By Sam Reynolds
As orange leaves in autumn, the posters that currently adorn the walls of SFU show that the campus has moved into another election cycle. While talk of a possible student union building and other ballot measures up for referendum dominate campus political discourse these days, we should pause for a moment to remember one of the more notable student society presidents of yore — the political wunderkind Jeff McCann.
It was not seven months ago when people were counting the days until they could declare McCann “was not [their] president”. The plan was impeachment; the venue was the SFSS AGM, but unfortunately for McCann’s detractors — a cabal of union operatives, professional students, and geriatric hanger-ons — this grand coup in the name of the staff who were under the SFSS’s employ, and not the people whom the society was mandated to serve, never materialized.
The ‘crime’ that earned McCann the ire of this small but vocal group was not the instillation of some cruel dictatorship, but the attempt to implement some private-sector sensibility into an incredibly bloated public sector apparatus. During her time at SFU, our current premier tried to trim the same Leviathan, but it reared its ugly head and had her impeached.
McCann and his administration suffered through continuing rallies, in which the staff, made up of administrators and white-collar workers, tried to paint their plight in a romantic caricature, likening themselves to the coal workers of America or other defining labour movements of the previous century: vulnerable workers versus corporate fat-cats.
In the end, unfortunately, the fat cats that occupied the offices of the SFSS executive — students who earn approximately $21,000 — compromised on the demands of the union and ended the lockout. While the exact terms were not ideal, they put the society in a better financial position then it was in before and was a symbolic step in ending the gravy train that was the SFSS staff employment conditions.
This play by McCann was perfectly fitting of the supposed radicalism that makes this campus unique. The plight of the student society is not unique to SFU: student governments around the country are often beholden to staff complete with the protection of a union and a long institutional memory. In many cases, the answer to the question “Who governs?” is nebulous at best.
McCann and his executive’s efforts in demanding accountability by trying to reign in a student society that spent recklessly on wages deserve a strong salute. Let us hope, however, that his successors don’t undo his work.