This is an opinion piece by Bowinn Ma, EUS President 2007-2008; AMS Councilor 2006-2008; Former Hack, less so now.
[Cup of salt: I know both Chu and Frederick, but only in passing. I have spoken to both but have never spent any extended amount of time with either.]
Let me be clear: This is not a submission of approval of Frederick and Chu’s actions. This is about why I believe that they should not be condemned to hell as people…and a shameless attempt at eliciting responses from readers of the Insiders. I recognize the backlash this will generate from the public and even the Insiders team. I’d like to point out that their decision to post this on their blog is an illustration of their commitment to being open to public opinion. Vote UBC Insiders through VFM! The campus has been divided quite clearly between those who support the actions of Frederick and Chu and thus love them; and those who do not, and thus “disapprove” of them and would do anything to see them fed to the wolves, smeared in BBQ sauce, alive, kicking and screaming, and possibly in adult diapers to add to the disgrace.
I am not so ready to light the match to their diesel-soaked clothing.
Yes. Frederick should lose his President’s stick and be spanked with it for circumventing the procedures of the very organization he represents. If the President cannot work within the system, how are the students supposed to trust that the AMS works? His actions have proven that he cannot be trusted to respect democratic procedures, but he is not the first person to try to circumvent it. The difference is that he was in the position to *fix* the procedure if he felt it was ineffective, inefficient, or unfair. He chose instead to rape it. This was his most damning choice but I cannot help but emphasize with his intentions and sympathize with the scrutiny he has been under ever since without going as far as to say that I do not believe they didn’t “have it coming”.
We all know that as “public figures”, people will hang Frederick and Chu out to dry as they see fit. Few of these damners, however, will ever feel the pressure or ever really know how difficult it actually is to be in their shoes. Setting this particular issue aside, imagine that you are strongly passionate about something you believe to be important and right. Imagine that you are in the position to actually do something you believe will positively impact this issue you feel is so strongly right and right for the people around you. Now imagine being trapped by process and the intense frustration this may elicit. It is so easy for people to judge from a safe distance when they don’t understand the personal and internal conflicts that arise from being in student politics or politics in general.
Being AMS President seems to be a game more than anything else. It involves covering your ass and crawling ever so slowly towards change amidst the rubber band harness that is the Council. It’s a balancing act that really puts you in no position to create real change fast. While I agree fully with the intentions of that process, it certainly is not perfect. I can almost guarantee that many of those same people on Council who object to the actions of Chu and Frederick have they themselves pushed things through without going through the full extent of their own student society’s processes. Though their decision to reprimand Chu and Frederick may be true to their duty as Councillors, any hatred or disgust they feel is hypocritical.
During debates, Frederick has been directly asked how he could possibly claim to speak on behalf of the students but the issue for me was never that Frederick was not acting in what he believed to be the students’ best interests. Some people talk about his actions as though they were fuelled by malicious intent but I fail to understand what malicious plans he could have possibly executed by doing what he did.
The “AMS President”, having committed this lapse in judgment that was pushing things by without the approval of Council, certainly does deserve to be put under this fiery red glare but at the end of the day, I believe that his overall intentions were inherently good and I do not think that he is a bad person. Lacking foresight and political competence, perhaps, but not evil.
Chu has also been a target for the chopping block at every debate thus far. He has been ridiculed for believing in the UN Complaint and told that his stance on Education as a Right is ridiculous and absurd. I cannot bring myself to agree with this strong and damning attitude.
Tim Chu very clearly believes in education as a right. His interpretation of the agreement Canada signed with the UN is not entirely unreasonable, even if it may be unreasonable to expect it to be carried out immediately within the current state of Canada’s education system. It feels as though people are far too quick to completely damn this issue, trivializing its potential legitimacy. So what if you don’t think education should be free? So what if Canada’s tuition is cheaper than America’s? Why does this mean we should completely ignore that so many European countries provide completely free post-secondary education? Yes, maybe free tuition doesn’t work in Canada within the current system and climate but just because it wouldn’t work now, does not mean the entire concept is ludicrous.
Let me be clear: I am not an activist for free tuition. I do not believe my education is too expensive for what I get (my experiences with the Sauder School of Business’s Early Career Masters Program aside) and I do not believe that I am a student struggling to make ends meet, but I cannot deny that there are students who *do* believe that Canada can do better. Chu should be damned for his abuse of process, not for his beliefs. He has always been very clear about his stance on tuition and education as a right. If you disagree with this, then don’t re-elect him but if you *are* one of those students who agrees with the idea that education is a right that people should have free and unrestricted access to, then you can trust that Chu (for better or for worse) will do everything in his power to move towards that end.
I’m not going to quote specifics or get into the complaint itself and the more you delve into the issue, the more there is to say on all sides of the argument—but to the majority of students familiar with this issue, this is all I need to say.