From the archives: Studentpolitik

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Winners and hosers

Thursday, 3 March 2005 — 10:14pm | Scrabble, Studentpolitik

As of this morning, it’s official: the formerly biennial National Scrabble Championship will now be held every year, effective immediately. This year, it’s being held in Reno, Nevada on 19-24 August; the main event has been shortened back to 28 games (New Orleans had 30), with a televised Division 1 final presumably subject to all the same ESPN regulations as usual. If I were to enter, I would be facing a similar field of competition as last year due to minimal fluctuation in my rating (albeit a slight recovery), though I wonder what turnout will be like on such relatively short notice.

15 March is going to be a very expensive day. Coming to the Nintendo DS is Yoshi’s Touch & Go, an intriguing side-scroller played entirely with the stylus. Then there’s Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for the GameCube, an even more intriguing side-scroller played entirely with a pair of bongo drums. Coming to DVD are The Incredibles and Series V and VI of Red Dwarf. Although many rightly consider the third and fourth seasons to be the pinnacle of the series, these seasons are not without their classic, must-have episodes; “Gunmen of the Apocalypse” in particular remains one of my favourites. After he left the show, Rob Grant worked a lot of the material in “Gunmen” into Backwards, singularly the best and most readable of the four spinoff novels – and that’s coming from someone on record as, on principle, one who dislikes spinoff novels. When it comes to the likes of Star Wars, “dislike” may even be a tad kind… but that’s a discussion for another day.

In general, all last-ditch campaigns to save cancelled television shows are futile experiments that would get ignored if they were ever noticed in the first place. I must say, though, that Enterprise fans are putting up an admirable fight; when they offer private donations in the million range, you know they’re serious.

I have yet to attend a single election forum, but Chris Samuel harnessed the power of wireless networking to deliver a live report from SUB Stage earlier today. On another note, next year’s candidates already have a hard act to follow: I find it hardly conceivable that someone could possibly run a joke campaign lamer than the pathetic showing put on by Spanky the Wonder Elf.

Finally, while I am reluctant to post endorsements until after the Myer Horowitz, consider me a decided voter. This is going to be a close race in statistics only; as early as it seems, I feel sufficiently informed to make a clear and possibly unwavering choice in every race. Stay tuned for the rationale; in the meantime, rest assured that posters were not the sole consideration.

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Nobody expects the Mustafian Inquisition

Thursday, 17 February 2005 — 11:08pm | Studentpolitik

The vast majority of this weblog’s regular readership is well aware of this by now, but let us all pause for a moment and reflect.

M. Mustafa Hirji is running for Students’ Union President.

I generally don’t like to prejudge campaigns before I see some solid policy documents, forum performances and awesome posters, let alone even hint at endorsing them, but… are we geeking out yet?

Hirji, Katz, Tobias – pigs are fluttering in the friendly skies as we speak.

Also, Sparky the Wonder Elf had better put on a good campaign. We didn’t see this in action last year when preferential balloting was introduced, but theoretically, joke candidates are the biggest winners under that system. There need not be concerns that voting for a joke candidate is at the expense of one whom you actually support.

On a more serious note, the absence of VP Academic candidates at the time of the nomination deadline earlier today is serious cause for concern. In the right hands, it is easily the position that matters most to students. (And by that, I mean real students; you know, those in empirically observable positive states of being that cannot be squared to produce a negative value.) Perhaps the responsibility that the portfolio entails is somewhat of a deterrent. Hopefully this situation sees some quick and efficacious rectification.

In other news, congratulations to Jen Smith, who is now the incoming VP External of the University of Calgary Students’ Union. However, might I recommend that next year, Calgary’s candidates do something about their egregiously backwards poster culture? Toilet-papering with the gentle assistance of permanent markers is an aesthetic that went out of style years ago.

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I challenge the chair

Thursday, 14 October 2004 — 4:07pm | Studentpolitik

If you live in the Gateway circulation area, make sure you’ve picked up today’s issue. It’s a keeper. How often is it that Students’ Council makes a front-page headline, let alone two in a row? You’ve got a story following the Knisely incident up to the failed motion to reappoint him on Tuesday night – and on the very same page, in full colour, what is possibly the last word on Jung-Suk Ryu, given that the Defeat Jung-Suk blog has had its fill.

