Many students of the University of Malta and Junior College do not feel they are being represented by their University Students Council and the outstanding majority is completely alienated to politics let alone to the Students University Council. Some are not even aware it even exists. This is why I was pissed off at the headline which the TOM put on an article about the press conference, organised by Moviment Graffitti and Independent Movement which said ” Students’ body wants students’ council to be free of politics”. I can’t understand how a journalist or an editor can make such a bad mistake when they cover a press conference by a left-leaning political group which has contested the Council’s elections last year!
So, back to basics! The Council is first of all a political institution because it manages people, the students and a space, Students House. So the groups which contest its elections are by default political groups which carry ideological baggage. If we do not want politics to be part of the Council then we would be demanding its dismantlement which isn’t a bad idea farer all, considering that it has become a trojan horse to University, students and education. However our aim is to have a council which is lead by students who would work for a progressive and secular education, to help students and defend their rights. In other words we want a left-wing Council.
The Council has been reduced into an entity which has mainly two aims: to conserve the party-line of the PN with the limits of its powers, which mainly consists of an old style, Catholic type of right-wing politics, and to accumulate capital. It has became a powerful and reactionary force which resembles more a Centre of American Republicanism rather than a University Students Council.
The Council is run by the Christian Democrat Students and yes we did indeed protest against their way of doing politics, we did indeed protest against the Christian Democrats who are more interested in towing the party line, and even pushing it further to the right rather than defending student rights but we do not want students to be free from politics and if anything should be full of it.
Our press conference was a protest against how Freshers’ Week is being organised which is a fine example where the political ideology of the Student Democrats manifests in its extreme forms. During Freshers’ Week The Campus, and its surrounding areas, is filled with companies one of which is the company (Gasan Group of Companies) of the family of Stephanie Soler, a Culture and Entertainment Coordinator of the Council. Every year, the space allocated to financial companies increases at the expense of the space which students organisations can occupy. (J’accuse: This allegation has been countered by the current KSU president in this article on theTimes – “Call for more transparency in KSU finances“) So financial companies are not only being privileged because they afford paying, but the Council is dealing with the relatives of its members. But if this seems to be a conflict of interest it doesn’t compare to the favouritism and nepotism which take place through the Student Fund Scheme as I have indicated in this article: Bummers of University Unite! You have nothing to lose but your reputation.
We also reiterated the demand for full transparency of the Council’s finances. It is extremely silly how the Council can boast of its transparency just because they have an annual financial report signed by an auditor. The fact that the auditor introduced the report by claiming that the books which were presented to him had several inconsistencies, is not something of considerable importance to them. Their answer to the problematic question of transparency is, that he had signed his own audit report. How pathetic! An auditor will audit any kind of books, even if they are not detailed or lack information because he is being paid to compile a report. The report is a result of the accounts which are presented. So if you present bad accounts, you will end up with a bad financial report and it wouldn’t be the auditor’s fault. Silly isn’t it, that I have to explain basic accounting procedures to a university students council? Yes, unfortunately University politics does not only include disputes about politics but also about how to get your stuff right. If you have any doubts don’t bury these facts with the typical PN accusations of ”mud-slinging” but go and ask for a copy of the financial report from their office. Look for revenue and expenditure break-downs, especially break-downs of revenue for advertisement and rent. They aren’t there and the Council does not seem to be the least interested in publishing them. Hurray for full transparency!
However being a leftist I am not only involved in student politics to bring radical change but also for the sake of political survival. During the last year the Council evacuated Moviment Graffitti out of their office and members of the Council reported issue 8 of Ir-Realta’ to the University Authorities, the reason being that they were offended by a fictional story. They twisted the regulations of the Council’s Statute so as to avoid PULSE’s proposal of Proportional Representation from gaining ground in the Council’s Annual General Meeting of 2010. They started a strong campaign against the lecturers, acting more like strike-breakers than students who were critical of a bad situation when the lecturers had a dispute with the government and as a result started a work to rule strike. Carl Grech, the Council’s president had the cheek to say that the dispute was resolved by the Council during a debate held prior to the 2010 elections, on Campus. They even had the nerve to make a pro-Catholic campaign against a condom machine at University as if such a proposal was something worth opposing. So when such a Council is clearly bent to pursue a hardcore right-wing ideology, small and unconnected left-wing groups will get choked. Being on a continuous political offensive while uniting with different groups to form a movement will have our political opponents removed from the Council.
I will end my article with a plea. I greatly respect other organisations such as MOVE, PULSE and IDEAT but I still believe that they aren’t doing their best to unite in a bigger movement. The main problem is that PULSE has been demoralised by consecutive election defeats and their determination is slowing down. As usual the ego is sometimes also a problem as in a movement compromises have to be made. But this neither means that the left should compromise its ideals to defeat the Christian-Democrats. The left can be consistent and united only if those who feel to be part of it are ready to overcome difficult challenges.
J’accuse endquote: Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. (SDM Participation Campaign Slogan 1996/7 – from Plato).
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