This week, as you are bombarded by emails and Facebook invitations to vote in the SSMU executive elections, you may come up with a number of excuses for why you can’t, or don’t want to vote. Some of these might be legitimate, but if you say that it takes too long, that you just don’t care, or that SSMU doesn’t matter, you are sadly misinformed.
Would you entrust an operational budget of over $1.5 million to someone you have “no opinion” about? Based on finances alone, the decision is a heavy one. Ask an Arts student at McGill how they felt when the AUS had $12,000 in cash stolen, and the same year, spent well beyond its budget—all due to an executive with little financial experience. Students have every right to be upset with the executive, but those who did not vote in that election certainly share some of the burden. While the bulk of responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the elected officials, the electors are not inculpable when things go awry, particularly if there was a better option available.
Another reason this election is important to you, us, and the rest of the McGill community is that SSMU is our main representative to the administration. In 2013-2014, SSMU will likely still be engaged in negotiating the lease on the SSMU building, the hub for student life on campus. Were that process to go off the rails, students might be made to pay exorbitant fees to continue using the building, and in a worst case—though highly unlikely—scenario, lose the building entirely. With inevitable budget cuts looming, who will defend the interests of students at the highest levels of power within the university? If this election doesn’t matter, that would mean the people responsible for negotiating the lease don’t matter, and neither do those tasked with making sure the cuts don’t affect integral parts of student life and learning. But these things do matter, and so does the election.
SSMU has also been one of the first points of call during on-campus emergencies. When riot police injured students on campus and when others were hurt in protests, SSMU arranged to take care of their medical needs. Just this semester, President Josh Redel took control when a pipe broke and flooded McTavish, making sure that students were safe and out of harm’s way. The executives care about you. You should care about who they are.
With inevitable budget cuts looming, who will defend the interests of students at the highest levels of power within the university?
There are more reasons to vote, however, beyond a fear of incompetence. Past SSMU executives have created lasting legacies that affect our daily lives even now. Have you enjoyed having a longer winter break the past two years? Is it helpful to be able to access the library 24 hours a day? How about having the student lounge in Shatner? All of those initiatives stemmed from the SSMU executive. That same executive is responsible for the operations of Gert’s, and will eventually make the final decision on newly available space in Shatner, which could possibly become a student-run café. What will next year’s executive do to improve our lives? Read their platforms and vote for the one you think is best, because it will make a difference.
But maybe you don’t think your vote matters because you are simply one out of 30,000 undergrads voting in this election. Sadly, your vote has more power than you think; you will likely be one out of only 5,000, judging by typical voter turnout levels. If that ratio is still too insignificant for you, consider that Redel won last year’s presidential election by just 23 votes—roughly the size of this editorial board. Your vote counts; your vote matters. This election matters; SSMU matters. Vote.