Student politics, and not just in this AMS election, have become derailed. This past week simply serves as an example of how student leaders are letting their personalities overtake their offices.
Days ago, members of the Queen’s community sat in the audience as several students allowed their personalities to extend well beyond the offices they fought for. The office in contestation was the AMS executive and what we saw was nothing less than a comic tragedy.
Candidates began the campaign promoting platforms and reform projects. However, by the middle of the week the campaign was riddled with various allegations against nominees. Finally, the week ended in claims of election tampering, the vastly inflated personalities being deflated with the results and the escorting of a candidate out of the JDUC. What can we learn from the week? First, there are a lot of issues impacting the daily lives of students that we should be talking about, and I am very glad that a platform for discussion exists. The second point however, is that the speaker’s shadow shouldn’t be taking the light out of their debates.
Issues such as mental health and the expansion of blue lights are vital to students on the ground. These topics provide students with resources, and ensure their safety. This is especially important, when existing blue lights are threatened by misuse, endangering students and staff.
Student parties tried to address concerns about accessibility and tuition. A bridge was proposed between the shortest and perhaps warmest passageway in the school. Another party proposed student fee decreases.
Students may have been trying to address worthwhile issues such as accessibility, which goes beyond physical access . Platform points involved accessible food options as well.
As these issues began to be debated, I was truly proud to see this occurring. However, priorities changed, as is inherent in university politics, the debaters overshadowed the actual issues.
The first discussion about the elections that I had with a student on campus didn’t involve any of the above issues but was instead focused on the candidates.
There were rumours of past inappropriate conduct and current opinions. The problem isn’t that these issues arose, but that the candidates at times not only allowed them to, but also poured on the fuel.
Students involved in university politics often lose sight of the offices they are seeking to hold. The issues get washed away as they pour criticism and insults upon one another in an attempt to gain an inch or two in the election.
This week was no different and social media simply made these spats easier and more widely read. As a result students lost sight of the actual issues. The white noise of allegations, candidate history and the YouTube presence of a certain party’s candidates drowned out the meaningful discussions trying to be had.
This was rather comically climaxed in the final few stages of the production when election results appeared to be delayed. More allegations were thrown around, and even Queen’s Student Constables arrived.
I’m glad to say that in the end the personalities have drawn away and we are left with an outstanding party. However we really shouldn’t ignore the field from which they rose.
The election was merely the catalyst in the systemic problem of personalities overpowering politics.
Watching the election and sitting in meetings where students hurl insults and accusations instead of critiques and solutions forced me to think about the state of student politics.
I used to believe in Henry Kissinger’s phrase that “university politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” But he can’t be correct — Queen’s students have a lot at stake.
We rely on the services provided on campus for our education, or health and at times our safety. The election campaign should have ended where it began, on debates surrounding the issues affecting us today and what we plan to bring to the table tomorrow.
Sadly, this was lost, in the election, and all too often in student politics generally. It’s the duty of students to keep the issues on our leaders’ tables and check them when their behaviour is not very leader like.
I don’t know how big the AMS executive offices are, but I am pretty sure they should always be remembered as being far bigger than any one office holder.
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