What’s French for con?

By Anne-Marie Bruzga

Do you trust your Students’ Union? We don’t, but that’s our job. To act as a watchdog on corruption. To question the motives behind the moves. To promulgate information to the people. Right.

Currently, all five of our SU Executive members are attending a six day conference in la belle province. Called SuperCon (appropriate, non?), this event is premised as "the premiere national leadership conference." With the theme "The future is now," the Montréal conference promises to instill "motivation and inspiration" in our new exec members, as well as provide them with a "forward-looking, solutions-oriented vision for Canadian student associations in the future." I feel dirty just repeating that.

With our catch-phrase flags raised, the Gauntlet set about pricing this voyage into better student government. Travel Cuts’ student price for a round-trip plane ticket to Montréal, including tax, is $394.83 per person for the current off-season; multiply that by five exec members and we get $1,974.15. The unnamed hotel where the exec is staying costs $129 per room per night plus tax, if they don’t go for the breakfast deal which costs an extra $20. We assume the men are sharing one room, and the ladies are sharing another; so take $129, multiply it by two and then by a five night stay and we get $645. Add the 14.5 per cent tax and it comes to $738.53. The conference fee, including tax, is $330 per person; multiply that by five and we get $1,650. Add it up and we get a grand total of $4,362.68.

The question: if an organization spends a few thousand within a $5 million budget, should anyone, even a watchdog, care? Our answer: yes.

One could argue $4,300 is a drop in the bucket for the SU, but that is the point-spending, even in the mere thousands, should be more than a drop in the bucket. That money is about a year’s worth of tuition, or a swack of scholarships and bursaries, or a giant donation to the Campus Food Bank, or a dozen other initiatives that can be clearly measured as beneficial to students. What are we, as students, going to get out of SuperCon?

Parts of the SuperCon itinerary read like an Anthony Robbins infomercial. With seminars like "Self-empowerment-taking action and risks on behalf of your constituents," students can only hope, as the people footing the bill, that the goods will be delivered come tuition-hike time.

SuperCon also includes various team-building sessions and activities like "A year at a glance," which requires the exec to "make a scrapbook of images and pictures to represent what they would like an album to look like after a year in office to create a visual representation of their goals for the up and coming year." Any organization has to function like a team, but wasn’t exec team-building covered in their weekend retreat to Banff earlier this month?

On a more positive note, other parts of the conference seem more practical, with specialized sessions for each portfolio. They cover things like health plan alternatives and negotiations with suppliers. However, there are still some questionable seminars like "What is Academic freedom?" Good question, but is it the $4,300 question?

Only the year will tell. The Gauntlet hopes you show students, your constituents, the results.

Nous n’allons pas oublier

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