The “Apolitical” Lie and It’s Detrimental Effect.

Big massive shout out to The Student, Ilinca and Thurston for this well written article of Edinburgh’s, not simply EUSA’s, problem of toxic and vile attitudes during campaigning period: “Edinburgh, we have a problem.”

It’s always useful to voice disillusion with organisations that are meant to represent you but you feel they don’t, and it’s totally legitimate to not want to get involved with student politics if you believe it is too cliquey. Both of these beliefs are true, to an extent. For the last few years, or perhaps as long as I’ve been involved in student politics, it has been incredibly cliquey, with rivalry playing out between NOLS and Trots. Also, not every sabb is able to put every single policy into place, understandably. I always felt, however, that this “rivalry” was not that toxic, apart from a few vicious occurrences between individuals. It has been mostly mutually playful, half-meaning half-not meaning the offhand insults we chuck at each other.

This election has shown that the problem isn’t only factionalism. If it was, and people didn’t want to vote because disillusioned, why would they bluntly admit that they won’t vote for a candidate because he is gay and open about his sexuality? The offensive accusations and excuses I’ve seen people throw around seem to a be masquerading their bigotry rather than a genuine loss of faith in and constructive criticism about EUSA and those involved. Alleged attacks on current and hopeful sabbs’ politics and policies are thinly-veiled, bigoted assaults on character and person. This is smearing at its finest, presenting facts twisted for their own aggressive agendas and cherry-picking evidence to exaggerate facts and turn people against each other.

For years, sabb hopefuls have campaigned with policies to try and get more students involved and interested in EUSA and to convince them that sabbs and elected representatives are there to support them and improve their university lives, not steamroll into EUSA with their own personal agendas. Of course, I believe it is necessary for sabbs to be political. I’m fed up with candidates saying they should be apolitical and not take a stance on matters of oppression on campus and beyond. This is harmful. Policies to improve representation of marginalized groups on campus and expressions of outrage or solidarity are needed to represent the worries and struggles of students in Edinburgh and oppressed groups worldwide. Even if a candidate did run saying they were “apolitical”, I believe this would be impossible. Everything you do or actively do not do around contentious political issues or problems around minority representation is political. Opting out of being political IS STILL POLITICAL!

Even if you are not aligned with a political party or group, your lived experiences, oppressions and preferences will shape how you go about your role as a representative. But no one is saying that that is all they will fight for, and that they will ignore the needs of all students. EUSA has been accused of being “too political” and excluding students in some of their campaigns, whether it is putting out messages of solidarity to those fighting and dying in Palestine, or campaigning against Rape Culture and Lad Banter on campus. Never are these campaigns pursued in the name of harming students; on the contrary, they are put in place to protect them and uphold values of inclusivity. Often, to protect groups already vulnerable in society. Furthermore, most of these types of campaigns are voted in through student council, which is open to all. Disagreement with the aims of the campaigns does not equate to the campaigns actively seeking to hurt and misrepresent you.

I’d go far as saying I expect sabb candidates to be involved in political decisions. I wouldn’t trust someone who said they won’t bring their politics into their role. I don’t doubt for a second that if they were elected as sabb their political opinions or preferences would eventually play out in their decisions.

Asking a sabb to be political is not asking them to ignore everything but their own opinions. It is to take into account that yes, we may disagree, but I trust you to make informed decisions and listen to me when I ask you to take a stand on issues that effect me. I would be outraged if we didn’t campaign against Rape Culture or express outrage and solidarity to the people of Palestine because it was “too contentious”. Since when was sticking up for oppressed people and people being murdered a contentious issue?

We are students and we have interests and a duty to speak out against injustices when possible. I would dare any of us try and cope in the “real world” once we graduate while being apolitical and neutral on all matters of politics. I would also be incredibly upset if my union did not stand up for what I and many other students believed to be right. It is nonsense to suggest that this is possible or should be mandated.

You cannot separate the politics from the person, that is certain, but when was that a bad thing? Political disagreement isn’t the end of the world. Sticking up for what is right and banding together against blatant bigotry and injustice despite difference of opinion is necessary, whether those issues are on our campus or beyond.

