Volume 95, Issue 74

Wednesday, February 13, 2002
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Now paging Mr. Dewey Decimal

University Students' Corporation?

University Students' Corporation?

The following is part one of a three-part series exploring the current state of student government at Western. Parts two and three will appear this Thursday and Friday.

By Aaron Wherry

Somewhere along the way the University Students' Council decided to start referring to itself as "the corporation." At the time, I'm sure it seemed a great idea.

A big word like "corporation" made the USC kids feel powerful and important. They weren't just student politicians – oh no, they were directors of a multi-million dollar corporation. Imagine how impressive that looks on a résumé.

Think about it.

Say the following out loud: "The corporation must move forward."

"The corporation must strive to serve its customers better."

"The corporation is currently in negotiations with the university."

Feel pretty powerful, don't you? But guess what? You also sound like an insufferable, elitist prick

All governments are, in one way or another, a corporation. The Canadian government, for instance, owns and operates a number of crown corporations – the CBC being one obvious example.

But when was the last time you heard Mr. Chretien refer to "the corporation" in one of his long-winded, rambling tirades in the House?

You'd be hard-pressed to find any "real" politician who refers to his or her office, government or portfolio as "the corporation." The reasons are simple.

First, most politicians have enough fart-catchers telling them how wonderful they are, so they need not the resulting ego-boost.

And second, any politician with at least some understanding of his or her constituents knows how alienating and preposterous a term like "the corporation" can be.

Corporations are made of fat white men in suits who light cigars with hundred dollar bills. They exist at the top of cold, steel skyscrapers far above the common rabble. They speak in the mathematical language of "supply and demand."

All of us will, at one point or another, come in contact with them, but few of us will ever be an integral part of a corporation and even fewer of us really care to be.

(Surely this does not describe the USC.)

Odd the power of a simple four-syllable word. Just as it has elevated the egos of countless junior politicos, it has lifted your everyday student council into the stratosphere of vanity.

This is not an anti-capitalist rant. In fact, the USC's erroneous use of the word has nothing to do with being too pro-business or money-oriented – two things the USC has oft been accused of being.

No, this is merely a problem of self-definition.

The USC is a students' council – a democratically elected group of twenty-somethings who periodically get it together long enough to do something nice for their constituents. Like any other government, they offer a wide array of services and impact constituents' lives on a daily basis.

But, instead of embracing this simple description, the USC has chosen to pursue the mythical c-word. You'll find it in their constitution and their internal memos. You'll hear it at every council meeting.

And each time it is written and each time it is spoken, a students' council gets a little more elitist and a little more distant from its constituents.

Students will never care for or show interest in a corporation because corporations don't really care about their customers – they care about the bottom line.

Now where's the approachability and accessibility in that?

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