British Columbia

'If you don't step up, sit down': open letter criticizes undergrads for not running for student council

An outgoing member of UNBC's student government in Prince George, B.C., is frustrated after the latest round of undergrad elections saw every position filled by acclamation or, in some cases, not filled at all.

Every undergrad governance position at UNBC has been filled by acclamation or not filled at all

UNBC faculty members hold up signs at a board of governors meeting in January 2106 protesting ex-Conservative MP James Moore's appointment as chancellor. Students also objected. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

An outgoing student government member at the University of Northern British Columbia is frustrated students seem willing to protest decisions they disagree with, but not help make them.

"I am tired of begging students to get involved, to sit on committees or to run for office," Seth Jax wrote in an open letter being distributed on campus. "If you don't step up, sit down." 

Jax cited a series of controversies, such as the 2015 appointment of former Conservative MP and UNBC alumnus James Moore as chancellor, a decision that prompted a series of protests from students and faculty. It also led to a vote of non-confidence from the university's senate. And more than 2,000 people signed an online petition asking for the decision to be reversed.

Students also clashed with the university's on-campus meal service after it shut down a small-time samosa vendor for not using heat lamps. And threats to the student-run pub in 2016 because of a $100,000-debt saw students offering to pay higher fees in order to save The Thirsty Moose. 

Despite all this, few people actually put their names forward when it came to student elections in February. 

UNBC student Seth Jex served as director of internal affairs on the undergrad student society board. (NUGSS)

Positions unfilled

Every person elected to the undergrad board stood unopposed. Three positions — representing women, international students and Indigenous students — went unfilled until a second special election was held. The Indigenous student rep position is still empty. 

Further, only six people ran for the six positions in the university senate, and one person ran for the undergrad student rep position on the Board of Governors.

Legitimacy undermined

Jex says the legitimacy of these positions is undermined by the lack of involvement, since they are being appointed via a "rubber stamp" process.

 "It's hard for an [acclaimed] student to go up to administration and say, 'I'm here to represent students and this is what students have to say,' if no one, through an election process, has vetted what their opinions are or what they stand for," he told CBC Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.

To listen to the full interview, click the link below.


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