A new craze has swept the national’s capital. First adopted by the lefties on the hill, this fad has spread to all sides of politics and reached our university’s humble student associations and clubs. The phenomena I’m referring to is the leadership spill or, more generally, the increasing number dramatic incidents instigating debate in our student community.
The most recent example is the Woroni special general meeting, held in week 13, at which a “motion of no confidence” was put against two members of the executive, but even casting our memories back a mere 6 months there have been secretarial resignations, grant funding outrages, ANUSA campaign catastrophes and very public accusations of electoral misconduct of a political kind. Were all of these incidents cases of misconduct or negligence by student representatives? Or just otherwise understandable mistakes and oversights blown out of proportion by the student commentariat.
The ANU student body appears to be becoming more engaged in the scandal and outrage of student politics; quick to call foul play and sometime venomous in their commentary. Say their response and criticisms are well founded, and our representatives are simply failing to fulfil their responsibilities or fulfil their roles to our standards. If so, then we should expect the quality of our debate to also meet this standard, ensuring meaningful engagement and debate before shows of procedural force and ridicule take hold.
Firstly, we must define this standard though, and those aspiring to fill our committees and boards must knowingly and publicly commit to upholding it.
Unfortunately, I’d hazard that very few students would have the commitment, let alone the time, to meet the standard they would hold others to. Our student representatives go out of their way to fill our editorials and associations, delaying their own degrees and volunteering their time (albeit for honoraria in some cases). With this in mind, have we possibly set the bar of expectation unrealistically high? I think it’s time to put things back into perspective of why we’re at university take this whole endeavour a little less seriously.
I’m not advocating throwing accountability to the wind, there have been some serious concerns raised this past year, but perhaps as a student body we need to reflect on what our expectations are, and afford our representatives just consideration. Our tendency to outrage and removal of the problem leaves little time for meaningful engagement or finding a lasting solution.
Could mistakes and misconduct be the cost of representation in a system lacking consideration or incentive? Can we afford to keep throwing the baby out with the bath water every time every time a student politician falls below the line of expectation? Perhaps it all doesn’t really matter as much as we pretend it does, and maybe we should all return our gaze to the things that do.