Radio Silence Off

sidposterI’ve been maintaining relative quiet online due to the University of Manitoba Students Union election regulations, which severely restrict online content from campaigns.

Now that the election is over, I can tell you that I was the Campaign Chair for the team Be The Difference, and we just received over 80% of the vote while almost doubling turnout. The turnout numbers could be the highest in Canada AND the total votes for our slate could be the highest received by any candidate at UMSU for decades! Our team received about two and a half times as many votes as last year’s winners. The numbers I have are preliminary, so I will update with real numbers once the CRO posts them.

I will also report on the exciting dirt of the campaign, go more into the numbers, and talk about what made this a succesful venture. As Henry Kissinger said, university politics are vicious, precisely because the stakes are so small. I disagree that the stakes are that small, but I’ll talk more about that later. For now, I’ve got to get my life organized again.

Thank you to all our supporters and volunteers!

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11 responses to “Radio Silence Off

  1. Wait… “severely restrict” online campaign content?
    I’m appalled. Genuinely appalled.

  2. Hi Jamie,

    I was shocked as well. The Chief Returning Officer has the right to restrict all materials produced by the slates in form, content, and message! But, the interpretation of that right is up the CRO. Some time ago, the internet was restricted by the CRO in response to Stephen Fletcher’s spamming of university email addresses. Those rules have not changed over time and have become very obsolete. They are under review this year and will hopefully change.

    Our team had argued strongly that the CRO change the rules for this campaign. However, she agreed to do so only if the other slate agreed. They didn’t. They saw that our Facebook friends lists were four times as large and didn’t want to give us such an advantage. But, the Internet restrictions were partially lifted with three days left in the campaign because of a very interesting – and illegal – flyer! But, you’ll have to wait till future posts for the juicy details.

  3. Ah, U of M politics. I remember when I had my hand in some of that. One incident in particular that I was involved in caused the president of the university to fly all the way down to Phoenix to apologize to a large donor (not my fault, btw). Congrats on your victory, Mike.

  4. Okay, Evan. I’ll bite: What’s the Phoenix story?

  5. Well, you know the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources? The year it formed, there was a big squabble over what the ordering of the words in the faculty name should be (most of the earth scientists said that earth should be ahead of environment). It was all rather silly and stuff, and by November 2004, it was called what it is now.

    About two weeks after the agreement, I was invited as a member of the faculty student council to this secret meeting. We were all supposed to keep secret what happened at that meeting, as they made the announcement that Clayton Riddell was donating $10 million to the faculty, and that they were intending to rename the faculty once again with his name in front of it. It was apparently quite a heated debate whether it would go through or not, as Riddell owns a major Calgary based natural gas company. There was opposition in all departments, including geological sciences. It passed though, but before that happened, the word was leaked out about this donation, violating the confidentiality of the process. Once the word came out that the Free Press got a hold of it, the president of the university flew to Phoenix to appologize to Mr Riddell over the leak, as a $10 million donation is huge and was not guaranteed by that point. In an interesting confluence, I remember having a hallway meeting with the heads of the Geoscience department and Environment/Geography department, the Dean of the faculty, and the President of the University. Over the course of 4 hours, we organized a meeting at the UMSU meeting room, and about 60 students showed up (approxmatelly 40% of the department at the time).

    I must say it was one of the most nerve racking moments of my life. There were a lot of students who were absolutely pissed off that some people would risk losing this money that would certainly help the fledging faculty. Others were absolutely pissed that they would rename the faculty after someone involved the petroleum industry. Still others were just pissed that students were not allowed to be part of the process (which is a matter of provincial law, in the University of Manitoba act, and there was nothing that could be done about this). The thing that really exasperated this problem was our Dean, who was American and did not understand the cultural difference where Faculties were typically not renamed to honour those who made large donations. She was also not very diplomatic, and most discounted her as flake (there is a good reason she resigned after only a year and a half – pretty much the whole faculty did not like her). Personally, I think it would have been useful if the process wasn’t pushed through so quickly, especially after the news leaked out.

    Regardless, the story in the Free Press put the donation by Mr Riddell in a very positive light, much to the shagrin of whoever leaked it, I’m sure. A week later, the renaming was pushed through Senate, and the faculty renamed.

    Though I fully supported the donation, with time I have come to realize that I probably did not handle the situation all that well. I should have thought about the concerns about the lack of student representation, and brought up the optics of the quick push-through of the renaming, especially when the donor was someone in the petroleum industry.

  6. Right, because we all know that students have a long-term interest in the health of a university…
    (stron sarcasm alert)…

  7. I think the fact that something like 40% of the students in the department (and I knew of several more who could not attend but wanted to) showed up to a meeting that was put together in a 4 hour period shows that a lot of students have an interest in the long term health of the university. I spent 5 years of my life going to U of M, and it was an experience that shaped my life. I certainly try to keep up with what happens in my old department and visit on occasion (hell, I almost took a job teaching some courses this term, but I went where the money was 😛 ).

  8. I still think it a contradiction in term, the short-term students trying to dictate long-term policy, it never made sense when I was in school there.

  9. @Chris: In a sense, we are all short-term power brokers “trying to dictate long-term policy”. That is the nature of all human institutions. Take, for example, the new President of the University of Manitoba. He’s just arrived from Saskatchewan and his policies will shape the U of M for far longer than his term – which will either be 5 or 10 years. I, as a student of U of M, was there from 1998 to 2002 and again from 2006-2009. And, I might take a Masters there. But, even if I don’t, as a citizen of Manitoba, I am affected by this institution’s health and future whether I like it or not. Am I more short-term than the President?

    Further, my dad is 58 and his grandsons (my nefews) are one years old. He gets to vote and consume from now until he is 76 before his grandsons even get a say and yet his choices will “dictate” long-term consequences for people without a vote. He, like me and you, are short-term and yet our choices have long-term consequences.

    Anyway, students dictating university policy is akin to us dictating environmental policy – people who won’t live directly with the consequences of choices still have choices. Contradictory, I suppose. But, its not unusual

  10. What it comes down to is legacy. A lot of people view the university as more than just a place where you get educated, then move on. It is the reason why so many people donate the to the university to provide scholarships, funding for buildings and create research grants. It is the reason why Mr. Riddell gave $10 million to the faculty I was part of. People want to strengthen the institutions that helped them become who they are and help young people succeed.

  11. Good points, both to Mike and Evan…but…

    Mike, you’re comparing apple and oranges regarding the University president, who is paid to look after the university’s long term future (I hope) as opposed to students who elect to go to the University. Any comparison you made, while seeming solid, ignores this fact. It doesn’t matter whether you are more or less short-term than the president, a student is there to use the University’s resource to receive an education. In short, the fact that one pays tuition doesn’t mean you have the right to object when a donor wants to give money, no matter what the source. That is a faculty association’s job…

    And Evan, agreed, once past the University age, people have the right to provide a legacy, but isn’t that something that the Geological Science department tried to deny Mr. Riddell? I apologize if that sounds like a cheap shot, but it seems central to the discussion now…

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