#GLExit: More than a Meme, A Call for an Independent Student Union
When this article is published, the elections for the Executive of the York Federation of Students will have just passed. Predictably, it has most likely resulted in a sweep by the incumbent Student Action slate, as it has for time immemorial. This election is one that is particularly disappointing for those who actively follow student union politics, as there was only one candidate for Glendon Representative, due to the Bloc Glendonois candidate being rejected under shady circumstances. It is clear that we stand at a crossroads in regards to student politics at York, and Glendon must take steps to distance itself from the YFS and CFS, working to build a strong, independent GCSU. The Bloc Glendonois’s #GLExit slogan was created to express the GCSU’s need for more independence and control over what happens at Glendon. The GCSU has never suffered from the democratic lapses of their YFS counterparts, and are uniquely placed to represent students at Glendon.
Democracy at York is in a sad state. Throughout my time at York, I have witnessed allegations that the incumbent party has engaged in undemocratic practices, such as stuffing ballot boxes with votes for the Student Action slate, unfair access given to the CRO exclusively for the incumbent slate, restriction access to the CRO, the prohibition of recording debates, and the promotion of voter suppression by holding elections the week preceding Reading Week. The annual election should be celebrated as an expression of democratic values, on-campus activism, openness, and transparency. However, elections are shrouded in secrecy.
There are two debates held on either campus for the slates to square-off in the week before the election, but these are sparsely attended. In the 2016 election, there was only one non-candidate student in attendance at the Keele Campus debate. Although the simple solution would be to blame voter apathy, this is simply not the case. Debates and information about the election are so poorly advertised on campus, that only the candidates are formally informed of their timing and location. Even that is sparsely true; during this cycle, the Bloc Glendonois slate was informed of the specifics of the debates less than 24hrs before their occurrence. In elections past, students have been turned away from polling stations, being told that they have already voted despite never voting. Issues at polling stations have also included double voting, and not giving voters all the ballots to which they are entitled. From personal experience, volunteers at poll stations are typically unprofessional.
Beyond the questionable practices of the mechanics of the election, there are serious lapses in the governing ability of the YFS executive. Year after year, I have watched prospective candidates for the YFS come to Glendon for the debate and never see them on-campus afterwards. It was revealed, in the light of the health scare at Humber College, that there is a serious concern of the safety of food consumed on campus with a disproportionate number of DineSafe infractions recorded at both of York’s campuses, with the biggest offender being the beloved Glendon Cafeteria. However, the silence of the YFS on the issue of the Glendon cafeteria has been deafening. Year after year, I have watched candidates seeking election masquerade through Glendon, promising to use the resources of the YFS to aid in Glendon’s struggle against the cafeteria, increasing the frequency of the shuttle, providing more French and Spanish resources on campus, and advocating for accessibility at Glendon. Yet, they have retreated to their ivory tower in Keele’s Student Centre, never to be seen at Glendon again.
It is time for Glendon to take back control. What we in the Bloc Glendonois, and the #Glexit movement at large are advocating is for the strengthening the Glendon College Student Union to advocate for the needs of the Glendonois. It is time that Glendon campus recognize our sovereign right to represent ourselves and advocate for Glendon centric issues. It is time that the Glendonois no longer send levy money to an institution more interested in self-preservation in their ivory tower at Keele than advocate for the issues affecting the Glendonois. It is time that the Glendonois stand tall again, and fight for the issues unique to our campus on our own. The Bloc Glendonois will seek to achieve this through a democratic referendum, and a full consultative process with the Glendonois. The Glendonois must take back control of our student union! Vive un Glendon libre!