While there are many qualms that I would raise with Ethan Cabel’s recent article around the perceived political neutrality of student unions, I would first ask him to consider both recent and not so recent historical trends. For years, student unions have found injustice on their campuses and instead of standing idly by have pushed for alternatives. For example, while Cabel praises UMSU for “supporting policies to mitigate sexual harassment,” he fails to recognize that this is the culmination of a decades-long battle for equality not only on our campuses, but in our societies. Campus groups have long been at the forefront of those battles.
Similarly, Cabel praises programs such as the U-Pass. Again, as someone who emerged as an early champion of the program and who guided it through City Hall, I can point to a dominant car culture in an era of potentially catastrophic climate change as my main motivation for putting forward this effort. While the end result may seem like a minute exertion of political capital, the motivations behind the program are much grander. As students, we need to push to create the world that we will inhabit post-graduation – full time or part time alike. Complacency and sitting idly by while poverty, climate change, and gender inequality continue to occur is simply not an option and working on these issues in a democratic framework is the best way to move forward.
As famed American president John F. Kennedy once said: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” Students unions have a duty to shift the paradigm and fight for what is right especially in our modern era. Instead of neglecting the process, I’d invite those who share Ethan’s views to get involved and bring their perspectives to the table; we’d welcome their presence.
Zack Fleisher, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students-Manitoba