Bannatyne is not Fort Garry. While this statement is self-evident, it is not always so to the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU).
The most common UMSU strategy to woo the Bannatyne campus is to promise them Fort Garry. If Fort Garry has something, then Bannatyne must want it too. In the past, that’s meant an Answers booth, a speaker series, and dedicated office hours with the UMSU executive.
The results of these promises have been so-so. Bannatyne now has Answers. Its hours and functionality are much less than Answers of Fort Garry. Two years ago, while Fort Garry heard from George Stroumboulopoulos and Fred Penner, Bannatyne hosted Terry Fox’s younger brother, Darrell Fox. Fox is a worthy speaker, but he doesn’t have the same draw as George Stroumboulopoulos or Fred Penner. The UMSU executive has graced Bannatyne with their presence for office hours in years past, but these were as unpopular as you’d think they’d be.
In council, Al Turnbull mentioned the “isolation and alienation that Bannatyne experiences from the union.” He also said that Bannatyne students “aren’t as fully integrated into campus culture as Fort Garry students.” As a Bannatyne student, I disagree. Bannatyne students are integrated in campus culture; it’s just a different campus culture than Fort Garry’s.
It’s important to remember that Bannatyne students are different than Fort Garry students in age and academic program. Bannatyne students are older. Since most of the Bannatyne programs require an undergraduate degree as a prerequisite for admission, it’s uncommon to see students who are fresh out of high school on campus. And unlike on Fort Garry, all Bannatyne undergraduate students are in a professional program. This contributes to a distinctly Bannatyne campus culture.
Culture on Bannatyne is less political and more professional than Fort Garry. It’s very rare to see someone tabling for a cause; it’s even rarer to have a rally on campus. Most posters on Bannatyne are for lectures and professional development opportunities.
Recently, UMSU has created a director of Bannatyne operations to better represent Bannatyne students. However, UMSU already has enough of a presence on Bannatyne campus.
Bannatyne currently sees UMSU twice a year. At the beginning of the fall and winter terms, UMSU uses student money to buy breakfast and lunch for Bannatyne. Recently, UMSU increased expenses by buying Bannatyne breakfast and lunch for an entire week, rather than the usual three days.
The best thing that UMSU can do for Bannatyne students is to focus on issues common to all students. The University of Manitoba Students’ Union should continue to represent students on the board of governors, to administration, and the provincial government. They should advocate for high quality education in high quality facilities.
That’s not to say that UMSU has no role in Bannatyne-specific issues. UMSU can certainly assist in negotiations with the university regarding food options on campus, library hours, and Wi-Fi in hospitals. Bannatyne senior sticks and UMSU reps are more than capable of relaying those concerns to UMSU. Bannatyne doesn’t need its own director of operations to act as a middleman.
It’s great that UMSU takes an interest in Bannatyne from time to time. But while their intentions are good, their actions are not.