Before you read this I would like to leave the disclaimer that I count Corey Leblanc as one of my friends at Trent University and that I respect the efficient tenacity on display while running his campaign thus far.
But as any parent can tell you, respecting a work ethic that goes into a project and appreciating the macaroni painting that came out of it are two separate matters, and although my friendship is for the most part unconditional, my vote in this upcoming election is not.
His campaign had done a great job of not triggering me, right up until early (ish) Monday morning.
I knew I was going to vote against him, but I thought that it would be better to just sit this on out and observe with a bag of Smartfood for a change.
That activity was interrupted when I discovered, while scrolling through my Facebook feed that Leblanc would like to hold about 39 referendums a year on opt-out student levy groups on campus, none of which I am an active member of.
Stating that “Students will have their voice heard when their money is being spent. Democracy is the only option. We will have accountability again.”
The former quote represents the doctrine that as patrons, or customers of the service that university provides, we get to be the deciders of what is worthy of that money and what is not.
The second quote represents how well received and status quo this message generally is. It is the same logic used by all politicians, be them on the left or right of any issue, it is an excellent way of individualizing a constituency, by making them believe that they are the self-motivated, created in a vacuum of their own brilliance and work ethic, creature that has earned the right to be the decider.
This consumer citizen is wrapped in a blanket of rightness and has this identity reinforced by whoever will tell them that they are a special, hardworking citizen that overcame all barriers to reach where they are. This is what Leblanc bases his argument on.
But does this logic apply to Trent University? Absolutely not. I previously stated that I had planned to observe this election with Smartfood in hand, and I still intend to do so, but first I need to talk some facts.
Leblanc claims that we as students have a right to have our “voice” heard because it is our money that is being spent. But is it though?
According to an Arthur article written in February of 2015 by Alaine Spiwak, over 70 per cent of students at Trent are receiving OSAP.
This means that close to 5,500 of Trent’s student population of 7,817 do not fit into Leblanc’s logic.
His definition of democracy is synonymous with the logic of a land owning class and belongs in the golden age of Athens, not in 2016.
This figure also does not include the amount of students who receive loans from their parents, or are simply “catching a free ride” according to the individualizing logic of the consumer citizen.
By Leblanc’s logic, very few students’ voices should be heard, and only those who are actually spending their own money should participate in his conceptualization of true democracy. His definition of democracy is archaic, and should only gain traction in a scenario in which Plato is a person in the room with you and not something you eat as a child.
By his definition of democracy it is students’ parents and the Ontario government who deserve to have their voices heard in about 64 different referendums to be held annually, not students.
Leblanc is suggesting that you have the right to take away clubs and groups funding because you are a self-sufficient consumer, and you have an inherent right to decide whether these groups live or die.
You do not have this right.
So on this issue, I ask Leblanc to quit appealing to student narratives that are not supported by facts and to continue to let those who wish to opt out of levy fees the option to do so, which is something that we are all able to do if we so wish.
What Leblanc is doing here is attempting to fool the student population into thinking that they are being swindled out of their hard earned dollars that they never earned.
He is creating an environment of pure privilege and entitlement by fooling students into thinking that we have the rights to cause massive upheaval and chaos in an institution that is primarily funded through the government, alumni and our parents, not us.
They have earned that right to flip the table, we have not.