement.
There was significant debate in the student population on what Chakma should have done but there were no masses of students throwing their support behind him. In this case, the administration chose to see this show of support from the USC as having the backing of Western's undergrad population.
Do Western administrators think they get to decide when the USC represents student opinion and when it doesn’t? I don’t think it's their place to make that assumption.
So when the Homecoming debate was brought to Senate last month — senior administration threw the USC under the bus yet again. They said the USC pledged their full support for any decision that was made, all the while not allowing them in the room when the decision was made.
It was also a slap in the face to last year's USC executives who worked really hard to make Homecoming programming a success. More than 6,000 people attended the on campus concerts in 2015 and the London Police gave out a significantly smaller number of tickets compared to prior years.
Diplomacy is important and I’m not suggesting a radical approach where the USC burns its bridges with the University — but calling Western out when its due is important. Building connections and relationships are good and all, however, at the end of the day, the USC represents students and that should be its chief consideration.
Students' dissatisfaction with the USC’s fear of taking stances was apparent in this year’s elections. While voter turnout continues to hover around the abysmal rate of 20 per cent — this year we saw three presidential slates that attempted to run against the status quo. Maybe students are telling the USC they need to step their game up and speak out more on issues relevant to them.
That’s why this motion is so important. It not only reflects the USC is representing students’ views, but also that the student council is not going to be bullied by Western yet again.