From the Editor: Between a rock and a hard place

Last week was a wild week. So much happened in a short space of time and I am very proud of the Perdeby team. We had a huge amount of information to sift through to ensure we discovered and represented the most accurate and balanced story we could.

This story is obviously a contentious issue. After years of pushing for transformation and many failed attempts, we were finally sitting with an SRC with less than 20% white representation. What makes this very important is that this was a result of a democratic vote, meaning that the students decided that this was the group they wanted to represent them. But alas, the Constitution of Student Governance could not allow for this.

I see the initial results of the election as an overwhelming success and a huge step forward for us. But the decision to ensure we follow the Constitution was an important one, one that was, in some ways, necessary to make (although not the one that solves our problems, gives the students what they want, or aids in our fight towards transformation.)

How I see it, there are many factors to blame in the problem we faced and the way that it had to ultimately be handled. Students were to blame in our short-sightedness regarding our own Constitution and the participation levels we had this year. The planning of the transformation plan had an impact in the outcomes of the SRC elections and the various ex-officio positions that make up the SRC. And finally, the management and DSA had a hand to play in the process and resulting decisions that needed to be made.

I am not sure if students have become so scared and intimidated from speaking out, have become lazy when it comes to factors that affect them or just no longer care. The voter turn-out in the elections this year was far greater than ever before, but this does not mean that students are truly participating in campus affairs – 10 000 seems like a lot until you think that this was only 22% of students. Earlier this year we had a referendum to change the constitution. There were unfortunately not enough signatures to pursue the change, but if students had been interested or active enough, we could have saved ourselves from situations like the one we find ourselves in today. Not only that, but through our investigations we discovered that many of the structures on campus faced the same participation troubles as the greater student body.

During our investigations, it was explained to me why we need to keep to our Constitution. It makes sense: every time we do not follow the Constitution we take a chunk of its credibility with us. But the situation we found ourselves in was something new to the culture at the university. We are used to the push for transformation with solutions that often only affect the surface of the problem leaving the ingrained issues unaddressed, yet now we have an organic change, something we should be proud of, and now we have to backtrack on years of slow progress. It feels like we are now being told that there is too much transformation.

How do we move forward? My advice, and it is by no means an expert advice, is that we need to voice our opinions, stand up for what we believe in, stay vigilant, hold people accountable, and most importantly, be involved. There is no way to know that something isn’t working properly if you do not know how it is supposed to be working in the first place.

In other news, we had our applications for new intake last week and the response was amazing. We had so many applications, and we really wish we could take them all. We are all very excited in the office to have some new faces and fresh ideas coming through our door. Hopefully you will be able to see it in our next editions.

Shaun Sproule

 

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