Carsen Jerema is a writer for the conservative virtual rag “Maclean’s On Campus” whose blog is focused “On education and the irrationality of university politics.” In “University Students: Ignorant, Apathetic Dolts?”, he argues that student democracy has never existed and that students’ unions are bastions of élitism. Or something…it’s hard to fully comprehend or absorb this 1100 word rant. But the notion that students’ unions are somehow anti-democratic is factually inaccurate and not fair.
Most students’ unions, by their very nature are anything but anti-democratic—elections every year, annual general meetings open to all members, faculty-based council representation, committees that are open to all members, mechanisms for rank-and-file students to call general meetings and referenda, and a membership base that includes some of the most active and concerned people in the country. Painting all students’ unions with the same anti-democratic brush is as ridiculous as labeling the Canadian University Press (CUP) or any of its member-newspapers, a threat to free speech, because they survive on students’ money and sometimes write self-gratifying articles that few people might read.
Thousands of students regularly look to their students’ union to pick up their health and dental cheques, transit passes, or handbooks (and when mishaps occur, students express their opinions). At the very least, accessing these services suggests that students do participate in their students’ unions. Voter turn-out can always be improved and the responsibility for that rests as much on elected representatives and activists, as it does on student journalists. Student journalists have a responsibility to help inform and engage their readers.
Rather than fueling the neo-conservative onslaught against the unions students have built for themselves, student journalists, bloggers and professional journalists should think about writing less cynical, more constructive editorials. The press should be critical of students’ unions.
Perhaps hope for Jarema’s reform is unrealistic. He’s the same blogger who finished an article on April 18 that says “Call me an elitist but a higher education is not a right, and nor should it be.” As most students know, anyone who writes about post-secondary education with this level of bias and disregard for the complexities of the topic should be disregarded.
Indeed, Maclean's On Campus helps to reinforce its new raison-d’être: sensationalizing complex issues, calling for the death to the public sector and the long life of a Eurocentric, neo-conservative, neo-liberal Canada.