The Flip Side

Q: Besides particular tasks that you went in knowing that you had to do, what did you do in your position? How did you occupy your time? 

A: I would meet with the Sustainability Coordinator at ODESI. I went to a retreat at Roberto’s Farmhouse… I was briefed, and a little bit engaged in all types of things sustainability at OCAD. 

Q: So, you met and helped in decision making and stuff like that? 

A: Yeah. But the role was really, really small. As a representative, when you’re not an executive, then your role’s pretty small. And, to be honest, I spent most of my time trying to work with other board members to think about how we can make the Student Union actually work, because myself and other board members thought it was pretty crappy. And I was unhappy. My position was cool, that was fine. I don’t have any big beefs with that, but it’s just with the way the SU ran as a whole. 

Q: What exactly was the SU? As opposed to what it’s supposed to be, and why was it like that? 

A: Basically, I think it was just too bureaucratic and political instead of being active.  

Q: You mean talking as opposed to making things happen? 

A: Yeah, and having meetings and following Robert’s Rules of Order in the board meetings, and having all this stuff in the Google Drive, and so many documents, so many rules, but little to no action. One of the things that boggles my mind is how we can have about $500,000, half a million, a year, and most students don’t see any of that money come back to them. Hot Lunch is a good program, but if I already pay $100 a year and I only use Hot Lunch, why am I expected to pay? Why pay if that’s the only service I use? I respect that the SU does grants and other projects, but their reach is so limited that it’s kind of…  

Q: And while you were there, did you see the means to further that reach, and they were just not being used? 

A: I don’t know. It wasn’t very transparent, and you couldn’t really change anything. It would have had to wait so long to change things. It’s good that students at the SU have jobs, but a lot of the money’s going to the full-time employees, who aren’t students, which is not bad in itself, but I just think that, from my experience, whoever was in charge was… I don’t know if I can put blame on people. I’m not saying that. But it clearly isn’t really working as it should. As something that has a $500,000 budget, why do I not see it? That’s a lot of money. If they want students to still pay for Hot Lunch… because Hot Lunch is the only service I see. I know there’s probably some things going on, but I’m saying they need to put more resources and energy into outreach. They’re just very invisible.  

I think it should be more active. It’s too bureaucratic and political. Too afraid to do plentiful protests. I don’t know if this is true (I think it is) but my sources told me that they just did a renovation in President Sara Diamond’s office, and that she had a shower put into it, because she occasionally bikes to work. Why don’t students go in their bathing suits and go shower in her office? Because it’s really not right for there to be renovations there. What about all students who bike to school? I could go on and on about how bad it is. Students know how bad the school is, and the SU isn’t doing enough to address it. 

Q: Do you feel that students are aware enough of not only what the SU does, but what it could do if they’re involved? 

A: You could look at the stats. I forget them, but the voter turnout is, like, abysmal. The SU needs to address those things. I would also say, some of the people this year… there are some things I’ve seen which are pretty cool. I like the SU, but I think the potential is so much greater than what it is and has been. 

Q: Considering that, and the year you spent in the SU in your position, did your experience as a student at OCAD change a lot? 

A: I think this is important. My experience at the SU completely turned me off from student politics and politics in general, so I would say, even just to do this interview, and whenever I think about student politics, I get triggered because my experience at the SU was so negative and frustrating that what’s changed for me is simply that I’m less engaged in student politics. I’m more engaged in my own practice, and I hardly care for anything student politics-related. Because me, and a bunch of other students worked hard, got elected, tried our hardest and pushed for months to try to change the SU and it was virtually impossible, so I’m over it. I think that’s sad, I think other students have had a similar thing, and I just wish that the SU was a place that already was very proactive and a very fun environment, so that students who are involved in politics could hop on to what the SU is doing, as opposed to having to work their tails off to try to change it. 

Q: To change that, to change those circumstances, or make them better, what do you think would be one of the first steps? Or, in general, what do you think the goal is, if we talk about change in the SU? 

A: The bureaucracy of it is the first thing. When we got elected, we had three days of… they taught us for a few days. 

Q: Right. With the person that was in the position before you were. 

A: Right. And they taught us about all the rules. So, it was just rules. They taught us about how to follow Robert’s Rules of Order, which is a structure… you know? 

Q: Yeah, how to address people in meetings, and stuff like that. 

A: Yeah, in a board meeting, and it was about these rules and those rules, and reading these documents, and blah, blah, blah. And the thing is, I felt that was completely ridiculous, because that type of… Basically, the SU mirrors OCAD as an institution. 

Q: That’s an interesting point of view. 

A: It’s extremely institutionalized. It bureaucratic, it’s not accessible in that sense. It’s hard to understand the rules. It also claims to be non-hierarchical, which is untrue. 

Basically, I thought I was getting into student politics that were non-hierarchical. I was voted by a large number of students, I worked hard to campaign and talk to students, but then as soon as I got in it was basically a Sisyphean task. I would say it needs to be more of a community, more fun, and less of a bureaucracy. 

There’s extreme potential for the SU. I’m glad I left, because it was such a stressful environment for me, but I also realized, after I left, in hindsight, that with more preparation it can be radically changed, because it’s bureaucratic. If you had the majority of the board, you could fire anybody, you could hire someone new. I believe you could have full control over the whole budget, which could be used for good or evil, but students at OCAD are very awesome, so it would be used for good. Maybe, in hindsight, myself and others on the board should have tried to coup it. The potential is huge, because if there is a majority of the board… You could do that, but there are rules in place to prevent [a majority]. And that’s intentional, because I don’t think that the school or the SU actually want radical change. They’re scared of it. 

Q: If you saw that change was to happen, taking into account what you’ve said about not wanting to be involved in student politics or politics in general, would you be OK with being part of the process? 

A: Maybe. It’s hard to say, because I’m just trying to focus on my own art practice and my own life, and politics in general, I think, is intense. So, if it’s a bad experience, or if it’s really great and positive and you’re making change, it’s still intense both ways. Do I want that intensity? I’m not sure. Would I be extremely excited about it? Yes, I would be. And I may, yeah, I may become very engaged, because there’s so much good that could happen. With all the money, which, again, is coming from the students, it can be going to amazing things. I think OCAD as a school, and also the SU, both are guilty of mismanagement of the money. So, I just think there’s so much potential. And from my experience, there’s not that many rules to stop people from… you just can’t run in a party. Say me and ten friends are like “let’s all make the greatest change possible”, and we’re clearly ten best friends, and we all want to make this change—there could be a rule, like, “You’re not allowed to run as a group.” But that’s easy to avoid, you just run as individuals, and that’s in a way what I did. But we never thought it was gonna be as bad of an environment as it was. What I mean is, we never really thought “Oh, we want the majority of the board,” we never thought politically, really, about trying to take over the SU. We just all were excited to get elected, but now, I realize, I think it would be necessary to make a great change. You might need to have the majority of the board. 

 But, at the same time, at any time, whoever is on the board could just decide to make great change. That’s the most important.