Image from UBCSUO's Facebook Page.
Image from UBCSUO's Facebook Page.

For those who missed it, the SUO is involved in another controversy. This time, its on their decision to post a cover photo advertising a partisan organization regarding the current referendum on proportional representation.

On October 23rd, the SUO posted a photo from “Pro Rep Is Lit”, an organization campaigning for Proportional Representation. According to the official SUO statement, posted on October 24th, the SUO posted the image in an attempt to remain neutral, and took it down after receiving comments and inquiries as to the image and PR itself.

Some of these comments supposedly contained false information, and the statement emphasizes that students should ensure to educate themselves. However, after some conversation, they evidently have chosen to not endorse either side of the Proportional Representation campaign, instead encouraging individuals and groups to educate themselves on the topic.

The controversy resides in the SUO’s decision to post from a biased organization, while they are assumed to be required to take a neutral stance on issues like this. Students have been complaining that the SUO is not allowed to hold opinions, that the usage of “Pro Rep” is inappropriate, and that whoever chose to post it should be held responsible.

A quick look at the UBCSUO bylaws and regulations dispels these opinions. According to the regulations under Political Policies, “The purpose of Political Policies is to assert and communicate the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of the Student Union.”Further down the page, it is stated that “The Board of Directors may, from time to time, adopt political positions that are not expressed in the form of a Political Policy”. The regulations can be found on the SUO website, under governance.

Therefore, the SUO is allowed to hold political opinions. Their goal, in a sense, is to advocate for the interests of students, and if they collectively choose that position as one that supports the best interests of students, they can express that. Their decision to engage with “Pro Rep is Lit” may have angered those who don’t support PR, but it is not against the SUO regulations to engage with a partisan organization.

Statement from UBCSUO's Facebook Page.
Statement from UBCSUO's Facebook Page.

Their statement, however, is where the problem lies, specifically in their avoidance of acknowledging either their mistake (if they really thought Pro Rep Is Lit was a non-partisan organization), or their stance on the issue. Politics ensures that their non-neutrality, or their mistake will cause them to lose support. However, they end up looking like they don’t know what they’re talking about.

In the future, students should educate themselves on situations before they complain. For those students who contacted the SUO, you should know your unions bylaws and regulations, as well as knowing all the information on the topic you are complaining about. In this case, not having false info on PR.

Inevitably, this controversy has achieved one thing: drawing attention to the major referendum occurring in our province, and to our civic responsibility to vote in it.