I think now it has dawned on many of us who are involved in these factions – or are just old hacks – that we aren’t the worst problem. The problem is intolerance, and we need to work together stamp that out.

“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is what you’re naively suggesting. I’d say “ignore no evil, challenge all evil, and speak the truth”. Encourage your representatives to stand up against injustice, and don’t chastise them when they do.

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About medeusa

glaring at Edinburgh student politics
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9 Responses to The “Apolitical” Lie and It’s Detrimental Effect.

  1. Jenkyn says:

    The problem with expecting sabbs to be political is that you’re assuming that the causes they’re supporting are just. Many, many people on campus would disagree with, for example, supporting Palestine. Moreover it does nothing to help the students they are meant to represent.
    Students aren’t against their reps being “too political” as such: they’re against them using their political platform to go after lofty and completely unrelated political campaigns. They’re there to get cheaper sandwiches and booze, not show “international solidarity against oppressed and marginalised buzzwords.” If my MP spent all his/her time talking about renaming chips “French fries” then he’d be a bad MP, regardless of whether or not he made a convincing case or was right.

    Worse still are things like the campaign against lad culture, where they’re working against the interests of students. The fact that these approved by the student council means very little, considering all the legitimacy that that particular “democratic” body has.

    If you can’t see that supporting Palestine and attacking “rape culture” are contentious then you might need to take your blinkers off.

  2. Hkvnj says:

    Your replies e.g. “nope” sum up why many students want a less political eusa, because less politicized students are alienated through your smug us vs. them mentality. Anyone who dares challenge the political narrarive is shut down with ‘nopes’ and ‘fuck yous’. The last commentator has valid points, youre a bigot to shut them down the way do. Grow up.

  3. medeusa says:

    Thanks for the feedback

  4. Hkvnj says:

    Youre welcome, you get a C because of your bigotry

  5. medeusa says:

    You get an unmarked for being anonymous.

  6. Marbear says:

    I agree with jenkyn here. Student reps aren’t elected to stop the arms trade they’re elected to represent students at a university level. I support palestine and can’t stand Lad culture but he has got a point.

  7. morethanacustomer says:

    There is a long tradition of students using their union (or ‘association’ as its called in Edinburgh) as a platform for engaging in wider political issues, and in particular for showing solidarity with other segments of society, and as far as I’m concerned that’s how it should be! This collective voice is particularly important in a culture which promotes individualism and social atomisation.

    I’m fucking sick of chatting with candidates who sound like customer feedback forms, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  8. clarkson4mensofficer says:

    Jenkyn: How many students disagree with supporting Palestine? Can I see your survey plz? You should bear in mind that isn’t the only thing that EUSA campaigns on, and from time to time sabbs will need to make decisions based on what they believe is right, given that students elect sabbaticals based on their values as well as their policies. Otherwise we might have to implement some kind of university wide consensus decision making. And I really love consensus, but that would be a very slow process. Given that Palestine isn’t EUSA’s main priority, I would have said that it is an issue where it is suitable for sabbaticals to make a judgement after which they can be held to account using a number of democratic structures, if those students you’re talking about feel strongly enough to overturn it. The motion to overturn EUSA’s statement on palestine was in fact rejected at a student council meeting. Not completely representative, no, but I dare say that’s more representative than what appears to be, as a moral relativist such as yourself might say, ‘just your opinion’.

    There was a list of campaigning issues, for example, which sabbs and staff walked around campus with to find out which was most important to students in the upcoming election. It might be that some students disagree with something like the living rent campaign because they think it will create an ‘inefficient market’ or ‘prevent growth’ etc. Any first year economics or neoliberal-leaning student I’m sure would have a lot to say. But even I hope you would concede that, while that arguably goes beyond the university level ‘no more queues at big cheese and free beer for everyone’ style campaigns, it is politically quite radical and it is something which is hugely important to every student’s life. So no, I don’t think it’s a good use of sabbs time to sit and listen to relativists. I do, however, think that trying to influence political decisions at national and occasionally also international level is a good use of their time.

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