Monday, January 15, 2007

Issue of the Day: Policy Motions

Genocide Awareness Project (GAP)and Pro-Choice students at UBC, March 2005. (photo by Gina)

Consider the following:

  • McGill University banned Blood Services from blood drives in their building because they ban men who've had sex with men from donating.
  • Carleton passed a policy preventing anti-abortion groups from getting funding. (link)
  • SFU's student society has an activist stance regarding the genocide in Darfur.
  • Concordia explodes with rage every time its student council mentions anything related to the Middle East.
  • UBC's AMS has, in recent history, debated policy motions on Darfur, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Iraq, and even held a (phony) referendum on the legalization of marijuana.
So today's question: Should the AMS concern itself with issues that don't directly affect students? Those primarily outside the University sphere?

Those who support such motions tend to argue the following:
  • Student groups have the ability and resources to drive social change, and somebody has to push the agenda. "We have to act."
  • It encourages social debate, and the University as a site of social resistance.
  • The policies are good.
But when they come up, there is a vocal contingent who tend to say things including:
  • Nobody cares what a student society says; our voice is meaningless.
  • It's potentially divisive.
  • We should stick to the business of running a student union.
It's an age-old dilemma. Sometimes it's purely in the abstract, but sometimes it has bearings on policy. For instance, what bearing would an official AMS policy on abortion have on anti-abortion demonstrations by AMS clubs? If the AMS has, say, an pro-abortion policy, should, or can, it constitute an anti-abortion club? Or should we even be considering these questions in the first place?