A Bus to Nowhere

_the newspaper_ (University of Toronto)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004.

As this issue of _the newspaper_ goes to press, most students are working summer jobs to save money for school. By contrast, amateur politicos at U of T’s Students’ Administrative Council (SAC) are busy holding meetings to find new ways to spend it. Naturally, the money SAC spends is the same money the rest of us save every summer- our mandatory undergraduate student fees fund the Council to the tune of about $850,000 per year.

On July 16th, SAC’s External Commission voted to contribute $1000 of this money to charter a bus to New York City during the Republican National Convention at the end of August. The bus will transport about 20 U of T students to take part in protests targeted at American President George W. Bush. Why is this happening, and why are we paying for it?

According to minutes from the meeting, SAC Vice-President Sam Rahimi has discovered that “many actions taken by the Republicans have violated the SAC mandate.” (Imagine the outrage of American voters if this violation becomes public south of the border!) Indeed, sententious pronouncements on global politics are a hallmark of the student Left. SAC recently created an “International Issues Subcommittee,” and Council campaign platforms seldom fail to take positions on Middle Eastern politics. Given that Queen’s Park is right next door and even there no one pays attention to SAC, it’s possible that our student council’s influence on global geopolitics and American presidential elections is not invariably decisive.

SAC certainly has the right to adopt positions on student issues not shared by all of its constituents and not likely to be immediately successful. For example, SAC’s campaign for lower tuition is a legitimate use of funds even though a number of students believe that lowering tuition is a short-sighted and regressive policy.

Domestic American politics, however, have nothing to do with U of T. You may not think much of President Bush, but to suppose that his defeat would somehow improve your experience as a student is ridiculous. Moreover, it’s an insult to the many U of T students who have their own reasoned opinions on American politics. What gives SAC the right to use their money to speak on their behalf?

It’s also worth asking who’s going to be filling the seats on this little road trip to NYC. Bus tickets subsidized by our $1000 are allocated on a first-come first-served basis, and 90% of U of T students will never even know about them before they’re gone. The bus will almost certainly be filled either by the people who voted to spend the money, or by their friends.

To sum up: a few student politicians meet in the middle of the summer when no one’s paying attention, and spend $1000 of students’ money subsidizing a weekend bus trip to New York City. Once these heroic campus lefties disembark from said bus, they may well attend a protest on behalf of a cause which is irrelevant to U of T and with which many students disagree.

Or, just possibly, some of them may find less political and more entertaining ways to spend a weekend in the Big Apple. The rest of us, apathetic, unconnected, or simply too busy working, will stay in town and try to make enough money to pay the student fees which will fund another year of SAC shenanigans.