Opening up the paper now, on Page 5 we see a story off the CUP wire about the University of Manitoba Students’ Council doing the very antithesis of what U of A’s Council strived so hard for last year: adding seats for interest groups. If we did the same over here, it would rightly be considered regressive. Others disagree, but let’s not get started on why Hudema, Sharma and others are wrong, dead wrong, every time they breathe a word about affirmative action.

It’s funny to see how the student political scene at different Canadian campuses undergo independent ideological shifts in rotating cycles. Observe Slate-Smasher Spencer Keys from the province immediately to my west, who signaled the collapse of the slate system that had previously dominated the Alma-Mater Society. Here at the U of A there remain provisions for candidates to run on slates in SU elections – there is no explicit prohibition – but nobody has taken advantage of it in at least two years. Analogously, the ever-so-oddly Smith-driven political climate that has cultured like a bacterial colony in the agar of University Hall has veered towards an increasingly abstract implementation of democratic ideals, particularly as they pertain to the relationship between representatives and constituents.

And that brings us to David Berry’s Opinion piece on Page 9, the obligatory Knisely editorial. He discusses little of the controversy itself, choosing instead to focus on what consequences one must face as a relatively public figure subject to public scrutiny. On Knisely’s behaviour itself, the most direct response is in the form of a letter on Page 6 by Arts student Danielle Sinnette. She’s not impressed.

I propose that from now on, when it comes to an individual’s sensitivity and whether or not it has actually been subject to harm, we use the Mike Winters Litmus Test.

But I digress. Let us instead return to what I said earlier about the political climate at the Students’ Council we have here. When it comes to tampering with the Council roster, be it by appointment or ejection – we hates it, my precious. This has led to some very silly things like the removal of attendance requirements in their entirety, but has in general been an agreeable philosophy. One will remember that the term I sat on Council, I was emphatically in favour of removing the Residence Halls Association seat in spite of living in residence, and for many of the same reasons that are cited against appointments: the constituents should be in control.

I do think, however, that there does exist an exceptional case where an appointment should go through – and that would be when such an appointment is corrective. This is why Council should have reappointed Knisely in spite of the general belief that “appointments are bad.”

I say that this would be a corrective measure because the Speaker’s decision to refuse Knisely’s rescindment of his own resignation was totally and objectively wrong.

Ignore what Knisely said or did for a moment. Procedurally, what happened was that he sent in his resignation. He then reconsidered and asked to rescind it. He was refused on the grounds of this excerpt from Robert’s Rules (7 October Agenda, Page 9):

The motions to Rescind and to Amend Something Previously Adopted are not in order under the following circumstances:

c) When a resignation has been acted upon, or a person has been elected to or expelled from membership or office, and the person was present or has been officially notified of the action.

At the time of his request for rescindment, the resignation had not gone through Council as a motion. It had not been presented to Council or confirmed as part of the Speaker’s Business. It was not, therefore, “something previously adopted.”

There is no conceivable way that anyone who understands the Queen’s English could interpret the resignation as “acted upon” at the time the rescindment was considered. Harlow is wrong, QED.

In this scenario, the appointment would hardly be undemocratic, since Knisely was elected in the March ballot. And Knisely may have resigned of his own volition, but he also pulled that resignation of his own free will. If his constituents were as disgusted by his actions as Ms. Sinnette was in her letter to The Gateway, they could have later removed him by petition, as Council so often proposes when it comes to truancy.

And that’s all I’ll say about that.

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Mashed potatoes of the Ottoman dynasty

Wednesday, 13 October 2004 — 1:33pm | Studentpolitik

As the title of this post suggests, the reason for the lack of updates here over the past week was in part due to the Canadian Thanksgiving. Such negligence could hardly be considered a crime – or even a Crimea, as the case may be – but I do apologize.

Up here in Canada, the Thanksgiving period is not nearly as critical a stakeout for box-office returns as it is in the United States, when you have the annual rollout of the late-November tentpole pictures. As such, all I caught this weekend was Shark Tale, which I may review in full sometime soon, time and effort willing. Unlike Garden State and Napoleon Dynamite, my analyses of which are insofar non-existent, Shark Tale is openly mediocre in ways that make a review of it easier to pull off the shelf.

