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On union reform

The success of the Quebec students’ strike has student leaders from all across the country asking the same question, “Can we do here what they did there?” Here in our humble little college, containing perhaps the most progressive students’ union in the province, our leaders are certainly listening to what their Quebecois counterparts have to say.

The success of the Quebec students’ strike has student leaders from all across the country asking the same question, “Can we do here what they did there?” The leaders of the Quebec student strike certainly seem to think so, and have organized tours throughout Canada, and more recently the Maritimes, to share their blueprint for a successful student revolution. Here in our humble little college, containing perhaps the most progressive students’ union in the province, our leaders are certainly listening to what their Quebecois counterparts have to say.
The element of the Québecois’ message which rings truest to our Nova Scotian ears, is that we must reform our unions if we are to have any real chance of effecting change on post secondary education in Nova Scotia. These reforms would see our unions make a majority of their decisions at General Assemblies rather than the executive level, with all members having equal voting rights. General Assemblies are considered to have played a key role in ensuring that students adhered to the strike in Quebec, and that such actions were seen to be the legitimate will of the student body. However if we truly wish to emulate the student movement in Quebec, we must reconsider the governing principles behind the King’s Students’ Union.
The current constitution of the King’s Students’ Union seeks to responsibly devolve power from the entire membership to continually smaller groups of people, all the while insisting on the strictest bylaws to enshrine positions to their written mandates. Our system is by nature conservative, ordered and British. By contrast, the governing structures of students’ unions in Quebec refuse to devolve power, and a heavy dependency on student participation replaces our dependency on bylaws. Their system is socialist, anarchic and French.
If we as a union decide to adopt the Quebec model of governance, we must do so with our eyes open and our feet firmly grounded. There can be no hybrid model between our liberal constitution and a socialist one. Two divergent paths are open before us, and we must pick between the two and do so decisively. Now is not the time for half measures or compromise, and if a nasty debate is what we need to gain clarity on this matter, then let it be so.
David Etherington

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

2 replies on “On union reform”

It seems to me that if we want to adopt a more inclusive system then we first have to get people interested in politics in general. I’m not convinced that the reason we have trouble making quorum for elections and general meetings is entirely the fault of “the system”. Many people just don’t have the time for student politics – hence the delegation of powers to an executive and Council.

I like what you’re saying here Dave, but I think that shifting drastically to a more socialist student union structure would have a lot of people up in arms against it rather than for it. I think it could be a tactic that backfires, swinging more of the student population towards the right rather than the left. Were you at the general meeting about funding Powershift? If we can’t as a student body even agree on giving a decent amount of funding to students so they can attend a climate justice conference, what makes you think that King’s students will respond favourably to a complete re-haul of our constitutional structure? Fear-mongering libertarian advocates would totally oppose it and probably be swift to convince a lot of other students to oppose it as well.

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