Sunday, August 11, 2013

Democratic Deficit Deepens

If you blinked you missed it.  The UNA election opened and then just as quickly shut down.  As of 4:30 Friday, August 9th, only 3 people -Prod Laquain, Ying Zhou (2 year terms), and Thomas Beyer (1 year term)- had submitted nomination papers.  These three will be summarily acclaimed as elected. They will start serving with about as much democratic authority as the appointed directors since no UNA citizen will have the chance to vote for or against them.

These three new directors all have impressive community experience and have demonstrated their capacity for community engagement.  The UNA will benefit from having them working alongside the democratically elected and the undemocraticly appointed directors.  But we have lost somethign valuable by not having a healthy competitive election.

On a positive note these three new directors bring to the table a continuation of the UNA-insider's approach.  Laquain has served for many years as a Director, having taken a year off to manage a large private contract.  Beyer is an incumbent Director well known for his strong neo-libearl/green views.  Zhou, though less well known to the general UNA public, is well known and respected within the UNA Multicultural committee and will pick up where Shaohong Wu left off. This means that the business of the UNA will essentially continue as it has been - no seismic shift has occured in the composition of the board this year.

I should also note that due to the departure of Nancy Knight from employment at UBC the university is in the process of appointing their second UNA Director (yet to be named).  Nancy will be missed from our circle of deliberation. 

On the matter of democratic deficit the lack of a real election means that key issues will remain entangled within the old insider's network.  Despite having tried to shift the balance of discussion during my past year on the board it has become clear that one or two new voices don't make a change. Ideas that could make a difference are deflected by the largely non-elected majority or long-serving directors. If we get an idea moving then the lack of staff (and some directors would like to see us have even fewer staff!) slows the process so that ideas essentially get stale-dated and ignored. What is needed is a complete democratic overall of our local governance system.  There is a powerful, outspoken minority of people who are too comfortable with the way thing are currenlty working to do much about effecting real change.

While I can feel comforted in knowing that I will be joined in late September by three competent hard working new acclaimed directors, I feel saddened that the democratic deficit has grown larger and the issues will remain locked within the circle of the old guard for the time being.


Thomas Beyer said...

I do not see a democratic deficit here, Charles !

Any person could have run, but didn't.

Why ?

Perhaps the "huge" stipend, coupled with a high workload distracts many, or perhaps people are by and large happy with what we are doing, or they felt they could not win against the candidates.

All our meeting are open and folks can send emails at any time, or they can comment in the Campus resident, or their own blogs, or in this blog, or suggest new ideas.


Say nothing always means approval.

Note this date: Wednesday Sept 18, as this is our annual AGM. Come out and learn about what we did last year, hear a financial update and/or comment on what ought to be changed.

Charles Menzies said...

Saying nothing can also mean disapproval. Very often the grand majority sits by silent but unhappy while a vocal minority gathers all of the attention. As an elected Director I need must pay attention to all voices, including those who are less inclined to vocalize their opinions.

While it is important to have as many people as possible attend the AGM this small group of attendees (rarely more than the bare quorum) can not be considered representative of our entire community.

We need to find a better and more democratic approach to governance that doesn't fall prey tot he tyranny of the vocal!