While on the subject of animation, this year’s Edmonton International Film Festival – which kicks off tomorrow and will run until Tuesday the 19th – includes in its lineup the annual Best of the Ottawa International Animation Festival reel, screening at the Garneau at 11am Saturday and 5pm Monday. Longtime Café Canadien readers will remember just how much I enjoyed last year’s.

I must unfortunately miss most of the Film Festival on account of a debate tournament in Saskatchewan, but I do plan to attend the Monday screening of the Ottawa winners, and will comment accordingly.

Speaking of commenting accordingly, I promised earlier that I would offer something a little more substantive regarding the Adam Knisely issue, but decided instead that it would be best to wait it out until the dust had settled somewhat. Whether or not said dust has indeed settled is open to debate, but my understanding is that Knisely’s resignation went through, and his subsequent rescindment was denied. On Tuesday, there was a motion before Council for his reappointment, which was defeated.

That was the wrong decision, but my reasons for saying so will have to wait.

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Adam’s Appellation

Wednesday, 6 October 2004 — 8:54pm | Studentpolitik

This is the tale of two dead blogs by guys named Adam.

Adam’s Japanese Misadventures is a UBC student’s personal enactment of Lost In Translation, only the acts of being lost and in translation are in this case mutually exclusive. It’s a fun little cultural exposé full of oddities you would be hard pressed to find in a tourist’s guidebook. Many of these oddities are linguistic in nature, which makes it of particular interest to this here talking road sign of the Information Superhighway.

Mr. Pauls closed the book on the travel journal upon his return to Canada last month and left it as a static record of his experiences. You will notice that I still have it listed in my compendium of links to your immediate right. This is because I have not finished reading everything there to the fullest extent – there really is a lot to get through for a blog that only lasted four months – and also because it continues to deserve a share of attention.

Not so available is the weblog of one Adam Knisely, on account of circumstances that could be deemed rather controversial. All the official documentation that is in the public eye for now – until tomorrow, anyway – is the agenda for tomorrow’s emergency Council meeting.

It goes like this: Mr. Knisely copied and pasted this parody of Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” on his blog, unattributed, in a post dated 29 September. Somebody found it crass and offensive – okay, so maybe it is. That’s not the point. This somehow carried over to a resignation letter pertaining to his Students’ Council seat, included in the agenda package cited above.

The degree of coercion or suggestion that motivated Councilor Knisely to resign is at this stage unknown to me. What is known, however, that there is another motion on the table tomorrow for a non-confidence vote on course to intercept said resignation, in the fashion of a Romulan Warbird de-cloaking to fire a parting disruptor. Add another layer of curiosity with the agenda’s inclusion of the relevant passage in Robert’s Rules of Order pertaining to the rescinding of resignations, and you have yourself a powderkeg.

So, what do you get when you cross a controversy and a computer? Webboard madness! It’s all there. An anonymous guest poster speaking for Chris Jones in the third person? Doubts as to the purpose or procedural validity of the Blatz non-confidence motion? Ludicrous, spurious arguments of implicitly malicious intent that… oh, I’ll let this post from the anonymous “Spoon” speak for itself:

Albeit while Knisley’s personal life has nothing to do with Council, I think an important reminder is this was not a personal post. Knisley used his blog as a forum to discuss Council issues, and there is a direct link to his blog off the SU site. Because of this direct link, it may be that SU has sanctioned the posting of the soft porn and the parody song. If Adam had chosen to create a blog entirely separate from the SU (i.e no direct link) than his personal life would be separate from his political life. I’m thinking some regulations should be put in place to ensure the accountability of Counsellors posts on blogs tied to the SU.


Wait: this just in. As I was writing this very post, the online edition of tomorrow’s Gateway was uploaded – and it features both this headliner on the Knisely case and a Rozenhart editorial about public figures and online publishing. The former confirms that Knisely wants his letter of resignation rescinded on the grounds that he was misled as to the nature of the complaint filed.

I’ll leave you to it, folks, but bear this question in mind: what, if anything, does a private weblog have to do with the Students’ Union? One might answer with an explanation such as the one I quoted above; appellant Meagan Johnston makes the same points in the Gateway piece. Ask yourselves, as critical thinkers who I full well expect to evaluate the integrity of the paths from premises to conclusions, if it makes any sense.

Stay tuned for more commentary to come, depending on how this turns out tomorrow.

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